Micro Focus Refreshes RUMBA Emulator, Delivers iPad Client
January 23, 2013 Alex Woodie
Micro Focus last week unveiled its latest iteration of the RUMBA terminal emulation suite, which is heavily used by IBM i shops around the world. RUMBA 9.0 introduces a new way to modernize 5250 and 3270 green-screen interfaces into GUI equivalents. The company also introduced three new clients as part of its “RUMBA+” brand, including Windows, Web, and iPad interfaces. Android and Microsoft Surface clients are expected in a few months, company officials say.
With RUMBA 9.0 and RUMBA+, Micro Focus is giving customers new tools to modernize their 5250 and 3270 green screens into richer and easier-to-use graphical interfaces. The company says that its screen modernization can be accomplished in its Rumba Screen Designer without any programming. Instead, it uses a “natural language modernization rules engine” to enable conditional and contextual controls on modernized green screens. 5250 and 3270 screens are transformed to graphical screens automatically using pre-defined templates and skins.
The Rockville, Maryland, company says RUMBA 9.0 will “change the face” of terminal emulation. Key to this goal are the three RUMBA+ clients introduced with version 9.0, including RUMBA+ Desktop, a Windows client; RUMBA +, a native iPad app; and RUMBA+ Web, a new Web client that works with a variety of Web browsers.
The new RUMBA iPad interface, which is based on Objective C and Cocoa programming tools, may be the most anticipated result of the RUMBA 9.0 rollout. The iPad is rapidly gaining followers in corporate environments, but users have struggled to overcome several limitations of the iPad user experience, most notably the lack of all-important function keys resident in a full 122-key keyboard. Micro Focus claims to have overcome this hurdle in its iPad client “via the adaptation of alternative ways to execute function keys and application parameters, including options with the use of icons and hyperlinks.”
Micro Focus has sold modernization tools for years under its OnWeb brand. OnWeb used a mixture of Microsoft and Java technologies to redevelop 5250 and 3270 screens into graphical equivalents. OnWeb is still listed on Micro Focus’ website, and Micro Focus officials say it will continue to sell OnWeb, which is used for on-the-fly generation of graphical screens. With RUMBA 9.0, Micro Focus is using prefined templates and skins based on XAML definitions, which can be edited if needed. Micro Focus also says that it will continued to sell its RUMBA Web-to-Host product, which provided 5250 and 3270 screens in a Web browser via ActiveX controls and Java applets.
RUMBA 9.0 doesn’t appear to bring any improvements to the traditional 5250 or 3270 experience, which is still favored in many environments where speed and accuracy are valued more heavily than gloss and good looks. With that said, RUMBA already had pretty much all of the features that 5250 and 3270 could ask for. There just isn’t a lot more that can be done with a terminal emulator that RUMBA hasn’t already tried.
RUMBA 9.0 does bring support for Windows 8 desktops. The core RUMBA 9.0 server continues to run on all supported servers, including IBM i, z/OS, Windows, and Unix servers. The new Web and iPad clients are only available with 5250 and 3270; Unix emulation is not available. Also, printer emulation and file transfer capabilities are only offered on the Windows client; they are not available in the Web and iPad clients.
RUMBA 9.0 continues to offer IBM i customers access to single sign on (SSO) capabilities through use of Kerberos technology and hooks to Microsoft’s Active Directory. The software is FIPS 140-2 certified, and uses SSL and SSH technology for secure terminal and FTP sessions. The software is available now in English, French, and German. For more info, see www.microfocus.com.