Big Blue beefs up its Web-to-host product suites

IBM Corp. last month announced that it will roll out new software suites and upgraded products designed to help companies bring more of their host applications to the Web.

The company announced at its Solutions 2000 developers conference in Las Vegas that it is collapsing a number of its separate host-access products into suites – a repackaging that could save users tens of thousands of dollars.

The Web-to-host market, which is growing rapidly, means big business to IBM. The market should hit US$1.5 billion by 2004, up from US$240 million in 1999, according to International Data Corp., a Framingham, Mass., market research firm. IBM leads the market with a 33 per cent share, followed by Attachmate at 17.5 per cent, and a half-dozen other minor players.

Among the new suites from IBM is its Host Access Client Package 1.0. This collection of server software gives clients access to host data and applications. The suite consists of several previously separate products, including Personal Communications (PCOMM), IBM’s traditional green-screen host-emulation tool; Host On-Demand, a Java-based green-screen terminal emulator; and the IBM Screen Customizer, which can slap an HTML face on legacy data.

This suite gives companies some flexibility in setting up their host-access applications – for instance, they might use PCOMM inside their organizations but Host On-Demand for their browser-based partners or remote personnel.

If they choose to move their internal staff to Host On-Demand later, they can do so without paying extra. The suite, scheduled for availability by Oct. 1, will run on Windows NT and 2000, Unix, OS/390 and OS/400, and cost US$300 per user.

The suite appeals to Bill Scott of ScotSystems, a Vicksburg, Miss., application service provider that offers financial applications used by convenience stores. ScotSystems, which runs Host On-Demand 4.3 on an AS/400, currently delivers its application services to customers in a text-based format. Scott says the new suite, with IBM Screen Customizer, sounds like it would let him offer customers an easy-to-tweak, affordable graphical user interface (GUI) that could be downloaded rapidly.

“Many customers have been asking about getting a Windows GUI,” he says.

For IS staff who want to conduct extensive Web-to-host application development, IBM will be offering the WebSphere Host Integration Solution 2.0 suite. It includes all products in the Host Access suite, plus Host Publisher, software that lets Windows PC users access SNA data over an IP net.

In addition, IBM has now bundled Host Integration Solution 2.0 with the WebSphere Studio Professional Edition and Application Server Advanced Edition developer tool kits. This will let customers add even more sophisticated Web GUIs to their 3270s and other legacy software without having to perform a major rewrite of the host applications.

Moreover, IBM says it would cost US$67,500 per 100 users to buy the products separately; as a package, it will now cost US$45,000. Host Integration Solution 2.0 will run on Windows NT and 2000, OS/390, OS/400 and Unix hosts, and will be available by Nov. 30.

IBM will also offer enhanced versions of its individual host-access products. Among these will be Host On-Demand 5.0, which now comes as a set of software components – not as one fixed package. IS staff can pick the features they want to make available to end users, speeding the product’s initial applet download time (IBM says a basic tn3270 session could download up to three times faster than before). It will be available by Oct. 30 and be included as part of the Host Access Client Package or will be priced per user.

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