• United States

Dawn of the undead mainframes

May 17, 20043 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMainframes

* PowerTerm WebConnect tames the undead

Do you deal with the “undead,” those legacy systems that despite having stakes shoved through their mainframes, being buried in obscure code, and reviled by all men – or at least by all IT staffers – just won’t die?

In many of these cases the cost of spiffing up the front end is not only not worth it, but the people who rely on the application simply don’t care or even want a new face on it (“If it was good enough for my father …”).

So here’s a solution where access with a terminal emulation is really all you need and often all the users want: PowerTerm WebConnect from Ericom Software (see links below).

Webconnect comes with both a thin Java client and a fat ActiveX client. In the former architecture, which is client platform independent, the terminal emulation runs on a server and the client is simply a user interface presentation mechanism – in the latter the terminal emulation and the UI both run on the client and is (obviously) dependent on a Windows platform.

While the fat client is a larger download than its Java-based sibling, the ActiveX component will be cached ensuring a minimal start-up time after the first access. The fat client also secures its host sessions using Secure Sockets Layer while the ActiveX version uses a proprietary security system. The server side of WebConnect runs under Windows NT or 2000 and mediates connections to hosts.

Terminal emulations supported include: 327x, 3477, VT52, VT100, VT220, VT320, VT 420, VT520, VT525, ANSI, D210, D211, D212, D410, D411, D412, Wyse, Televideo, and AIXterm. Target host systems supported include: IBM mainframes, IBM AS/400, Unix, VAX/VMS, Alpha/OpenVMS, SCO and Data General. That’s impressive but where WebConnect really scores is in manageability: Being centrally installed and configured by an administrator for individual users and or groups of users it makes configuration, control, and updating very simple.

The system administrator can also monitor the entire system remotely, to determine which sessions are open and who has current access to which applications. With the Java client the administrator can even monitor the actual user session.

WebConnect also supports Ericom’s Power Script Language (PSL), which enables the creation of scripts for automating connection tasks. For example, you could create a script to login, execute a file, display a message, and so on.

PowerTerm WebConnect pricing starts at $1,495 for ten licenses. Pretty cheap for keeping the undead in their place.


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

More from this author