WRQ's EnterView 2.0 links browser users to a mainframe host through a proxy server instead of through a Web server.
EnterView works by allowing clients to download a Java applet from the corporate Web server. The applet then resides in the user's cache, connecting with the Web server in the future only to check if the applet needs to be updated, said Scott Merrick, market manager for WRQ in Seattle. Through the applet, Merrick said, the user works with the mainframe host via a secured EnterView proxy server.
Merrick said the reason WRQ bypasses the Web server is mainly for scalability, because the number of possible users is not tied to the server's capability.
But Audrey Apfel, vice-president and research director of networking for Gartner Group in Stamford, Connecticut, said there is a downside to not working through the Web server.
"[EnterView] can provide a very good terminal session to a browser and it doesn't require a lot of server infrastructure...(but) even though you have the flexibility of having very little server requirement, the other side is sometimes it's convenient to have a mid-tier server that you can develop new applications off, and that's why some vendors implement with a mid-tier server," Apfel said. She said some users might want to build applications around the data but wouldn't have a platform to do so.
Apfel also said that EnterView and all the other products in its class cannot fully duplicate host functionality.
"There is a certain set of functionality that a PC can do that these Java applet models can't do yet for a lot of reasons about what Java can support and how big the applet gets. So you can't replace everybody's exact PC application," she said.
But in general, Apfel said she likes products such as EnterView because most of the functionality of the legacy host can be easily ported to a Web interface.
"EnterView is a sensibly managed applet deployed on demand, it does what the user wants, and the central organization has never had to touch the desktop. It's just a nice fit. It's a simpler, lower cost of ownership method than doing it out on the PC," she said.
Rick Ramsey, computing systems manager with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, agrees. The centre is currently testing the EnterView 2.0 beta product as it forms connections with hospitals to promote research and joint ventures.
"It looks like it'll meet our needs for some upcoming projects. We're actually looking for more and more products that we can run out of a browser for a single user interface," Ramsey said.
"It's great that we don't have to go over and load software on the client end. Easy set-up and implementation, it doesn't take long to set it up and throw it out there...Since they have the encryption and security tools on it, you can make it as secure or open as you want."
Ramsey said he has found a few minor bugs that are already being fixed for the release version. His one wish that the product doesn't fulfil is a scripting tool. He said he would like to be able to record buttons and scripts, but currently has to set them manually in Java, which he said is not as convenient.
Other features of EnterView 2.0 include: separate URLs for different user levels; authentication for login; and database usage metering by date, usage, user or other parameters, Merrick said.
EnterView 2.0 is still in beta testing, but is expected to ship on March 31, 1999.