Monday, 6 October 2008

Desktop and mainframe integration

There is a dream that many IT users have. It is simply that the advantages of the mainframe will be available to them on their laptop. Now I know that Microsoft and Co get sniffy about mainframes, and talk about the performance of their servers etc etc until I have drifted into a semi-comatose state; but the truth is that mainframes work and they work well. Which, I guess, is the reason that their long-promised demise hasn’t happened. In fact, it appears that mainframes sales are increasing.

As an aside, there is one giant fly in the ointment in terms of mainframe sales at the moment and that is the current banking crisis. Banks and insurance companies are probably the biggest corporate group to use mainframes – and they are the ones badly affected by the current recession and lack of confidence in banking and insurance.

Anyway, ignoring the outside world, most people would benefit if their laptops and a mainframe were in regular communication. That’s why there have been so many column inches printed about Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) over the past few years. The truth is that carrying so much stuff around on a laptop – like files and applications – is a hugely out-of-date computing model. The reason most people complain about the slowness of their PC is because of all the unused programs that are using up the processing space. An ideal laptop would be in constant fast communication with a mainframe and would have all its data files regularly backed up, and it would download just those parts of an application that it wanted to use, as it needed to use them. You’ve only got to look at the number of Excel functions available, as compared to the number of functions that most people use during the day, to see how much extra unused capacity most programs have.

In what they describe as a move to help accelerate desktop integration to legacy mainframe and green-screen applications for the contact center, Cincom and Attachmate have announced an alliance. Through Attachmate Verastream integration solutions, Cincom Synchrony’s unified agent desktop will, they claim, quickly and inexpensively incorporate back-end systems using minimal IT resources.

Although aimed at contact centers, the principle behind the alliance is quite interesting. The press release suggests that contact agents need to keep swapping between applications to solve customer problems – and this wastes time. Synchrony’s unified agent desktop is meant to present the right applications, resources, and history for a particular interaction, and Cincom can now integrate this to critical back-end systems even faster with Attachmate. Attachmate’s Verastream simplifies access to critical supporting mainframe applications through its non-invasive integration approach.

OK, this is taken from the press release and all the hype you would expect. Also, it is designed for contact centers rather than ordinary users. But the principle of making mainframe information more easily available to PC users is an important one. It’s definitely part of a continuing trend.

On a different topic, I have been using the beta of Google’s Chrome browser for a while now and have found it to be excellent. The one problem that has occurred a few times though is the Flash plug-in has died for no apparent reason. If you haven’t tried Chrome yet, give it a go.

Lastly, this Tuesday (7th October) sees the next Virtual IMS Connection user group meeting. If you are an IMS site then you can sit down at your laptop at work and take part in the meeting. There’s a presentation by BMC Software’s Nick Griffin. If you’re not a member of the group, you can sign up at (it’s free).

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