Today we have a COBOL problem, with lots (and lots) of old code hanging around with fewer (and fewer) people who know how to handle it. COBOL was once the "in" infrastructure, running the backend systems of scads of financial institutions and governments. Now we've moved on.
In like manner, Mike Louikides, vice president of content strategy at O'Reilly Media, has suggested that our industry's next "COBOL moment" will likely involve Kubernetes. Over time, he noted, Kubernetes will inevitably be replaced by something simpler, leaving us to answer the question: "Who will maintain the infrastructure that already relies on it?"
This "COBOLization" of code isn't endemic to all software. For example, Loukides uses Fortran to draw a distinction between code that creates long-term maintenance issues, and code that does not:
Fortran and COBOL are used in fundamentally different ways. While Fortran was used to create infrastructure, software written in Fortran isn't itself infrastructure….Nobody cares anymore about the Fortran code written in the 60s, 70s, and 80s to design new bridges and cars. Fortran is still heavily used in engineering—but that old code has retired. Those older tools have been reworked and replaced….[I]f all the world's Fortran programmers were to magically disappear, these libraries and applications could be rebuilt fairly quickly in modern languages—many of which already have excellent libraries for linear algebra and machine learning.