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The iPad Meets the Mainframe

Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets deliver great graphics capability and processing to their users. Such devices enable access to applications that was previously unthinkable on mobile equipment, with terminal emulation screens and even full-screen browsers. And with the widespread adoption of Apple devices, which run iOS, there is a unique opportunity to link mobile users to IBM System z platforms.

The iPad, in particular, has garnered much attention for corporate as well as personal use. Accordingly, an increasing number of executives and analysts are adopting the tablet in the office, field and home. The growing challenge, therefore, becomes establishing harmonious coexistence between iOS devices and the IBM mainframe.

iOS Devices

The iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch can actually be of great use in accessing data on the System z platform. They all allow at least an 802.11g Wi-Fi connection, available in many businesses, homes and public spaces. Some models also allow a 3G connection, enabling remote access to data and applications on mainframes, allowing users to access data nearly anywhere in the world.

What makes the iOS platform attractive is application consistency, facilitating new releases and application updates simultaneously to all devices. This, in turn, enables reduced cost and effort of development. The Apple iOS Software Development Kit (SDK) allows an application written for the iPhone to run with the same functionality on an iPad without modification, eliminating the need to maintain multiple versions. Various vendors—including IBM, SAP, CA, DTS and MochaSoft—are developing System z applications compatible with iOS and available through the App Store.

3270 Emulation

Undoubtedly, 3270 terminal emulators are among the most widely used methods of accessing the mainframe. MochaSoft is one provider, offering a 3270 emulator for devices running iOS that can be downloaded through the App Store. There, you can find the software by searching for the application’s name, “TN3270.” Among the many applications the search will yield are two versions offered as MochaSoft TN3270—the complete paid version and the demo, “TN3270 Lite.” TN3270 Lite includes some limitations on functions, such as the number of systems that can be configured, and the programmed function (PF) keys are inhibited. But the normal keyboard is available, allowing the user to log onto a mainframe application and test it on a limited basis. The paid version has all functions enabled as shown in Figure 1, with a CMS in virtual machine (VM) session, surrounded by blue buttons that enable the keyboard, PFs, etc.

On the iPad, the screen can be rotated both horizontally and vertically, and the device continuously shows the entire screen. On the iPhone and iPod, however, the application can only display properly in horizontal mode.

Figure 1: 3270 Emulation on an iPad

Flavio C Buccianti retired from IBM Brazil where he worked for 38 years mainly with z/Architecture and also with AS/400, Power and OS/2 Internals support for large customers.

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