Ericom, Cedar Systems Pair on Windows Connectivity

Over the past year, there has been a movement to migrate from 3270 and 5250 terminals to Windows-based terminals, network computers and other graphical displays that can access Windows applications alongside AS/400 and other host data. Seeking to stake a claim in this growing market, Ericom Software (Hackensack, N.J.) announced a partnership with Windows-based terminal (WBT) manufacturer Cedar Systems Inc. (Bellevue, Wash.) to pre-install Ericom's Windows CE connectivity software on Cedar's terminals. Cedar's NutShell terminals are now being shipped with Ericom's PowerTerm CE, a Windows CE-based connectivity program that lets remote users access AS/400 hosts from PCs.

In a separate announcement, Ericom introduced PowerTerm Java, which lets users access host applications over the Web from a Java-enabled desktop machine running Windows, as well as Macs, UNIX terminals and network computers.

As for Ericom, the company counts 200,000 AS/400 users among its 2 million total customers. Many of these are in the company's home country of Israel and around Europe, where the AS/400 has historically sold faster than in the U.S. But Ericom is building a customer base in the U.S. as well.

Ericom's partnership with Cedar Systems mirrors similar arrangements with emulation software vendors by other terminal vendors, including Network Computing Devices Inc. (Mountain View, Calif.), Wyse Technology (San Jose, Calif.), and Boundless Technologies (Hauppauge, N.Y). The joining of Ericom's PowerTerm and Cedar Systems' NutShell terminal could enhance both vendors' positions in the cluttered Windows connectivity playing field, according to analysts. The market has been growing rapidly--IDC (Framingham, Mass.) estimates that more than 305,000 thin-client units were shipped in the first half of 1999, an 83 percent increase over the first half of 1998.

"Cedar is not a big player. They are slowly starting to emerge," says Eileen O'Brien, thin-client analyst with IDC. "Is there an opportunity in the AS/400 market for WBTs? Definitely. But they're also competing with IBM's Network Stations. All vendors are offering this kind of thing. Almost all have partnered with terminal emulation software providers for 5250 and 3270 emulation, as well as Windows."

Ericom's choice to bundle its Windows CE software, rather than its standard Windows emulators, on Cedar Systems terminals is interesting because that software environment is designed for remote access to Windows applications via modem, although users can also access host data on the LAN via standard serial connections.

Ericom claims that the combination of its corporate connectivity tools with Cedar's low-cost terminal will further drive the total cost of ownership lower than other thin-client implementations. PowerTerm also connects to a number of host environments, says Eran Heyman, Ericom's CEO. "Some companies will only connect to AS/400s or only to IBM mainframes, or only to SCO, but PowerTerm CE connects to all of them. The additional advantage is from the client side. We provide a wide variety of client-side access, from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, 98, NT and 2000, as well as Windows CE." Ericom's first Windows CE terminal emulation product was announced in April 1998.

One AS/400-based PowerTerm customer, Michaels Jewelry Inc. (Mount Vernon, N.Y.), gives the software high marks for ease of use and smooth operation. The company recently deployed PowerTerm to enable 350 users to connect to four back-end AS/400s. At any given time, a dozen users might be accessing host data from remote locations, says Kalmon Shor, director of information systems for Micheals. PowerTerm's capabilities made it a better choice for the company's Windows-to-AS/400 connectivity than competing packages, including IBM's Client Access Express, he says.

"When we upgraded to Windows 98 earlier this year, we had to decide how to do 5250 emulation with the BPCS software on the AS/400," Shor explains. "IBM's Client Access Express, although thinner than previous versions, still had too much overhead, and another 5250 emulation package we tried was very funky technology and tech support was nonexistent. Then we heard about PowerTerm from Ericom, and they gave us a demo copy. One of our technical guys tried it out and says, 'It works, it's easy to use and they have good tech support.' We distributed the software and we really pound on the AS/400 with it, including with remote programmers and sales people. They're on laptops with Internet connections and PowerTerm."

Shor says one example of where a user might access an AS/400 from a remote laptop is at a trade show, where a sales person wants to view customer data on the host, and even see rapidly changing information in real-time. At least for his purposes, however, Windows-based terminals are not interesting. Shor says, "The price point of network computers and WBTs has to be half that of a PC and you can get a PC now for $400."