Mainframe Telnet gets visual

The software, which runs under Microsoft Windows 95, Windows 3.1 or Windows NT, uses a
Remote Imaging
Protocol developed by TeleGrafix to give a graphical interface to computer bulletin board
services. Patrick Clawson, president and chief executive officer of the Winchester, Va.,
company, said Telnet offers a much larger market than either bulletin boards or the World
Wide Web.


"Most of the major information resources of our society are still locked up on
Telnet-able mainframes," Clawson said.


Federal agencies are spending millions of dollars to move databases now housed on
mainframes to Web servers because the Web is more user-friendly than Telnet. But
"there is more power in Telnet than there ever will be on the Web," Clawson
said.


Telnet is a terminal remote host protocol that lets a user log onto and run programs on
another computer. But it lacks the point-and-click interface users have come to expect
from Web browsers. RIPtel Visual Telnet is intended to remedy that.


"Those government databases never need to convert to the Web now," Clawson
said.


Its creators also claim that information from databases enabled with RIPscrip scripting
language load faster than Web images. RIP images are defined by vector graphics, using
sets of straight lines and points and transmitted in text form. "There is nothing
that moves faster on the Internet than text," Clawson said.


The software is available for downloading for a 60-day free evaluation from
TeleGrafix's Web site at http://www.telegrafix.com.
Priced at $19.95, it is intended to be an impulse buy, Clawson said. So far there are few
databases enabled with RIPscrip, but TeleGrafix also has released RIPaint, which sells for
$99.95 per copy and can convert large databases in a matter of hours, he said.


RIPtel is one of the latest entries in the emerging market of mainframe integration. So
far, the market has focused on giving access to mainframe data and applications via Web
browsers, which use TCP/IP. The products generally use some form of Hypertext Markup
Language conversion. Cindy Borovik, a program manager at International Data Corp. of
Framingham, Mass., said this was a $5 million market in 1996, when the first products were
shipped. She estimates it will be a $1 billion market by 2001.


She said the market is expected to grow fast because federal and corporate IT managers
now accept that the mainframe is not going away.


"At least 70 percent of existing applications and data are on existing
mainframes," said Lisa Lindgren, a product line manager for Cisco Systems Inc. of San
Jose, Calif.


That data is likely to stay there for quite a while, said independent industry
consultant Anura Guruge. For storing and handling gigabytes and terabytes of data,
"there is nothing else in the world you can do it on," Guruge said. "The
thing that probably will replace the mainframe is probably another generation of
mainframes."


In the last two years, as intranets have emerged as a popular platform for private
networks, TCP/IP has emerged as the protocol that must be integrated with IBM Corp.'s
Systems Network Architecture for mainframes, Guruge said.


Cisco recently signed a joint sales and marketing agreement with OpenConnect Systems
Inc. of Dallas to get a foot into this market. It will be selling and later incorporating
into some of its own products a suite of OpenConnect software products that give PC access
to mainframe data.


OC: WebConnect runs under Windows NT or Unix and uses Java applets to produce a
green-on-black text screen displaying mainframe data in a Web browser. A companion
product, OpenVista, uses applets to convert the text screen to a graphic interface.


As the largest user of mainframes and TCP/IP, the U.S. government is the largest
potential market for these products, Guruge said.


TeleGrafix, originally of California, moved to Virginia last year to be closer to the
federal market, Clawson said. The company began work on RIP products for the Internet when
the growth of the Web devastated the computer bulletin board industry. In 1995, the number
of bulletin boards dropped from 80,000 to about 30,000, Clawson said.


He added that by avoiding the Web and HTML conversion, the company's RIP
products make more effective use of bandwidth and load data faster than HTML documents. A
full-page Graphics Interchange Format file that takes up 60 kilobytes in a Web document
requires only 4 kilobytes when encoded with vector graphics using RIP, he said.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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