By chance this week I have enjoyed a lively exchange with a former colleague of mine back in the days when I was still in Australia, Bruce Williamson. There was a time in the mid-1980s when I was given charge of a small tech company, as its Managing Director, after the founder, Paul Wood, left to establish the company’s presence in America. No it wasn’t Insession but rather, Systems Technology (later to be named Netlink), and among my responsibilities was the oversight of a small manufacturing group, as Systems Technology built all of its own hardware – SNA Gates and SNA Hubs. And yes, this was back in the days before routers appeared, and during a time when I thought switches would dominate.
Bruce, when we exchanged emails last week, was clearly taken aback by the explosive take-up in tablets. However, while I was giving the industry a break in describing its many shifts of direction as being like the ebb and flow of the tide, Bruce was more emphatic, “we keep going in circles!” What Bruce was observing is the continual shift between distributed and centralized models for computing in general. “We have moved from centralized processing, in the days of IBM mainframes, and networks of 3270s,” Bruce began and then, with client / server computing, “we moved to a decentralized processing model putting a PC on every desktop. But of late, we seemed to have moved back to a more centralized approach as costs escalated and points of “intelligence” proliferated and few knew the state of the business at any point in time – the emergence of the need for the database of record.
And yet, Bruce observed, “I have started using a “NEW” iPad, connected via an iPhone 4s – yes, the Australian 4G network uses different frequencies to what the iPad was designed for. But this IS the next corporate terminal!” Even though this may put pressure on IT in some countries to fund adequate bandwidth and may raise some potential security issues, it’s now not hard to envisage the humble smartphone / tablets becoming universal user access devices, and the mainframes of old, the clusters of servers of late, and now the cloud all representing orbiting satellites circling continuously around the corporate user. Yes, we may indeed be going around in circles as Bruce noted.
None of this has escaped comForte’s Thomas Burg, and we have enjoyed a pretty lively email exchange on this topic for many months now, but of late the testing of prototype emulators for tablets in general, including the iPad, of course. “While perhaps going around in circles trivializes where the industry has been,” Burg suggested, “there’s certainly no escaping how we continue to circle back to some common themes – not the least being the protocols we depend on to access the wealth of business logic on IBM mainframes and in the case of HP NonStop, the NonStop servers. Like it or not, IBM’s 3270 and NonStop’s 6530 terminal interface protocols remain a very-much -relied upon methods for terminals, PC’s and now smartphones and tablets – anything supporting a browser – to unlock the resources on those systems at the very heart of our data centers.”
Critical business logic that we have and that has been captured within the many transactional applications will still retain terminal-oriented interfaces; 3270 and 5630 interfaces in particular seem to have a life of their own, even today among all the assumptions that with so much business logic externalized as services, they provide an easy path into their many supported features. These interfaces will remain the windows to the outside world – and will require secure support for a very long time to come. “The trend to BYOD (bring your own device) is seen across all verticals. Will this be embraced for accessing NonStop systems from an iPad?” said comForte’s Burg before responding, “who knows, but with J6530 mobile comForte is already showing that this can be done. There are still thousands of thousands of application users relying on 6530 connectivity to NonStop systems daily.”
For some time now, Burg and I have been testing and reviewing approaches that better open up the most popular of tablets (and the one I am particularly fond of), the Apple iPad. The new TN6530 app from comForte is not specifically aimed at the iPad nor is it solely a product for Apple fans, as it will work on a number of popular smartphones and tablets, but the more I work with it, the more I see a sizable future for this latest iteration of 6530 terminal interfacing by comForte. More will be written on this in the coming weeks but it’s hard to miss the ease with which having this capability on my iPad opens up so much that is happening on my data center’s NonStop server. But it’s enough to say that as we continue to become even more mobile, and needing access to critical business logic any time, we can see what we need to at any time and from any device.
We may indeed not be watching the ebb and flow of technology as much as we are seeing technology orbiting users, following a similar track across the decades and simply appearing different based on the face it presents at the time. However, there is no escaping the reality that technology does circle back to revisit tried and true methods for accessing current business logic. And none of this lost on comForte’s Burg, who perhaps summarized it best when he suggested, in an email, that “HP continues to talk about the ‘Instant-On World’ while comForte has made the instantly-connected-to-NonStop a reality!”