Attachmate Ships Emulator, Touts Tolly Report
November 13, 2007 Alex Woodie
System i shops contemplating the move to Windows Vista on the desktop have another option now that Attachmate is finally shipping Reflection for IBM 2007, a new release of its flagship suite of terminal emulation software for accessing System i and System z servers. The midrange software giant also released a competitive analysis, produced by the Tolly Group, in which it claims workers are several times more productive using Reflection 2007 than competitive offerings.
When Attachmate first announced Reflection for 2007 nearly a year ago, it was billing the new emulation suite as a significant release for several reasons. First, it would be the initial release of the Reflection line to be certified for use on Windows Vista. (In fact, Attachmate says Reflection 2007 was built from the ground up specifically for Vista and its new security features.) And support for Office 2007 would bring Reflection users several new productivity improvements when it comes to integration with Word docs and Outlook e-mail. However, it was never going to be the company’s first emulator certified for Windows Vista, as a new release of Attachmate’s other main emulator line, EXTRA! version 9, gained that honor first.
But perhaps most importantly was Attachmate’s plan to make Reflection for 2007 the flagship terminal emulation suite for the company, and to start moving users of its other emulation products, including EXTRA! and older versions of Reflection, to Reflection for 2007.
That is still the plan, according to an e-mailed statement from Damon Dreke, product marketing manager for Attachmate. For Unix, Linux, and OpenVMS customers requiring VT emulation, the go-to product will be Reflection 2008, which is largely based on Reflection 2007, and which the company plans to deliver next year. “Reflection 2007 and Reflection 2008 remain the same products,” he says. “The name change was made to ensure clarity to our customer base.”
Attachmate acknowledges it needed a “three month extension” in the development of Reflection 2007, but claims it didn’t have any impact on delivery of the product. “The product was announced as available in October to time with an important customer event,” Dreke says, “but Reflection for IBM 2007 was actually available to customers prior to the October announcement date.” The challenges that Vista posed to developers of terminal emulation products, including Attachmate, are well documented.
Nevertheless, Attachmate hasn’t lost much Vista business with the delay of delivery of Reflection for IBM 2007. The company is looking forward to getting some traction in the Vista space as corporations start to replace Windows XP desktops with new Vista machines. Corporate demand for Vista is expected to be much stronger in 2008 than it has been this year.
Support for Vista and Office 2007 isn’t just a “checkbox” feature that would be nice to have. Instead, it brings major changes to the way that applications interact with the operating system, and how people interact with applications, according to Attachmate.
For starters, support for Office 2007 brings the capability to use features like spell check, screen history, auto complete, auto expand, and the scratch pad from within the Reflection emulator. So, as a user types into a green screen, the computer will automatically check the spelling, or expand or complete the words or phrases that the user started to type. The product also supports the new “ribbon” interface used by Vista and Office 2007, although users can elect to use the “classic” interface instead. Reflection 2007 also features a .NET 3.0 API, enabling developers to create programmatic interfaces using .NET 3.0 technologies, and support for 64-bit versions of Windows Vista.
Major security changes also greet Windows Vista users. One of the ways administrators can take advantage of Vista’s new User Account Control (UAC) feature is the capability to enable or disable specific fields on workers’ screens. For example, if a user tried to copy a field containing a social security number, it would be blocked out when he or she tried to paste it into an Office document. Other security benefits include a new secure token authentication mechanism, the capability to offload SSL/TLS processing from the host, and support for government security certifications.
To show just how productive workers can be with Reflection 2007, Attachmate commissioned the Tolly Group to produce a report about it. The group compared Reflection 2007 to two other emulators that are popular in the System i market–NetManage RUMBA version 7.5 and IBM’s Personal Communications (PCOM) version 5.9.1–and calculated the time it took to accomplish common tasks.
Not surprisingly, the Tolly Group found its client’s product exhibited superiority in the categories measured. This was most likely because the tasks analyzed–typing words or phrases, checking the spelling, looking up screen history, taking notes in the scratch pad, and creating e-mails or Word docs that contain data from a screen–are closely related to the new Vista support features that Attachmate added with Reflection 2007.
While such reports should always be taken with a grain of salt, one shouldn’t dismiss their findings, either. In situations where a worker is entering a lot of text, it seems quite plausible that the auto complete or auto expand features of Vista and Reflection could come in very handy. If a worker needs to review previous screens, the capability in Vista and Reflection to dock a screen history bar to one side of the screen could make complicated customer interactions go much faster.
NetMange’s RUMBA faired much better in Tolly’s rankings than IBM’s PCOM. While RUMBA doesn’t offer support for several productivity features, such as auto expand, spell check, and scratch pad, RUMBA does offer auto complete, supports the call-back of recent typing, and offers a text version of recent history. RUMBA also offers some e-mail integration, and comes with Windows Help. IBM’s PCOM didn’t offer support for any of these features, according to the report, which can be downloaded from Attachmate’s Web site.
Reflection for IBM 2007 is available now. Attachmate refused to disclose pricing. For more information, visit www.attachmate.com.