Making Long Distance Relationships Work

Remote users have as many rights as those who gain access to the corporate network from within the safety of company headquarters. The only problem is, these long-distance relationships can be costly, both from a security and a financial standpoint.

Ever an advocate for remote user rights, NLynx Systems Inc. (Austin, Texas) now offers InterLynx/S, an Internet gateway designed to provide secure, 5250 remote access to AS/400s without the need for dial-up and leased-line solutions.

A peripheral hardware device, InterLynx/S is connected to the network at the host site, providing 5250 remote access over the Internet. This allows users currently using dial-up solutions for remote access to instead use a local Internet Service Provider (ISP) to connect to the AS/400, which is protected from the Internet by firewall technology.

InterLynx/S targets those users needing remote access to green-screen applications, according to Jim Robillard, VP of marketing for NLynx. "It’s a straightforward implementation," he says. "From the host site, it looks like a standard TN5250 connection."

On the server side, users install the InterLynx/S device, which acts as a firewall or gateway between the Internet connection and the AS/400 host, Robillard says. On the client side, the remote user needs NLynx’s ES/TCP component, designed to provide 128-bit Secure Sockets Layer encryption. ES/TCP software also provides TN5250 display and printer emulation over TCP/IP to the AS/400 and is compatible with both 16-bit and 32-bit environments.

ES/TCP offers the user the same NLynx Emerald Series client, this time over the Internet, Robillard points out. Whereas current remote access configurations typically incur the costs of a dedicated phone line, long distance calls and a remote access server device, InterLynx/S is priced at $5,500 – which includes a 10-user license – and "takes advantage of a company’s existing Internet connection," he says.

InterLynx/S is also more versatile than typical remote access servers due to its capacity to be used as a general-purpose Internet gateway, observes Robillard.

Implementation of InterLynx/S has the potential to cut a company’s remote access costs in half on an ongoing basis, according to Eric Hemmendinger, an analyst with Aberdeen Group (Boston). Though the product has an upfront cost, InterLynx/S "pays for itself in a matter of months," he says.

In addition to the cost benefits of implementing InterLynx/S, Hemmendinger says the product’s dedication to the AS/400 market will help it find success. "There are a lot of products that have been introduced for Internet access, but NLynx is addressing the 5250 protocol specifically," he says.

Hemmendinger adds that network administrators considering the product do not have to be sold on the technology NLynx is introducing, they simply have to consider their return on investment.

Use of the Internet during remote access connections typically inspires concerns about the security of making one’s AS/400 accessible via the Internet and sending terminal transmissions via an ISP. InterLynx/S addresses these concerns by acting as a firewall between the AS/400 and the Internet, according to Robillard. "Information must be authorized to pass through [InterLynx/S]," he says.

M.G. Maher, a New Orleans-based U.S. customs broker and international freight forwarders firm, has already put InterLynx/S to use through its service bureau, which helps customs brokers clear goods and prepare documents that must be filed with customs, explains Tim Phinney, IS manager for M.G. Maher.

With InterLynx/S, M.G. Maher service bureau customers can now pay a local ISP for their connection, Phinney says. He is also hoping the new method of connecting with his company’s service bureau will encourage not only local users but those throughout the country who may have been avoiding long-distance dial-up charges in the past.

Without InterLynx/S, users would take a PC and dial into a protocol converter, all the while on a long distance call, according to Phinney. "The solution benefits us at a cost that is probably a half, if not a quarter, of what it would cost you to put in a server with a firewall on it," he says. "I’ve had quotes of up to $20,000 for that kind of [solution]."