There was a time when you had to go into the office to use the mainframe. Then, with SOA, we allowed people to access from browsers running on any devices anywhere. Nowadays, people are wanting additional flexibility and demanding that they can work using their preferred computing device, rather than one allocated to them by IT.
You can understand why. I know of a number of sites that still roll out XP laptops to staff because they didn’t like Vista. They have older software applications that stop them moving to Windows 7 and IE9. You can understand why their staff would be frustrated in that situation. People who own super whizzy iPads and Samsung Tabs, or top of the range smartphones that can do pretty much anything, find that going to the office is like going back in time – and they don’t want it. They want to use their own devices, which they’re familiar with and can carryout their own simple IT support on, to access their work applications. Hence the growth of BYOD – Bring Your Own Device.
There’s also a growing population of Mac users that find they don’t get any IT support from the usual IT channels. For them, a Google search will usually identify the cause of a problem and a solution, and so they can get on with their work. If you are a Mac user, there's plenty of Mac to MVS info at http://planetmvs.com/mvsintosh/index.html.
Nowadays, users at Windows-based sites can easily connect to things like a Citrix receiver and access a virtual work desktop on their hardware device of choice.
In a further complication, Canonical is developing an Ubuntu release that can run alongside Android on high-end dual-core smartphones. When the smartphone is docked, the user gets a full desktop experience. The Linux operating system shares the Android kernel, enabling the safe sharing of resources and data by going through the same kernel access layers. This offers all sorts of advantages. Users have a phone that works, plus, once docked, have a working computing environment. It’ll be interesting to see whether we see a lot more of Ubuntu for Android. Can you imagine being able to do that with Windows?
VMware’s Horizon mobile application (announced last summer) lets workers use personal mobile devices for work, while letting IT retain security and control over work-related apps on those phones. In effect a user has the handset they want and runs their work phone virtualized on the same hardware. The user gets the handset they want, and IT get the security they need.
And you can access the mainframe with your iPad. For example, you can have 3270 emulation – MochaSoft provide TN3270 from the Appstore. Rational HATS and WebSphere Application Server (WAS) can help make CICS access from an iPhone possible. Lotus Notes Traveler accounts allow users to access Notes from iPhones or iPads.
There’s a free Quick Reference for IBM System z mobile app available for Android, BlackBerry, and iPhone, which (IBM claims) provides quick and easy access to the latest System z product information, success stories, social networks, and z experts. You can get it from www-03.ibm.com/systems/z/resources/mobileapp/index.html.
Many software vendors are making use of the browser on tablet devices and smartphones to provide access to mainframe data – I’ve written about William Data Systems software in previous blogs, but they are a good example of a vendor embracing new technology to access mainframe performance info.
My opinion is that tablet devices are not quite there yet, and, like early laptops, will be a million times more useful and usable in a couple of years time. But plenty of people have them, and it makes sense for those people to access the applications they want on corporate systems, whether that’s a copy of Excel or a CICS transaction.
Watch out for more people demanding to bring their own device!