Without revealing my age, I got my first mainframe job back when terminal emulators were a new idea. They were rudimentary with only basic features like copy and paste available, but the number of licensed seats we had for those PC-based emulators was limited, so we still performed most of our work at “green screen” terminals. Often called ‘dumb terminals’, these stations had rudimentary functionality, green-tinted screens like you’d find in the movie Alien, and the tendency to beep with every keystroke, making them annoying in more ways than one to use.
Emulation is the Key
Today, terminal emulators are amazingly robust and feature-rich with a wonderful array of usability enhancements to make them indispensable for modern mainframers. Functions such as built-in FTP capabilities and the ability to create scripts by recording keystrokes for playback have brought terminal emulators into the 21st century.
Computing innovators have invested a massive amount of time, funding, and research into modernizing the mainframe to keep Big Iron relevant and at the hub of the world’s core industries. New processors set the standard in pure processing power, security, and scalability for the future. While manufacturers have certainly been working hard transforming the mainframe into a modern server fit for capacity, speed, and security, terminal emulators have undergone similar improvements. With recent leaps and bounds in the fields of scalability, security, and functionality, it’s no surprise life on the mainframe is coming full circle with the newest emulators.
Democratizing the Mainframe
Consider how societies today interact and collaborate both locally and globally with smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers. Our data centers interact and collaborate in the same way. IT staff are no longer tethered to a desktop or terminal, and ‘bring your own device’ policies have enabled employees to stay connected wherever they are while still contributing as effectively as if they were within the same four walls as their peers.
With a zero-footprint, clientless web-based terminal emulator, IT staff can retrieve and use information from anywhere in their systems on any tablet using any browser at any time. As a Db2 DBA back in the day, I would have loved a terminal emulator on a tablet! Today’s data centers are faced with a skills gap, so reduced headcount is a chronic problem. Yet if you stop and imagine how a web-based terminal emulator could integrate seamlessly with mobile devices such as tablets, you can see how such an innovation could boost data center staff productivity and effectiveness. With a secure, scalable, and seamless terminal emulator, the mainframe truly is modern, and mobile!
Jennifer Nelson is senior director of software engineering and head of the Austin Center of Excellence at Rocket Software. After serving in the U.S. military, Jennifer attended the University of Texas while moonlighting as a Db2 database administrator at an IT company in Austin.