RUMBA 8.3 Brings New Productivity and Security Features
June 5, 2012 Alex Woodie
Micro Focus is close to shipping RUMBA version 8.3, an updated release of the terminal emulator that’s popular in IBM i shops. The new release, which should ship in about a month, will bring a new productivity feature making it easier to export data from a 5250 screen to Microsoft Excel. It also features a more modern security architecture that may keep your network security officer’s hair from prematurely turning gray.
Micro Focus started building connections between RUMBA and Microsoft Office with RUMBA 8.1, which shipped in late 2010. That release included an MS Office toolbar in the RUMBA interface, where users could automatically push data appearing on the 5250, 3270, or VT screen to Word or Outlook.
With RUMBA 8.3, Micro Focus has built upon that initial MS Office integration, and added support for MS Excel. With a couple clicks of the mouse, users can now automatically move data from their emulator to the popular spreadsheet product.
RUMBA users have been moving data to Excel for years, explains Ed Airey, the product marketing director for Micro Focus’ COBOL and RUMBA products. “But instead of requiring them to go out to a macro editor and write this from hand, essentially what we’ll be allowing them to do is to select an area of text on the screen, and be able to export that directly to Excel, just using the mouse,” he tells IT Jungle. “It eliminates the need to write a complex macro in some of those basic cases, and also gives the user a springboard to start doing more with Excel.”
Airey says the new Excel integration is an example of the work Micro Focus is doing to make more advanced functions available to a wider number of users. The Excel integration is one of the first of a series of templates that Micro Focus plans to bundle into a library, he says.
This library of templates is available within the RUMBA Developer’s Edition, which is a component of the RUMBA suite that enables customers to customize their emulators by using an API that provides access to a set of .NET and J2EE libraries. The Developer’s Edition comes with all paid licenses for RUMBA, but customers must pay $3,000 a year to get access to the documentation, how-tos, and other content that helps them make the most of the tools.
The new version also marks a change in how Micro Focus is approaching the Developer’s Edition, Airey says. “What we did with RUMBA Developers’ Edition with 8.3 is we’re highlighting capabilities in what we’re calling our plug-in architecture,” he says. “Essentially this allows you to get access to more of the capabilities [in RUMBA], whether it be secure connection, whether it be access to data on the screen, or perhaps creating your own routine that interacts with RUMBA in a particular way. The user has the capability to not only use exiting library routines, but also expand on that library and create their own.”
Version 8.3 also includes a new release of RUMBA Security Services, an add-on product that enables users to access IBM i, mainframe, and Unix servers from outside an organization’s firewall. The new release marks a big improvement in how Security Services works with today’s modern firewalls, and eliminates potential security risks.
“In years past, some of the [tunneling] methods we had used, particularly now, are seen as, for lack of a better word, security hacks, or ways of bypassing a proxy server or bypassing a Web server,” Airey says. “So we had to change the technique and the algorithm we were using so that we could allow users to traverse the firewall using more of today’s standards for protocol communication.”
Specifically, Security Services (which is used with other Micro Focus products besides RUMBA) no longer uses chunk mode when working with a reverse proxy server. “That particular technique is seen as a security risk by most of the more modern reverse proxies out there,” Airey says. “We now use a different technique, a different algorithm that we developed to make it more standard.”
Micro Focus has a lot more RUMBA features in development, including a mobile version of the emulator, support for Windows 8, and new ways of developing apps in the emulator, all of which will probably debut in 2013. The IBM i server and mainframe aren’t dead yet, and as long as people are still accessing these large hosts through terminal emulators, vendors like Micro Focus will be required to keep them current.