Volume 21, Number 7 -- February 20, 2012

Old School COBOL Gets New School Twist From Manta

Published: February 20, 2012

by Jenny Thomas

Most everyone in the computing industry can appreciate new technology, but let's face it, there are some standards that never go out of style. COBOL, RPG, CL, DB2 are ubiquitous when it comes to the IBM i platform, which explains why the newest addition to Manta Technologies' online training curriculum, isn't new to the midrange.

"When we ask people for feedback, one of the things that customers have said consistently over the years is: 'You're perfect except I don't use RPG, I use COBOL,'" said Bill Hansen, president of Manta. "So the COBOL training has been on our list for development for some time."

COBOL is popular on mainframes and, like RPG, has native access to the DB2 for i database. It is often used in financial services and insurance companies, which have a long history of computerizing before the AS/400 was launched. COBOL was also used by many large AS/400 shops that jumped from mainframes to AS/400s back during the Y2K crisis.

Hansen has a long history with COBOL training, so the introduction of this curriculum reminds him of the rise of COBOL back in the early 1980s on IBM midrange platforms.

"I formed Hansen Training Systems in 1980, and around that time IBM was coming out with a new COBOL compiler. We worked with the people who were coming out with the compiler, with the idea being that the training would be available at the same time as COBOL came out," Hansen said. "That was my first really big contract in 1982, and it helped get our training business going."

Hansen pulled together that same group of authors who created IBM's first mainframe COBOL curriculum in the early 1980s to put together this new interactive COBOL IBM i training program for Manta.

The addition of the COBOL training courses will round out Manta's IBM i Training Library that features 112 courses, including series that cover RPG, CL, and SQL programming as well as DB2 database functions and structures.

The COBOL programming series will eventually include 10 to 12 courses, with Manta planning to release a new course each month for the remainder of 2012. The first course, Developing a COBOL Program, is available now and provides a five-hour introduction to the COBOL language with a focus on ILE COBOL. After finishing this course, students will be able to code a complete COBOL program to read an input file, reformat records, and create an output file.

Manta believes when the program is complete it will be the most extensive, and only up-to-date, COBOL curriculum in the industry.

If you're a Manta student who is interested in COBOL, you'll be happy to learn the pricing for this new series is the same as current pricing for other Manta courses. A one-year, single-user license for Developing a COBOL Program is $120.

"It's a concurrent license," Hansen explained, "and you can use it as often as you want in the year. At the end of year, we send a renewal for half the price of the first year, and the next year we do that again. The thinking is companies always have new people coming in who need to be trained. And I have customers who have been renewing courses since the 1990s."

Students who want to purchase access to the entire series now can take advantage of a special two-for-one offer: A two-year license is being offered at the one-year price of $1,296. Students who choose to purchase the entire series will automatically get access to each new COBOL course as it becomes available throughout the year.

"Since the entire series won't be available until the end of this year, we wanted to make sure we gave people enough time to finish all the courses," Hansen said. "That's why we decided to go with the two years for one offer."

Current students who have an existing license to Manta's complete IBM i Training Library or the Program Development Combination Pack will automatically receive the COBOL Programming series.

For more information, contact Manta at 800-406-2682. Or, visit the Manta Web site.


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