All Posts in Technology

June 3, 2021 - No Comments!

AI rises to the challenge with COBOL

June 3, 2021

by Todd Erickson

A May 28 article published by TechRadar pro, and written by Phase Change President Steve Brothers, explains how the well-reported "COBOL skills shortage" is not really a fundamental problem for enterprises that rely on mainframe systems. The real challenge is application knowledge. Developers can learn COBOL in less than 6 months. What they can't learn quickly is specific application knowledge because that knowledge comes from experience.

Steve also describes how AI tools that assist developers in identifying and locating code responsible for specific behavior will help them reveal the application's intent and expose code that requires change. The developers will learn the application through task completion while remaining productive for the organization.

Click here to read the full article on TechRadar pro.

Todd Erickson is a Technology Writer with Phase Change. You can reach him at terickson@phasechange.ai.

May 25, 2021 - No Comments!

Leveraging AI to close the application knowledge gap

May 25, 2021

by Todd Erickson

Although the modern enterprise moves quickly to adopt and support helpful new technologies, most organizations must continue to rely on their legacy systems for core functions. Legacy applications struggle to evolve fast enough to support shifting and evolving organization demands. The companies frequently try alternate strategies to keep pace, such as building on top of existing applications or moving them to other platforms, but these approaches only complicate another risk -- the software developer shortage.

On May 19, BetaNews.com published the article, "Leveraging AI to close the application knowledge gap," which was written by Phase Change President Steve Brothers. The story explains how the software-developer shortage forces many companies to work around legacy applications when they lose the expert developers that built and maintained them, and how those word-arounds can produce disastrous results for the organizations' bottom lines and reputations.

Steve also describes how artificial intelligence (AI) can reinterpret what source-code computations represent and convert them into concepts so developers no longer have to research and discern the original developers' intent. This enables new developers to quickly understand the applications' behaviors, and with that knowledge, the AI can quickly guide developers to the precise area of code where changes need to be made.

Read the full story here.

Todd Erickson is a Technology Writer with Phase Change. You can reach him at terickson@phasechange.ai.

May 24, 2021 - No Comments!

Phase Change granted Israeli patent

May 24, 2021

By Todd Erickson

In late April, Phase Change added the first international patent to our growing intellectual property (IP) portfolio when Israel approved our patent application for Machine-Based Instruction Editing technology. The Israeli patent is the company's fifth patent award since May 2019.

Machine-Based Instructional Editing, which is now patent protected in the U.S. and Israel, is a foundational technology for COBOL Colleague, our forthcoming initial market product entry, which automates the identification of specific lines of source code related to targeted application behaviors.

Phase Change currently has over a dozen active patent applications in four countries. For more information on Phase Change’s patent portfolio, email info@phasechange.ai.

Todd Erickson is a Technology Writer with Phase Change. You can reach him at terickson@phasechange.ai.

May 23, 2021 - No Comments!

How Leveraging AI Technology Enables Developers

May 20, 2021

by Todd Erickson

Phase Change Software President Steve Brothers was recently interviewed for a TechChannel article on how artificial intelligence (AI) can help software developers increase productivity and reduce risk.

The article, "How Leveraging AI Technology Enables Developers: AI technology enables productivity gains, reduces code querying time, and mitigates risk," was written by Sofia Haan and discusses how AI can assist developers in quickly finding code that produces specific behavior so they spend less time analyzing, refining, and iterating queries, and more time mending defective code and writing new code.

Read the article here.

 

Todd Erickson is a Technology Writer with Phase Change. You can reach him at terickson@phasechange.ai.

April 9, 2021 - No Comments!

Phase Change President: Creative & focused AI needed to help COBOL skills shortage

The so-called "COBOL Skills Shortage" is compelling many organizations to impetuously hire and train programmers to maintain, support, and attempt to modernize their COBOL systems.
But understanding how to write COBOL is not enough — developers have to comprehend what an application actually does and how code changes can impact the system as a whole to avoid critical missteps. That work for those developers is cognitively difficult.

Phase Change President Steve Brothers recently wrote an article for Built In Colorado.com about how artificial intelligence (AI) can help solve the application knowledge gap problem, but only when traditional AI technology gets more creative and moves beyond understanding general business knowledge and instead learns specialized industry and institutional domain knowledge.

AI & software development

AI can help solve the application knowledge gap dilemma, but popular contemporary AI approaches are insufficient. Some AI tools can help with the syntax of writing code, but these remedies only provide incremental value.

Developers spend nearly 75 percent of their time finding the area in the source code in which they need to make a change because understanding code in these large complex systems is difficult and time-consuming.

AI will emerge as a paradigm-changing technology when it can understand code intent and “reimagine” computation into concepts, thereby doing what a developer does when they code — but at machine speed.

Read Steve’s entire Built In Colorado article at https://builtin.com/artificial-intelligence/cobol-skills-shortage.

January 22, 2021 - Comments Off on Phase Change executive quoted in ‘COBOL skills shortage’ article

Phase Change executive quoted in ‘COBOL skills shortage’ article

December 21, 2020

By Todd Erickson

Phase Change COO Steve Brothers was interviewed and quoted in a TechRadar Pro article published on December 18 about the 'COBOL skills shortage.' He shared his insights on how 'knowledge attrition' – an organization's declining application knowledge due to the departure of experienced software developers – was really the cause of government system failures during the COVID-19 pandemic, and why it remains a serious problem today.

Legacy applications and the COBOL skills shortage were widely blamed for government financial-aid system failures during the first few months of the Coronavirus pandemic. But the TechRadar Pro article revealed that the system failures were not a result of the lack of COBOL programmers. The problem was a severe shortage of legacy-application programmers that understand how these legendary applications work and what the source code does.

“In the COBOL space, you have millions of lines of active code and, to perform necessary maintenance, you need developers that understand what that code does," Brothers said. "But when you’re writing complex applications, code written in the morning becomes legacy by the afternoon.”

The story describes Phase Change's initial market product, COBOL Colleague, which is currently in beta testing and scheduled for release in Q2, and how it is designed to collaborate with developers new to legacy applications and make it easier for them to complete maintenance tasks without requiring experienced colleagues or subject matter experts.

Read more about the 'COBOL knowledge attrition problem' facing government and large financial systems in TechRadar Pro's December 18 article, "We're all at the mercy of this decades-old programming language, but we’ve been thinking about it all wrong."

Todd Erickson is a Technology Writer with Phase Change. You can reach him at terickson@phasechange.ai.

January 22, 2021 - Comments Off on Phase Change granted fourth U.S. patent

Phase Change granted fourth U.S. patent

December 16, 2020

By Todd Erickson

Phase Change was recently issued the fourth patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) related to its ground-breaking software-development technology. The company's first patent was granted in May 2019, and subsequent patents were issued in October and December of the same year. This fourth patent is scheduled to be issued on December 29, 2020.

The first patent is based on the consideration that one function or specification can be implemented in many different ways. This patent provides a method to automatically replace a snippet of code with another snippet of code if these are determined to be strictly equivalent. Using a logical analysis of the two functions, our tool can determine if they are equivalent or not. If they are equivalent, the snippet of code is automatically replaced by the new one, provided that it improves the overall program in some way.

Phase Change's second patent is built upon the first and focuses on improving readability and maintainability. This patent is based on the consideration that the source code of many programs today suffer from a lack of readability (e.g. spaghetti code including “GO TO” statements) and/or maintainability (e.g. legacy code). Using the same logical mechanism as the first patent, this invention will replace a snippet of code with another equivalent snippet of code that has been previously identified as better with respect to readability and/or maintainability.

The recent patent is also built upon the first patent and focuses on security considerations. It is based on the consideration that the source code of many programs today may not have sufficient security components to protect the applications from wrongful and intrusive attempts, such as hacking and piracy efforts. Using the same logical mechanism as the first patent, this invention will replace a snippet of code with another equivalent snippet of code that has been previously identified as better with respect to security.

Phase change was granted another foundational patent in December 2019. This invention normalizes the source code into a language-agnostic representation called Dependency-Ordered Behavior (DOB), a representation that doesn’t depend on the specificity of the programing language (e.g. Java, C, or COBOL), but solely on the behavior of the application. Once the source code is normalized, this tool can easily extract paths within the application and associate these paths with semantic names. Combinations of paths can also automatically create combinations of semantic names.

Phase Change currently has 13 active patent applications in four countries. For more information on Phase Change’s patent portfolio, email info@phasechange.ai.

Todd Erickson is a Technology Writer with Phase Change. You can reach him at terickson@phasechange.ai.

October 27, 2020 - Comments Off on Application knowledge is the foremost skill developers need for rapid legacy-system success

Application knowledge is the foremost skill developers need for rapid legacy-system success

October 27, 2020

by Todd Erickson

The COVID pandemic has highlighted the importance of maintaining legacy computing systems, and the need for more mainframe software developers.

But as Bill Hinshaw, owner of COBOL Cowboys, says in the latest Phase Change podcast, learning a "legendary" mainframe language such as COBOL is only about 10% of getting developers productive in applications they don’t understand.

Learning COBOL is probably about 10% of getting a person productive. It's the other 90% learning about that organization, how they handle business rules.

The other 90% is educating developers on how the applications run and what business rules the organizations have embedded in the applications.

Bill and Eileen Hinshaw founded COBOL Cowboys to provide software development and support for legacy environments. Bill has nearly 60 year of experience in mainframe software development and IT.

In this Phase Change podcast, Bill points out that while many organizations have announced plans to move away from legacy applications to newer technology, they won't be able to quickly rip-and-replace the 200 billion-plus lines of COBOL code currently in use.

Bill says that one reason why we won't see widespread replacement of COBOL-based applications is because a lot of companies lost the expert developers that built and understand the legacy systems through the years.

He explains why public and private organizations are struggling to find people willing and able to maintain applications written in code developed decades earlier, and how programmers that are new to legendary applications often take months to learn the systems before they are productive.

The podcast also includes our conversation about the coming role of AI in software development and how critical it will be for helping developers become more productive with mainframe systems more quickly.

Learn more about the COBOL Cowboys and how critical mainframe applications are to the world in this Phase Change podcast.

 

Todd Erickson is a Technology Writer with Phase Change. You can reach him at terickson@phasechange.ai.

May 28, 2020 - Comments Off on Can AI solve the engineer shortage?

Can AI solve the engineer shortage?

May 30, 2020

by Todd Erickson

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed workforce shortages in a number of industries, including healthcare, food retail, and cybersecurity.

The related financial crisis and government financial assistance requests have also demonstrated a critical need for legacy system developers. The recent performance issues experienced by these financial assistance programs have exposed how dependent our financial and public infrastructure are on legacy and mainframe systems.

Phase Change COO Steve Brothers recently penned an article for ColoradoBiz Magazine about how the legacy application skills shortage threatens the software that underpins a great deal of the world's large financial and government systems.

He also talks about how artificial intelligence (AI) can be extremely effective in helping legacy application maintenance and development by introducing automation into the process, improving project management efficiencies, and by shortening the steep training curve typically experienced by developers new to these systems.

Learn more about how the improved productivity and efficiency AI brings to software development could be instrumental in maintaining and improving our critical legacy and mainframe systems.

Can AI solve the engineer shortage?
by Steve Brothers
ColoradoBiz magazine
May 15, 2020

Steve Brothers is the President of Phase Change Software. You can reach him on LinkedIn or at sbrothers@phasechange.ai.

Todd Erickson is a Technology Writer at Phase Change Software. You can reach him at terickson@phasechange.ai.

May 21, 2020 - Comments Off on Education is vital to legacy applications’ future – podcast

Education is vital to legacy applications’ future – podcast

May 21, 2020

By Todd Erickson

Educating young developers about the importance of legacy software applications, and building the tools needed to connect them with modern technologies are the keys to combining old-school reliability and new-school engineering say Bill and Eileen Hinshaw of COBOL Cowboys.

If you've followed the stories about the computer-system meltdowns brought about by the overwhelming demand for government financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, then you've probably read about COBOL Cowboys.

The Hinshaw's founded the company to bring together experienced programmers and organizations that lack the expertise needed to fix and maintain their legacy applications.

When the system failures started, government officials were quick to blame their back-end mainframe applications, just as they did during the Y2K crisis. However, those same officials were forced to backtrack when Bill and others revealed that the mainframe applications were fine – it was the agency's infrastructure and front-end systems that caused the problems.

Bill and Eileen have done a number of interviews about the system failures, but now they want to talk about moving forward to ensure that these legacy systems are updated using modern technologies, so they don't get blamed for the next computer catastrophe.

That's where education and better tools come into play. Bill and Eileen say the good that's come from our current situation has been the increased public and industry awareness of how important legacy systems are to industries and companies around the world.

Their goal is to educate young software developers on the advantages of mainframe systems so more programmers will be interested in working with them and will replenish the declining workforce.

Learn more about the COBOL Cowboys and how critical mainframe applications are to the world in this Phase Change podcast.

Todd Erickson is a Technology Writer at Phase Change Software. You can reach him at terickson@phasechange.ai.