Inventu - What's with this Web-Emulator-in-a-box Thing?

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Applet-based terminal emulation (Java or ActiveX) was a popular approach to delivering access to screen-based applications for a lower cost and reduced installation headaches

Here at Inventu, we refer to this approach as the "emulator-in-a-box" solution. It is an emulator-in-a-box since, unlike HTML-based solutions such as Flynet Viewer or Screensurfer, it provides little integration with contemporary Web browser and Web application environments.

Is it the Right Way, or the Easier Way?

The traditional emulation software vendors went the emulator-in-a-box route as a means to leverage their existing software assets. IBM, Attachmate and Rocket to name a few all seem to be promoting their Java or ActiveX emulators over more Web friendly HTML approaches. Reason? It was easier for them both technically and emotionally (yes, organizations have emotions too!) to take existing terminal emulation code and expertise and port it over to run across the Internet. The result is really the "same old thing" running over an Internet connection.

Easier for Vendors but Harder for You

ActiveX only runs in Internet Explorer on Windows PCs. That used to be a good percentage of users, but Not Today!. Java has as many problems on PCs and doesn't run as an applet on any mobile device or tablet.

So, how is an emulator-in-a-box going to help a business survive in the 'net age? Is it going to improve supply-chain management or improve customer service? Will inexperienced salespeople be able to key their own orders? Is anything different than it has been for the last 15 years given a cheap modem, a PC and a mainframe protocol converter? The answer is no. It's just easier to load those difficult, training-intensive applications when they are loaded by a click inside a standard browser. Just a little easier.

So what exactly are the applet vendors selling? Lower administration and network costs, for one thing (HTML-based solutions have the same benefits, with even lower administration costs). But that is just about it. While a Java development tool promises the ability to create new graphical user interfaces layered over existing screens, this is mostly demo-ware leading to difficult and expensive development efforts. Layering a coding-intensive GUI over Screens using EHLLAPI-like interfaces is also something that's not very Web-like. It's basically client-server all over again, just delivered on the Internet instead of a local area network.

The good news for Inventu and Flynet is that a lot of customers will come looking for tools to do what the applet vendors are promoting, and we will be there with Screensurfer and Flynet Screen Viewer. We'll get in at the start of a project or anytime after; when the emulator-in-a-box proves to have little business benefit on the Web.

Enable, Enhance and Evolve

For users accustomed to the traditional terminal emulator interface, Flynet Viewer (a merger of the Screen Connector and Screen Viewer products) offers and excellent bridge between the interface of today and the business solution of tomorrow. Flynet Viewer implements a keystroke-compatible terminal emulator using sophisticated AJAX Web Services integration between a pure browser-based DHTML client (including Safari on the Apple OS/X operating system) and the Flynet Viewer server.

Meanwhile, the .NET developer can extend and enhance the user interface both at the client (in Javascript) or at the server (using ASP.NET extensions). By intercepting menu or transaction commands, whole portions or "branches" of the existing terminal-delivered application can be delivered as a new ASP.NET application running from any data source. Over time, this enables the evolution of the user's interaction from a strict terminal-based one to a merger between host-driven screens and new .NET user interfaces.

Want to Learn more? Ask us or simply install and go!