Attachmate eVantage Manages Web-to-Host Connectivity

Although it sometimes may seem as if corporate America is moving all of its IT infrastructure to Windows NT, the fact is many companies are still relying on, and even investing in, mainframe computers.

Most online transaction processing applications, for example, are remaining on mainframes, according to Jeff Dupuis, corporate evangelist for Attachmate Corp. (Bellevue, Wash., "In the last 3 years, decreases in cost per mips and advances in technology on mainframes have helped convince companies not to migrate," Dupuis explains.

Now that the Web has infiltrated most companies, many IT managers want to make these mainframe applications available to a wider set of users through browser-based access. Attachmate’s new eVantage product suite is designed to help manage connections between the Web and the host systems. "You don’t want every application developer in your company figuring out how to connect over SNA to the mainframe; it’s a hard thing to do," says Bill Patterson, senior vice president of worldwide sales, marketing and support for Attachmate.

While products have been available for several years to deliver mainframe-based application screens to browsers, these solutions have been hard to manage, according to Martin Marshall, an industry analyst at Zona Research Inc. (Redwood City, Calif.). "There’s a lot of administration and detail keeping that is the real strength of the eVantage product line," Marshall says.

The eVantage suite includes the Host Access Server, Client Access Licenses, Session Licenses and consulting services to assist with system migration and application development.

The Host Access Server provides host connectivity, security, and management services and applications, including:

  • Session services, which establish and maintain communications with host systems using a variety of protocols, including SNA, TCP/IP and ODBC.
  • Host integration services, which include programming interfaces and class libraries that developers can use to connect server applications and session services.
  • Management services, which enable centralized configuration, software distribution and on-demand deployment of Web-based viewers and custom applications.
  • Secure access services, which provide encryption, user authentication, access control and secure firewall traversal.
  • SNA gateway services, which manage the pooling and distribution of SNA sessions for customers who choose not to run TCP/IP on the host.
  • Desktop management, an add-on module that extends centralized management facilities to include every application on every Windows desktop in the enterprise.

Companies can choose between three kinds of access licenses: the Enterprise Client Access License, which allocates permission to use e-Vantage services and applications and includes Attachmate's host access client software; the Standard Client Access License, which allocates permission to access hosts within a browser via basic terminal emulation viewer applications; and Concurrent Host Session Licenses, which are designed for accessing only custom Internet-based applications. The first two licenses are assigned on a per-seat basis, while Session Licenses are available for concurrent, ad hoc access.

In addition to delivering existing mainframe-based applications through browsers, companies also want to build new Web-based applications on other platforms that take advantage of mainframe-based applications and data. The eVantage product can also help companies create these applications. "There are additional capabilities to combine screens from two applications or do a subset so that what you feed to the browser is better," Zona’s Marshall says.

Connecting to mainframe-based data is crucial for certain Web-based applications that rely on current data, Attachmate's Patterson says, such as stock trading, classroom scheduling and airline ticket booking. "There are many situations where this replicated thing doesn’t work," he says, referring to solutions that connect such Web-based applications to subsets of data that have been replicated from the mainframe.

In addition to improving manageability, Patterson says that having a tier between Web and mainframe applications allows either to change without affecting the other. "You can build your Web application on any kind of application server but have a common back end: the eVantage Host Access Server," he says.