Attachmate Delivers Mobile Access to IBM Servers
February 5, 2013 Alex Woodie
Attachmate last month unveiled new software that lets users access IBM i- and zSeries-resident data and applications from mobile devices. Verastream Host Integrator version 7.5 brings the capability to serve 5250 and 3270 screens as HTML5 applications to tablets and smartphones running iOS, Windows 8, and Android mobile operating systems. The software is the first deliverable that’s part of Attachmate’s newly launched MobileNow initiative.
The mobile bug is now spreading faster than the flu. Companies in every industry are demanding ways to access host assets via smartphones and tablets. Attachmate, which has the second largest base of terminal emulation customers outside of IBM, has seen customer demand ramp up quickly, and its response is the new MobileNow strategy.
Like many other companies selling host enablement software, Attachmate is utilizing HTML5 to generate Web apps that can run equally well on mobile devices from a variety of manufacturers. (The company is also working on developing native applications for the iPad, but that product won’t be announced for months.) Due to the tiny screens on smartphones, tablets are the big focus with Verastream Host Integrator (VHI) 7.5 and a new companion product, Verastream Process Designer r5.
VHI can deliver host access in three different ways, explains Ron Nunan, product marketing manager at Attachmate. First, customers can get straight 5250 or 3270 green screens in their VHI sessions. Secondly, customers can use VHI to convert the green screen into a Web form. Thirdly, customers can modify the screens and the workflow to provide a customized experience for users.
Attachmate put a lot of work into making VHI sessions intuitive for users, Nunan says, including full keyboards that drop down and are transparent (or semi-transparent), custom swipe functions, and conversion of host screen elements into hot-spots. “Just all kinds of little additions to allow finger use instead of keyboard use of these applications that were built for keyboards,” he says. “You can also create services that instead of showing up as Web services, show up as automation buttons or macro commands. It’s really kind of a melding of the backend system that VHI provided in the past, to tying it to a specific HTML 5 application for tablet and phone users.”
One early VHI user created an app for tables that allows users to quickly see a location in Google Maps. The customer converted mailing addresses that showed up as Web forms into hyperlinks that automatically access the Google Maps API. Other users have mobile-enabled specific parts of their ERP and CRM systems to provide access to IBM i-resident data in real time from a tablet.
This capability to build apps that access the World Wide Web in new and creative ways is what the MobileNow version of VHI is all about, Nunan says. “Customers can start adding procedures and server side macros and create automations for their iPads or phone users that then go off and do things for them,” he says.
Deployment of the mobile apps can be done from the popular stores, such as Google Play and Apple App Store. Attachmate utilizes PhoneGap to ensure that the HTML5 apps can be deployed via the stores, even though they aren’t native apps. “We were able to write some nifty little capabilities that look very native in their implementation, but they’re actually written in HTML5.”
“It’s growing like crazy,” Nunan says. “It’s probably, for Verastream, the single most popular topic that we’ve had last year. We’ve got a lot of projects. Originally they started off as service style projects, but now they just range all over the place.”
MobileNow will eventually touch Attachmate’s entire portfolio, which spans host integration (Verastream), terminal emulation (Reflection), managed file transfer (FileExpress), and fraud detection (Luminet), says Tom Bice, vice president of marketing and product management at Attachmate. “We felt we needed an umbrella brand to provide cohesion for that message,” he says. “It’s really a vehicle for us to provide some clarity around some different things that our portfolio can do within the context of mobile initiative.”
The server component of Versastream Host Integrator 7.5 runs on Windows, Linux, zLinux, AIX, and Solaris. Customers can get started with a license for about 50 users for about $50,000. For more information, see www.attachmate.com.