Beyond Green-to-GUI

Increasing importance of host integration, middleware and Web services in 2002

2002 predictions: Host integration, middleware and Web services all take on increasing importance to e-business initiatives.

Large systems run our corporations and government, and will continue to do so for a long time. But when it comes to e-business, host integration has tended to be used for narrowly focused projects without strategic business imperatives. Most host integration tends to focus on simplifying internal deployments by providing users GUI (Graphical User Interface) access to information formerly displayed on green screens. This is good stuff, but here's what to look for in the year ahead:

Vendors move to enterprise integration. Vendors are now acting aggressively on the growing convergence between Web to host and host integration. The leader of the pack, IBM, integrated its Host on Demand/Host Integration Solution line into its Websphere application server family, positioning the products as part of a new generation of Web development tools. Attachmate is positioning EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) tools such as Smart Connectors and Task Integrator within its product family. WRQ has been offering Verastream, positioned as an EAI tool juxtaposed with its Web-based terminal emulator. NetManage integrates Rumba, which it acquired with Wall Data, as a component of its OnWeb host-integration solution. Jacada and Farabi HostFront also include application integration capabilities.

"Middleware" back in favor. Leading EAI companies such as Iona Technologies and BEA claim they're not in the "middleware" market any more. "They're selling technology with sexy names such as 'application servers,' 'enterprise application integration tools,' or 'portal frameworks,'" relates Kathleen Jeanty of Ovum Research. However, more companies are seeking infrastructure products that can help deliver content, applications and services to a plethora of access devices. Middleware, or whatever you want to call it, hides the complexity of multi-system architectures—and is a natural role for host-integration tools.

Business imperatives. How will this new generation of tools fit into overall e-business strategies? Certainly, there will be continued demand for tactical green-to-GUI solutions, but all indicators point to the growth of host integration as a strategic business tool as well.

"Legacy-extension suppliers face the same challenges as any other vendor: To continue to provide customers with a migration path that sustains that organization's revenue streams," says Darcy Fowkes, an analyst with Aberdeen Group. "Web-to-host suppliers must partner with or acquire suppliers that extend their integration strategies." That next stage is Web services, she notes.

Web services. Web services loom large in the upcoming year. While much of the concept is still unformulated, it lays the groundwork for future b-to-b interaction. There's only one problem: 80 percent of the world's data remains on mainframes.

Host-integration vendors are well aware of this challenge, Fowkes says. The middleware platforms that host-integration vendors are offering deliver the components required to convert mainframe and midrange-based data to Web-services formats.

The future of host integration is an expansive one, but we're still in the early stages. Most companies are still focused on deploying green-to-GUI solutions, and are just beginning to explore the merits of middleware that will capture back-end data. The year 2002 will mark the beginning of that process.

About the Author

Joseph McKendrick is an independent consultant and author, specializing in surveys, technology research, and white papers.