Monday, July 30, 2012

Connecting to everything? Is your refrigerator looking for a helping hand?

What exactly are the options to enable applications on NonStop to talk to just about anything and is pressure mounting on IT and Business managers to do something? Terminal emulation? GUIs? Apps? comForte has them covered …              

It may not come as a surprise to anyone who has been following the posts to this blog but over the weekend, I gave up on my Blackberry and swapped it for an iPhone. I have had an iPad now for quite a while and even though other members of my family had an iPhone I have just kept putting it off. But the continuing poor news coming from Blackberry more or less convinced me that the time was about right.

I doubt very seriously whether I will ever again tinker with a Mac as last time out, trying to execute all of my business activities relying solely on a Mac proved a dismal failure. But the predicament I now face is overcoming my fear of not being in synch – my mail is fine as I can see everything on my iPad and my iPhone but there’s more I need do to make sure my calendars and contacts are the same. I have been assured it’s not a big issue just as I have been reminded to connect my Apple devices to my laptop routinely. And frequently, apparently. But I will get there.

In a very small way, given the size of my business and the fact that there are just two of us – myself and my editor, Margo – we have become active participants in the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement. The emergence of such a movement is an acknowledgment that increasingly it is an individual’s decision as to what smartphone or tablet they prefer that is pulling the initiative (about user interfaces) away from IT. Or, as a recent wiki update observed,
BYOD is making significant inroads in the business world - about 90% of employees in some markets / regions are already using their own technology (in at least a limited capacity), at work. And it’s not simply limited to human interactions either – as “smart appliances” continue to proliferate, even household items will soon be bringing their own “intelligence” as each of them becomes fully addressable via their IP address.

In a July 26, 2012, post to the web publication, ZDNet, in the story “Embracing BYOD key in battle for talent” the writer states the obvious when he proposes that “the generation entering today's workforce expects to have devices they want to use, and offering employees choice has become a key element in attracting the best talent amid an increasingly competitive talent war.” But it is all about choice and just as I elected to switch vendors, there’s no indication that this type of change will lessen in the future just as there’s even less evidence that IT is going to ever change companies attitudes over how best to make their employers productive.

None of this has escaped the attention of comForte either – indeed, the products that they have sold for many years continue to evolve to better address these markets. In previous posts I have already covered how comForte has the terminal emulation market well covered and with their J6530 Touch product, the NonStop community has assurances that there’s no technology roadblock for connecting the mission-critical applications running on NonStop to the more popular smartphones and tablets in use today.

“But there’s a lot more than simple terminal emulation required here,” said comForte’s CTO Thomas Burg. In a flurry of email exchanges on this topic, Burg didn’t hesitate to remind that there will be different drivers involving both IT and business managers.  “IT managers may come under increasing pressure to ensure existing applications can be easily accessed by the broad mix of mobile devices we talk about just as business managers are responding to pressure of a different kind; companies will want to look at new applications that help them develop innovative products that separate them from their competitors. comForte has been actively selling various options for modernizing your run-of-the mill 6530 block mode application for more than 10 years.”

Even as some within the business and possibly within IT viewed supporting existing applications through more modern interfaces as simply nice to have, Burg observed that “It will be interesting to see how IT (and the business) react to BYOD: choose the cheap/fast/limited option of just bringing 25x80 screens to the tablet, or make a bolder move and provide a modern GUI on the tablets giving it the appearance of being more fully integrated with the rest of IT.”

I have covered the comForte product ClientServer Link (CSL) in previous postings to this blog. However it’s probably timely to take another look at CSL in light of the above. The real power of CSL is in its ability to support options – to cater to the choices business may elect to make. Whether it’s just simple direct-connecting mobile devices in a two-tier capacity or via more complex multi-tier configurations where the client application is the aggregation of the output from multiple server applications including applications running on NonStop, CSL has much to offer.

“Expressed as simply as I can, CSL is all about connecting to and from the NonStop using a wide range of Enterprise standard connectivity options,” Burg added.  “CSL is a very rich product so much so that when it comes to connecting NonStop to anything or indeed the inverse, anything to NonStop (which clearly accommodated BYOD) then CSL is an ideal choice. And this includes NonStop to a SOAP server; Windows.NET to NonStop; any device that supports Java to NonStop; in fact, getting even more technical, automatic conversion of NonStop DDL, to any number of modern representations – yes, CSL accommodates it all.” Perhaps it will even include support for the browser built into my next refrigerator – pushing requests to buy more milk directly to my car!

Support of a browser and having a home for HTML5 is a good place to start and will likely be the way most of business will head when it comes to supporting mobile devices including smartphones and tablets. But it is just a start. Of course, there remains the Apps approach and with it dealing with the App Store but this is not likely to appeal to business at least, not in its current iteration. Having a product like CSL, on the other hand, ensures access into and from NonStop systems can include the type of rich exchanges we see already see today with other systems. And to think this is just the beginning …

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