IBM Updates Host Integration Tool for Windows NT

Good reasons exist for IT departments to stick with the older servers they’ve been using faithfully for years, but customers and employees really do not care what kind of boxes are on the back end. They just want seamless access to the data those boxes house.

Instead of purchasing individual emulators from each company for which you have a server, IBM Corp. provides a way for IT departments to tie together data in multiple servers with various platforms, and publish it to the Web. Version 6.0 of IBM’s eNetwork Communications Server for Windows NT allows access integration for employees, suppliers, business partners and customers.

While the Communications Server is available for a variety of platforms, only the NT version contains the Host Publisher feature. According to Mike McCarthy, product manager of IBM’s eNetwork client software, the Communications Server’s Host Publishing feature allows a programmer to take information and data from multiple sources and publish it to the Web. "With Host Publisher, you can aggregate information and you can create composite applications," he says.

Host Publisher will be used to go online and check product information and inventory, and even query the 3270 search application for a look at the company’s data. "You’re taking information from different sources and creating new applications to display the (data)," states McCarthy.

Host Publishing comes from a joint-licensing agreement with InfoSpinner (Richardson, Texas, www.infospinner.com), which designed the ForeSite technology Host Publishing uses. Keith Lowery, president and founder of InfoSpinner, said Host Publishing was exclusively an OEM business model. He also commented that his company will continue to engineer new products to enhance this capability.

Host On-Demand, another feature of Communications Server, is a Java-based emulator which runs on Windows NT and allows for 3270, 5250 and VT emulation, and is entirely client-based.

Features of Host On-Demand include Host Print, which allows the client to specify which printer the client uses. Also, JavaBeans support allows for the creation of new applications. A GUI enables users to add graphics and macro buttons to customize the interface to look like a new application.

These products can be purchased a la carte, but IBM’s McCarthy stresses the importance of the whole Host Integration Solution so that servers have flexibility. If a company is using traditional modes of emulation and would like to change, services come at no charge.

Shared Medical Systems (SMS, Malvern, Pa., www.smed.com), an $800 million supplier of Hospital computing systems, is already using Communications Server. Bill LaBriola, product manager for SMS Network Services, says his users want Internet access to their mainframe, and he’s using the Host Access Class Libraries feature of Communications Server, which allows him to take information from one application and flow it into another, to publish the information on the Web. "We’re using it mostly as a terminal emulator," says LaBriola, but "we also plan to write new applications."

To access SMS’ mainframe, a licensed user types in a URL and downloads a 1-MB Java application to a Java-enabled browser. The program is downloaded and cached so it doesn’t need to be downloaded again.

SMS’ LaBriola said he’s concerned about the security of the 200,000 users running networks into SMS’ data center. For authentic and privacy, he’s installed IBM’s Securities Dynamics in front of Host On-Demand. IBM’s McCarthy noted that the product uses Secure Sockets Layer technology and comes with a firewall. It is also compatible with all Windows NT password systems.

Instead of downloading the full version of Host On-Demand, which weighs approximately 600 KB, can download a 200-KB thin client. Again, once downloaded, the program is cached so there’s no need to download again.