WebTerm Toolbox turns browsers into terminal emulators

A US company has announced a plug-in that will allow users to access data on mainframe systems using a regular Web browser.

White Pine Software is targeting terminal users who access mainframe computers with the release of its WebTerm Toolbox Web browser plug-in. The plug-in, which was announced yesterday and will be available worldwide in mid-November, will enable users to access information on Digital, Unix, IBM AS/400 and mainframe computers using a regular Web browser as the client. It works by embedding the company's TN3270, VT420 and TN5250 terminal emulator windows into HTML pages so that a browser can read the information coming from the host computer.

Designed for use on corporate intranets made up of PCs, terminals, servers and mainframes, the plug-in also supports JavaScript for the creation of buttons, menus and specialised features on the Web page or terminal emulator window. Administrators can make changes to terminal emulation configurations across the network by uploading information to the Web site.

"This cuts down on administration hassles for large companies with hundreds of terminals or desktop systems accessing mainframe information," says Steve Parsons, senior product manager for White Pine.

However, since data stored on mainframes is often highly sensitive, only the HTML framework allowing the browser to act like a terminal emulator resides on the Web server, and not the information itself, according to Parsons. Authentication is used to allow certain users access to the HTML pages.

White Pine will continue to market its traditional terminal emulators for the "10% of terminal users who need to do power operations," Parsons says. The WebTerm Toolbox plug-in, which will cost US$69 per desktop, is aimed more at the user who accesses information on a daily basis to perform tasks such as inventory tracking, database look-ups and reservation-taking.

Aware that White Pine may cannibalise some of its own market by offering a lower-priced terminal emulation solution, Parsons says that the trade-off was worth it. "In the future, every desktop will be running a browser as its primary interface," Parsons says.

White Pine is on the Web at http://www.whitepine.com/.

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