End of Java plug-in and 3270 emulation: what alternatives to access mainframe applications?

Oracle’s deprecation of the Java plug-in, among other things known for being a huge security vulnerability for browsers, seems to prefigure the end of 3270 terminal emulation as a way to access host applications. What are the alternatives?

Ditching the Java plug-in has an impact on 3270 terminal emulation

Oracle deprecates the Java plug-in and prepares for its removal

Oracle (which acquired Java in 2010 along with Sun Microsystems) will soon drop its much-criticized Java plug-in for browsers: it should be completely removed in the next version of Java SE.
Oracle is actually a little late: Chrome already downgraded the plug-in in April 2015, and Firefox announces similar plans for October 2016. The new Microsoft Edge browser will follow the same path.

Although in plans for many months now, this technological leap has hardly been anticipated by large organizations and governments. Indeed, many IT centers chose to ignore the issue and still use in-browser Java applets to access the legacy applications at the heart of their business.

What is the impact for end-users?

For years, these applications (CICS, IMS, TSO, Natural …) were accessed via specific thick-client emulation software, a technology no longer in tune with the Internet revolution (universal browser, BYOD, VDI…).

Nowadays, most 3270 terminal emulation solutions on the market use a Java plug-in, meaning that thousands (most likely tens of thousands!) of users will have to find an alternative to access applications hosted on mainframes.

What solutions to get around this issue?

Of course, some server-based emulators can solve this Java issue, but the external server option comes with some disadvantages:

  • operating and associated human resource costs
  • latency
  • code duplication
  • security and SPOF risks
  • additional VPN requirements

This is why more and more IBM Large Accounts are turning to sustainable thin-client alternatives, usable with any JavaScript-compliant browser (basically, all browsers on the market), thus respecting all the new standards in terms of technology and web applications. Best of all, these solutions require no additional implementation of a VPN and can also, in many cases, replace costly multi-session host tools.

Virtel Web Access, the ideal solution to replace 3270 terminal emulation

Built on this thin-client philosophy, Virtel is compatible with all web browsers, on any device (including mobile ones) and with any operating system. Virtel acts as a universal gateway to access all 3270 applications from anywhere, being the shortest possible path between mainframe applications and web browsers, all the while offering a very high level of security and parallel sessions management.

Virtel can also provide the infrastructure and tools required to modernise 3270 screens, turning them into user-friendly and intuitive graphical web interfaces, without any changes to the application source code.