Windows Vista Poses Challenges to Emulation Vendors
September 18, 2007 Alex Woodie
The number of 5250 emulation packages supporting Windows Vista has almost doubled recently, with NetManage announcing support for Vista with RUMBA earlier this month, and Zephyr‘s PASSPORT 2007 finally shipping by the end of September. But users may be surprised at the lack of support of many emulation features on the new operating system, particularly with IBM‘s iSeries Access, by far the most popular emulator in the midrange.
If your organization’s PCs are getting a bit long in the tooth, you’re probably contemplating a PC upgrade. And when you finally do pull the trigger, chances are good that Microsoft‘s Windows Vista operating system will be running on the things. If you need to run a TN5250 emulator on your new Vista boxes, your choices are limited.
Only a handful of emulation vendors have received validation that their products work with Vista. These validations fall into two camps, including full certification, and a lesser qualification, “works with Windows Vista.” Attachmate with its EXTRA! X-treme 9 and Reflection 2007 suites, Seagull Software (which is now owned by Rocket Software with its BlueZone suite, and the NFS Maestro 2008 products from Open Text‘s Hummingbird subsidiary have delivered full Vista certification.
By the end of the month, Zephyr should deliver PASSPORT 2007, a company spokesman said. The new release, which it announced in April, will be included on the list of products that are certified for Windows Vista (although it isn’t currently on the list). NetManage has two products that have received the “works with Vista” logo, including RUMBA version 7.5.1 and OnWeb Web-to-Host Pro Client 5.3.1.
As you can see, IBM’s iSeries Access is not one of the supported Vista applications. It is also missing from the “certified for Windows Vista” list, which can be viewed here. Nor is it on the list of applications that have earned the “works with Windows Vista” logo, which can be viewed in all its glory here. (Of course, you can only view these lists from Internet Explorer version 6.0 or higher–and, no, Firefox is not a supported or certified application.)
Vista and iSeries Access
IBM has supported Windows Vista with iSeries Access V5R4 since December 2006, when the company shipped iSeries Access service pack SI25949. IBM has shipped two additional service packs since then, and is currently on service pack SI27741, which was delivered in July. However, there are still several outstanding issues in iSeries Access that reduce its functionality significantly when running on Windows Vista.
The biggest problems are “output loss” due to the new user account control (UAC) feature in Vista, the Operations Console not working, the Advanced Function Presentation (AFP) drivers and viewers not working, SSL certificate problems with IE 7 (part of Vista), the check service level function not working, the inability in some cases to install Vista from a network share, and problems accessing the help features. For more information, see the following two APARs: APAR 14239 and APAR 14247.
IBM is planning another service pack for iSeries Access, to be released in January. It isn’t known what improvements it will bring to the product. IBM didn’t respond to requests for comments on iSeries Access problems in time for this issue of Four Hundred Stuff.
IBM wasn’t the only emulation vendor experiencing trouble supporting Windows Vista, although IBM’s problems appear larger than anyone else’s.
Zephyr, the host access vendor based in Atlanta, Georgia, faced some challenges supporting Vista, but resolved them in time to deliver PASSPORT 2007 next week, says David Muck, a vice president with Zephyr. “We do not have any limitations on features or product operation,” he says. “All of the macros, hot keys, printing, etc. . . . function the same under Windows Vista as they did under Windows XP or 2000. However, we went through a fair amount of code rewriting to make this happen, which is why we were delayed a bit.”
Archie Roboostoff, director of product management for NetManage, says Vista posed some challenges to supporting NetManage’s host access products, particularly the older RUMBA product. “Obviously, advanced GUI and user features [such as UAC] are a little tricky, but we’ve got a decent handle on it,” he says. “All the functions and features are the same as before, but we did have some issues with our connectivity layer.” NetManage addressed the connectivity issue by moving all communications to TCP/IP. “Our customers have done the same so impact to the market with this is minimal,” he says.
It took a “modest effort” to support Windows Vista with Attachmate’s two emulation products, its EXTRA! suite and Reflection, which was previously developed by WRQ, according to Mike Rogers, the emulation product unit manager at Attachmate. Areas requiring the most work were the installation program and, at run time, storage and retrieval of user data, he says. “UAC presents some challenges, but they are usually not difficult to overcome if you have an application that was certified for a prior version of Windows,” he says. “If a vendor is taking an older application that didn’t previously hold a certification, I could imagine the work would be quite significant.”
Attachmate says Reflection 2007 was designed from the “ground-up” specifically to run under Windows Vista. This product offers full support for Vista, while some of Attachmate’s older products, namely the earlier versions of Reflection and EXTRA! X-treme v9 carry the caveat that they require the separate WinHlp engine for help functionality. “WinHlp32.exe is not included with Windows Vista,” says Damon Dreke, product marketing manager, Attachmate, but “Microsoft has provided a workaround, which we’ve already communicated to our customers.”
Demand for applications that support Windows Vista is still relatively small, according to terminal emulation vendors. Many customers are sticking to the tradition of waiting for the first service pack–or the second service pack, in some cases–of the new operating system before deploying Vista. With Vista SP1 due out in the second quarter of 2008 (at the same time Windows Server 2008 is due to be released), the summer of 2008 is looking to be a season of active Vista upgrades.
Zephyr’s Muck says the majority of Vista demand among PASSPORT customers is coming from small customers, such as hospitals and nursing homes that just bought new PCs that came preloaded with Vista, but still need to access the U.S. Medicare mainframe system. Zephyr conducts annual surveys of its customers, and the results show that Zephyr’s largest accounts are waiting until mid-2008 or 2009 before deploying Windows Vista, Muck says.
“Having said that, almost all of our strategic accounts and prospects are evaluating applications that support Windows Vista or are certified for the Microsoft operating system, including terminal emulation,” Muck says. “As such, we’re quite busy at present.”
Attachmate’s Drake doesn’t expect to see much Vista-related activity until Microsoft ships Vista SP1. “At this time, we are not seeing many customers rolling Vista into production environments,” he says. “That being said, there is interest from our enterprise and mid market customers in preparing for their Vista migration, as they believe that a move to Vista is inevitable. In North America, there is no evidence that anyone is seriously considering Linux or MacOS on the desktop as an alternative to Vista.”
NetManage’s Roboostoff says demand for Windows Vista has been surprising. “We thought that many customers would not be moving to Vista until mid-2008. [But] we have a large number of existing customers moving to Vista already so it caused us to accelerate our time to market with our Vista products,” he says. “We have been seeing a steady increase in activity since the start of Q2 2007. We do see, however, many customers waiting until the SP1 release, but these are the bigger customers.”