RUMBA 8.1 Delivers Integration with MS Office
November 30, 2010 Alex Woodie
Micro Focus recently launched a new release of RUMBA, its terminal emulation suite that is used by many IBM i shops. The highlight of version 8.1 may be integration with Microsoft Office, which will allow users to easily move data from the emulator to Outlook or Word. Other notable features include FIPS 140-2 certification, a new screen and data capture system, GUI enhancements, and new developer tools. The vendor also launched Web-to-Host 6.1 and OnWeb 7.5.
For the last decade, two unmistakable computing trends have wound their ways through American corporations. The first concerns the “legacy” applications running on IBM iron that users access through green screens. Namely, lots of people don’t like them, and want them replaced with things with Web interfaces. A second, related trend has played out on our desktops, where Microsoft maintains an excruciatingly profitable software monopoly with the Windows and Office juggernauts. Many people hate this, too, and think the future lies in accessing Web-based services from Linux desktops, or maybe the new iPad.
Since 2000, the writing on the wall has said that expensive, proprietary technology from IBM and Microsoft will lose, and inexpensive, open source technology from smaller and–let’s just say it, nicer–companies will win. To a large extent, this is exactly what’s happened. The AS/400 installed base is a fraction of its former self, while Microsoft struggles to remain relevant outside its niche.
However, while the AS/400 and the Office/Windows duo have lost market share and luster, neither product line has gone completely away, which undoubtedly confounds their critics. Perhaps the products are so ingrained in some organizations that removing them would be too painful. Or maybe, just maybe, there are still IT managers who resist the urge to change out information systems simply because somebody thinks they’re just too old.
Which brings us to RUMBA version 8.1. Like peanut butter and chocolate, Micro Focus realizes that the AS/400—er, IBM i-based Power Systems server–and Microsoft Office just go better together. There’s no sense in fighting it: Office is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere. So instead of forcing users to flip back and forth between RUMBA sessions and Office apps, Micro Focus has figured out a way in RUMBA 8.1 to let users drive data from the emulator directly into Outlook, Word, and OneNote.
This capability to push data and transaction details from a RUMBA session into Outlook or Word will enable users to share information more easily than before. It will replace untraceable copy-and-paste-based business processes that spring up and increase productivity. And since it’s centralized and monitored, this direct push of data into Office will lower security risks, Micro Focus says.
User productivity is a central theme of RUMBA 8.1, and another time-saver can be found in a new feature that allows users to capture historical data and recently used screens for later use. This enables several new capabilities, including: making recently viewed information available to users immediately; enabling users to search through recent transactions; and helping trainees to figure out the product quicker. Micro Focus also sees this feature being used to build issue-specific user profiles that offer instant access to background information or oft-used queries.
Micro Focus also touts the capability to customize RUMBA installs with this release. The company says version 8.1 features a new “tile and zoom” interface that spreads out RUMBA sessions across several windows (like Windows), as well as customizable toolbars, and an improved status bar. The vendor also supports the development of custom RUMBA programs with the Rumba Developer Edition, which features access to APIs and works with Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 and 2010.
The Web-based version of RUMBA, called Web-to-Host, has also been enhanced. Web-to-Host version 6.1 features support for double byte character sets (DBCS) that allows it to be adopted by more Asian users. Like RUMBA, its SSL/TLS- and SSH-based encryption mechanisms have been validated FIPS 140-2 compliant, enabling the software to be used by governmental agencies and contractors. And like RUMBA, Web-to-Host is certified to run on Windows 7 (or at least the browser running in Windows 7).
Micro Focus also rolled out a new release of OnWeb, its modernization tool that creates Web interfaces and Web services out of green screens. With OnWeb version 7.5, Micro Focus launched an Internet Information Server (IIS) plug-in that allows the OnWeb server to function as a component of Microsoft’s IIS Web server. Retro users will appreciate the new command line tool that allows administrators to control OnWeb applications through the command line. Other improvements were made to the OnWeb APIs, the OnWeb Designer, and the OnWeb Builder.