Esker Plus Adds LDAP Server

Products using the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) are now surfacing in the AS/400 world. In one of the earliest deployments of its kind, a new AS/400-to-browser interface employs LDAP as a means to provide system access.

LDAP was conceived as a universal standard for directory access by multiple systems across the Web. The latest version (2.0) of Web-to-host software from Esker Inc. (San Francisco) includes an LDAP server, which runs in conjunction with Web servers to provide network administration.

Esker Plus uses LDAP technology originally developed at the University of Michigan, explains Joy Weiss, president and CEO of Esker. "We chose an LDAP directory to make the software easier to deploy and manage. By directory-enabling the product, it's a more future-proof approach than access products with proprietary management front-ends."

The LDAP server authenticates the end-user, Weiss explains. This provides the certain amount of control corporations like to see, but also provides enormous flexibility. "End-users get a highly personalized interface, but at the same time, the network administrator knows who's using what," she says.

Other features in Esker Plus include terminal emulation, data access and network connectivity from a Web browser interface. "Esker Plus v.2 offers out-of-the-box green screen replacement, but also provides the full flexibility of creating Web-enriched host and database interfaces, with full printing, file transfer and file sharing capabilities," Weiss adds. Esker Plus enables connectivity between client browsers and AS/400, Unix and mainframe hosts, and database access via a ODBC driver to DB2, Oracle, Sybase, Informix and Progress databases.

End users can run standard browsers from any client machine to retrieve personalized Esker Plus "Webtops," implemented as HTML pages containing ActiveX controls. The Webtop serves as a "directory front end," Weiss explains. When end users access the LDAP server URL with a browser, the system downloads icons for applications, network files, functions or databases assigned by the network administrator. Access configurations and privileges (such as read-only, read/write) for individual users or groups of users can be established as services by the network administrator.

Client connections from Esker Plus do not rely on the Web server for access to the host. Persistent Webtops can optionally stay resident on end users' workstations, reducing the need for network downloads and enabling continuous, unimpeded host access. Esker Plus also provides access for both 16-bit (Windows 3.X) and 32-bit Windows clients.

The key components of Esker Plus are implemented as ActiveX controls with documented APIs. Developers and systems integrators can create customized application interfaces using standard tools and programming languages such as JavaScript, VBScript or Visual Basic, or use Esker's built-in customization features such as macro language and recorder, keyboard remapping and database revamping. The system includes a directory-enabled deployment and administration tool.

Esker also recently announced enhancements to Tun Plus for WinFrame, its connectivity product for PC servers. Tun Plus for WinFrame offers Citrix WinFrame users terminal emulation, database access and multi-user access to network resources. Previously tailored to Unix environments, Tun Plus for WinFrame now provides connectivity to Unix and IBM hosts from all client platforms via the ICA protocol. Tun Plus for WinFrame extends the reach of Citrix servers to include TCP/IP connected corporate hosts, databases, printers and file servers.