Informing the IBM Community

Legacy Application Mobility, is the Answer Surprisingly Simple?


The significant benefits of mobility were highlighted in a recent Microsoft paper. The paper went further than most, stating some quantifiable bottom line benefits for mobile application access; claiming that mobility “leads to 30% improvement in processes and 23% more productivity – and 100% more satisfied employees”. This enthusiasm and willingness to drive value for the business outside of the typical work hours, or office location, can no longer be dismissed. So, what is stopping organisations tapping into this extra productivity, and why are organisations that rely on legacy applications, such as Mainframe, Unix, IBM i, Pick or even Multi-Value systems finding it particularly difficult to reap the benefits?

The biggest barrier to mobility, seems to be the complexity of the mobile landscape. According to Apperian, 50% of organisations view this as the principal hurdle, and rightly so. The proliferation of different devices and constantly changing operating systems are hard to ignore. This was highlighted recently, with the announcement that iOS 11 would be dropping support for legacy, 32-Bit iOS apps. When we look at these concerns through the filter of legacy applications, we can start to understand why organisations are struggling with adoption. At a time when many organisations’ client side legacy access applications are preventing them from even performing necessary Windows OS upgrades, catering for the fast pace of change in the mobile OS market seems almost impossible.

The other significant problem is security, how can organisations be confident that their applications won’t fall into the wrong hands once they leave the protective, on premise environment? Unfortunately, they can’t and that’s a valid concern. Anyone can lose their phone, or have it compromised on their way through airport security. You can understand why organisations using host systems like the Mainframe and Unix are particularly wary. These systems often contain business critical data and a wealth of historic, sensitive information and IP. They have previously been physically guarded, so the idea of making them available on an unregulated mobile device can be especially jarring. It’s important to remember though, that organisations who choose not to enable employee mobility are not immune to this risk. The latest Forrester State of Enterprise Mobile Security report, by Chris Sherman points out that “employees are going to continue to purchase and use whatever devices and apps they need to serve customers and be highly productive, whether or not these devices are company-sanctioned”. Whether you embrace of shun mobility, your employees are likely to try and find their own mobile workaround. Is this a barrier too high, or could there be a solution?

What there was a mobile app that would spontaneously give users a responsive, touch screen, replica of the on premise applications they use to complete their day to day tasks? The app would work on all devices and operating systems automatically, even those that haven’t been released yet. It would be as secure and performant as the in-house applications and you wouldn’t have to develop it at all. It would just work. That sounds wildly unrealistic and in some ways, it is. There is no app that will do all of those things, apps by their nature are specifically developed for their destined OS; but apps are not a requisite for mobility. They are often lumped together and assumed the same, but there is an alternative route to mobility that allows you to circumnavigate all the problems discussed above. Pure HTML application access.

Moving to a pure HTML access method for your applications, doesn’t only automatically enable mobility, it can also boost on premise efficiency and security. You don’t have to worry about client side software installations, device or OS upgrades. Patching and support becomes centralised, allowing you to drastically reduce your maintenance overhead and improve your threat/upgrade response rate. Pure HTML application access gives you a centralised, server based application that your employees and stakeholders can securely access wherever and whenever they want to drive value for your business. You can even use the same rigorous time out procedures and security protocols as you do in house, including TSL 1.2, SSL, FIPS 140-2 and multifactor authentication. With this in mind, it is unsurprising that there are pure HTML solution vendors whose solutions have passed thorough penetration testing, where their traditional client side counterparts have failed.

Not only is this possible for legacy systems, it’s actually optimal and can provide a vital step in risk free digital transformation. For the host market, pure HTML terminal emulators are becoming much more common, especially in light of the security vulnerabilities created by the client side alternatives. These web based emulators allow organisations running applications on host systems to leap frog the mobile app development race and achieve a significant competitive advantage. The best emulators will even include low code or no code studio environments that allow you to modernise the applications. This can be done on a gradual screen by screen basis, defaulting back to the green screen for those that are yet to be modernised. This allows organisations to prioritise heavy use screens and seamlessly transition into a modern web look and feel without risk and complications of large projects, or unnecessary dual system population.


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