Virtel Web Modernization

Turning 3270 screens into a modern GUI

Modern graphical user interfaces (GUIs) for legacy applications


Virtel serves host transactions (such as CIC, IMS, and Natural) to thin-client web browsers as modern and user-friendly web pages, to create a genuine web portal (GUI) experience.

It is an attractive modernization alternative for host applications still relying on legacy screen interfaces. It allows extending selected transactions in self-service mode to partners, clients, and untrained staff.

Virtel benefits

Virtel makes it fast and easy to serve CICS, IMS, Natural and other host transactions as modern and user-friendly web pages that create a genuine web portal (GUI) experience through:

  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) that implement corporate branding and web presentation standards
  • Assisted data entry widgets: checkboxes, dropdown lists, graphical calendars, and more
  • Improved layout and workflow: screen consolidation, tab navigation, collapsible sections and more
  • New Ajax-based application features: auto-suggest, auto-complete, PDF generation, email, and more

The same transaction can be served concurrently to different users with different device-specific presentations and ergonomics; for example:

  • Full display for workstations and tablets
  • Expandable accordion for smartphones
  • 3270 TE for users that prefer stay with a traditional green screen interface

Virtel extends the relevance of - and investment in - legacy host applications for years to come.

Typical Virtel Web Modernization applications include:

  • UI modernization: replace legacy screen user interface with modern and attractive web user interface
  • UI consolidation: integrate host and web application user interfaces seamlessly into a single GUI to eliminate toggling between screens and web pages
  • Productivity: reduce data entry errors; reduce training requirements for new and temporary staff
  • Self-service: give clients and partners self-service access to selected transactions
  • Mobile/Consumer outreach: extend products and services to mobile devices to reach consumer market
  • Cloud integration: seamlessly integrate host transactions and data with the Cloud
  • Technology improvement: replace underperforming or cumbersome GUI technologies and outdated screen scrapers without impacting the users or applications

Developing a new Virtel-based web portal (GUI) doesn’t require changing the underlying 3270 application code, because Virtel interfaces by default with the 3270 data coming off VTAM:

  • It eliminates the risk for disrupting the internal logic of the host application, which reduces the testing requirements. Testing is limited to the GUI itself. The underlying host application doesn’t need to be regression tested. This greatly reduces the duration and cost of the GUI development.
  • It allows power application users with detailed understanding of authorized screen field values but no understanding of internal application logic and/or programming language, to develop the GUI with little if any assistance from the application support team.
  • It allows the development of GUIs for applications whose code cannot be changed because it is owned and supported by a vendor, or has been lost, or is too complex or critical.

Virtel can interface with the transaction programs through COMMAREAs and channels if/when legacy screens are no longer used and must be removed. The changes can be implemented one program at a time, i.e. Virtel can concurrently interface with transaction programs using screens, COMMAREAs, and channels.

To generate the HTML/JavaScript pages (GUI) that it serves to application users, Virtel relies on scenarios and templates.

Scenarios define the GUI’s internal logic; for example whether to generate a web page from one or several 3270 screens, or what template to use to generate a given web page. Scenarios are developed using Virtel Studio: an Eclipse-based IDE.

Templates define the presentation and ergonomics of the web page, and where to insert host application data into the web page. Templates are developed using Virtel Screen Redesigner - a host-based IDE with web user interface.
Virtel Screen Redesigner allows developers to:

  • Retrieve the 3270 screens layouts from existing maps (BMS, MFS, etc) or live screen captures
  • Display each screen layout - field by field - in a workbench format
  • Select - field by field - a widget to assist the data entry: checkbox, selection list, graphical calendar, and more
  • Insert ad-hoc HTML/JavaScript code to complete the template, e.g. to add Ajax-based features to the GUI such as dynamic selections lists, auto-suggest, and auto-complete

Being a thin-client browser-based solution, Virtel Web Modernization:

  • Works instantly and automatically with any device that can render a standard HTML/JavaScript page regardless of platform, OS, or browser:
    • PC workstations and notebooks running any version of Windows (including Windows 10) or Linux
    • Apple products: workstations, notebooks, and mobile devices
    • Mobile devices (tablets, PDAs, smartphones) running iOS, Android, Windows Phone, etc
    • Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Chrome, etc
    • Any future web-enabled device because new web-enabled devices will have to be able to render Virtel’s standard HTML/JavaScript pages to be marketable
  • Empowers initiatives where 3270 TE clients are not owned or controlled by the host team such as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and access by authorized agents or 3rd party users
  • Empowers initiatives where 3270 TE client desktops are virtualized such as VDI (Virtual Device Infrastructure) and Desktop as a Service (DaaS)
  • Extends the scope of the DR (Disaster Recovery) plan by enabling 3270 TE users to work with any web-enabled device unaffected by the disaster that they can get access to

Mainframe authorizations control - Virtel supports RACF (default), TSS, or ACF2 logon authentication. Its application selection menu restricts users to applications for which they have been authorized at logon. Even if/when the transaction server (CICS, IMS, etc) abends, Virtel users are never allowed to roam free.

Secure HTTP connections - Virtel relies on end-to-end encrypted HTTP connections:

  • Data exchanges are encrypted using z/OS’ AT-TLS.
  • HTTP connections are closed while inactive, which is 99.99% of the time with user interfaces (3270 TE or GUI).

Exchange-level security - Throughout the session:

  • Each back-and-forth exchange between mainframe and client is authenticated with a unique token and the clients’ IP address to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks.
  • Incoming data is analyzed for length to prevent unwanted malware insertions.

Mainframe protection - Virtel runs on the mainframe where its code is protected from Internet attacks. The usage of unencrypted 3270 data is limited to the VTAM-Virtel connection, on the mainframe where it is protected from Internet attacks. Virtel’s HTTP-to-SNA protocol conversion “brakes and redirects” the mainframe-client connections on the mainframe: an indirection that provides additional protection against Internet attacks.

Data-less clients - Virtel clears the browser’s cache when the session ends: no host data exposure in case the clients (e.g. mobile devices) are lost or stolen.

Industry standard and custom security - Virtel is compatible with PROXY, SSO, jump boxes, VPN, and any other IP security technology. It can be customized to support terminal-transaction-printer control, biometrics and multi-criteria authentication, field-level security filters (no display, browse only, or update), and more.

No VPN required - Virtel doesn’t require a VPN to provide secure access to mainframe applications from web browsers. Virtel customers can drop their VPN.