Extra! Extra! Extra! Reflecting on Terminal Emulation

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, there are over a dozen vendors selling terminal emulation solutions that allow millions of users to access their mainframe computer systems. Micro Focus is one of these companies, and our mainframe emulators offer security, flexibility, productivity, and Windows 10 certification. Well, most of them do. But before I elaborate on that point, let’s assume that you’re not yet on Windows 10.

Did you know that you could be forced to move to Windows 10 whether you like it or not? Yeah. Microsoft has announced that the latest generation of Intel chips will not support anything less than Windows 10. So, if you buy a new PC for a new hire or as a replacement for a broken or obsolete system, it will be running Windows 10 and chances are high that it cannot be downgraded no matter what Microsoft licenses you have. So unless you have a closet full of systems ready to deploy, you’ll  want to be ready for the Windows 10 upgrade—even if you don’t want to make the move. (But don’t worry; Micro Focus also offers Windows 10 migration tools to help you on your journey – whether or not you are using terminal emulation software.)

Make the Move

Okay, so let’s get back to that terminal emulator thing. Like I said in that same earlier blog, most of our mainframe emulators are completely up to date when it comes to the latest security standards like TLS 1.2 and SHA-2 along with data masking – which are required by the Payment Card Industry (PCI DSS). But even if you are not subject to PCI rules, implementing the latest security standards are just common sense to help mitigate hacking opportunities. We’ve also been hard at work certifying our terminal emulators for Windows 10 compatibility. Well most of them anyway.

Micro Focus has announced publicly that Extra! X-treme won’t be making the move to Windows 10, and older versions of Extra! X-treme do not support the latest and greatest security standards. But we have an offer for you that you can’t refuse. Well, I suppose you can refuse…but why would you want to?

Migration is Easy

We are offering most of our customers a no-charge migration path to Reflection Desktop, our state-of-the-art terminal emulator. Reflection Desktop was designed and developed by many of the same people behind Extra! so of course they know how to implement many of Extra’s best features, while providing a modern terminal emulator that will work now and into the future.

We have designed Reflection Desktop to have an upgrade experience similar to Microsoft Office applications:

  • The Reflection Desktop Classic Interface eliminates the need for retraining end users.
  • Extra! configuration settings will work as is in Reflection Desktop (Keyboard Maps, Hot Spots, Colors, Quickpads).
  • Reflection Desktop will run Extra! Basic macros with no conversion

And to increase security and enhance productivity, Reflection Desktop offers:

  • Trusted locations, which enable you to secure and control where macros are launched from while still allowing users to record and use them as needed.
  • Privacy Filters that allow you to mask sensitive data on mainframe screens without making changes on the host.
  • Visual Basic for Applications support (documentation), giving you better integration with Microsoft Office.
  • Support for the latest Microsoft .Net APIs allowing for more secure and robust customizations.
  • HLLAPI integration allowing you to continue using these applications without rewriting them.

If you still need help with your migration, guidance is available on how to inventory and migrate customizations. And Micro Focus Consulting Services have proven methodologies and experience with successful enterprise migrations. In fact, several of our customers have had successful migrations from Extra! to Reflection Desktop, one of which is detailed here. PS: This global financial firm actually migrated to Reflection Desktop not only from Extra! but also from a handful of terminal emulators from different companies.

Summary

We talked about Windows 10 and up-to-date security, which are important reasons to move to a modern, secure terminal emulator. In fact, there is another driver: Management.

This final driver ties everything together. You have to ensure that your terminal emulation environment is properly configured and that your users are prevented from making changes that can leave you open to hacking or, perhaps worse, allow them to steal critical information.

Reflection is fully integrated with the Micro Focus Host Access Management and Security Server (MSS). Besides helping you to lock down your emulation environment, MSS also lets you extend your organization’s existing identity, authentication, and management system to your mainframe and other host systems.

And there you have it. A modern, secure terminal emulator that will make you ready for Microsoft’s latest operating system, help lock down your mainframes from unauthorized users, and best of all, existing Extra! customers who have maintained licenses can get it for free.

Is Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) Its Own Worst Enemy?

At Micro Focus, our customers are asking for a holistic approach to secure file transfer—one that provides more visibility, flexibility, and control. That’s why we’ve introduced Reflection® for Secure IT Gateway. This new SSH-based solution sits between the user and the SFTP server, and acts as a central point of control. Its job is to track every file going in and out of your enterprise, including who transferred it and what’s in it. David Fletcher investigates further in this blog….

Secure File Transfer Protocol

SFTP has long been a de facto standard for secure file transfer.  Originally designed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), this extension of the Secure Shell protocol (SSH) 2.0 provides secure file transfer capabilities over the SSH network protocol.

In a nutshell, SFTP encrypts your data and moves it through an impenetrable encrypted tunnel that makes interception and decoding virtually impossible. While incredibly useful for business-to-business data sharing, SFTP poses a problem in our security-conscious world. Oddly enough, the problem is that SFTP works too well.

Let me explain. SFTP works so well that no one can see what’s being transferred—not even the people who need to see it for security reasons. Case in point: Edward Snowden. No matter what your thoughts on the subject, the fact is that Snowden used his privileged user status to transfer and steal sensitive files. Why was he able to do this? Because no one could see what he was doing. As a “privileged user” on the network, he had extensive access to sensitive files—files that he was able to transfer about, as he desired, without detection.

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In addition to the threats posed by unscrupulous privileged users, there’s another threat that’s cause for alarm. It’s called Advanced Persistent Threat (APT).  Basically, an APT is a ceaseless, sophisticated attack carried out by an organized group to accomplish a particular result—typically, the acquisition of information. The classic APT mode of operation is to doggedly steal the credentials of privileged users. The purpose, of course, is to gain unfettered access to sensitive or secret data. Once “in,” these APTers can transfer data and steal it without detection.  On a side note, Snowden used some of these APT tactics to steal credentials and validate self-signed certificates to gain access to classified documents.

APTs are often discussed in the context of government, but let me be clear: Companies are also a primary target. Take the recent Wall Street Journal article about a foreign government stealing plans for a new steel technology from US Steel. Such behavior is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how far some entities will go to steal information and technology.

Introducing Micro Focus Reflection for Secure IT Gateway

So given that transferring files is an essential business operation, what can you do to protect your organization from these dangerous threats? At Micro Focus, our customers are asking for a holistic approach to secure file transfer—one that provides more visibility, flexibility, and control. That’s why we’re introducing Reflection® for Secure IT Gateway. This new SSH-based solution sits between the user and the SFTP server, and acts as a central point of control. Its job is to track every file going in and out of your enterprise, including who transferred it and what’s in it.   It also provides the ability to essentially offload files and allow for 3rd party inspection and can then either stop the transfer and notify if something seem amiss or complete the transfer as required.

Reflection for Secure IT Gateway comes with a powerful browser-based interface that you can use to accomplish a number of transfer-related tasks:

  • Expose files for inspection by third-party tools
  • Automate pre- and post-transfer actions
  • Grant and manage SFTP administrator rights
  • Provision users
  • Configure transfers
  • Create jobs for enterprise level automation
  • Delegate tasks

Read more about Reflection for Secure IT Gateway or download our evaluation software and take a test drive. Learn how you can continue to benefit from the ironclad security of SFTP while also gaining greater file transfer visibility, flexibility, and control.

RUMBA9.4.5
Sr. Product Marketing Manager
Host Connectivity
(Orginally Published here)

It ain’t broke, but there’s still a better way

The latest release of Rumba+ Desktop now offers centralized security and management via Host Access Management and Security Server (MSS). MSS meets one of IT’s greatest challenges—keeping up with an ever-changing IT security landscape. David Fletcher covers better secure access to host systems in this blog.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

We’ve all heard the old adage  But here’s the thing: Even if it’s not broken, it could be better. Think about regular film versus digital? Rotary phones versus smartphones? Those electric football games that vibrated the players across the field versus Xbox?  All the early versions worked just fine. They delivered the same results as their new counterparts. So why did we upgrade?

The answer is obvious. We wanted a better experience. After all, what’s not to like about achieving the same thing with less effort, achieving more with less effort, improving results, or just having more fun along the way?

The same is true for software. Remember the early days of running a single application in DOS? Think back to how clunky and inefficient those applications were. Yet we thought they were amazing!

These days there’s another topic that is top-of-mind in the software world, and that is the topic of computer security. While an older version of your software may still accomplish the task it was designed for, the world in which that software lives has undergone radical change. Software designed ten years ago isn’t able to shield your enterprise against the sophisticated threats of today. The gap is vast and dangerous.

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Micro Focus and The Attachmate Group

Change comes when the benefits of a new solution outweighs the risk or pain of change. The good news is that change has come to Micro Focus® Rumba+ Desktop. The merger of Micro Focus and The Attachmate Group is enabling customers of both Rumba and Reflection terminal emulation software to get the best of both worlds. That’s why there are big gains to be had by updating now.

Let me be more specific. The latest release of Rumba+ Desktop now offers centralized security and management via Host Access Management and Security Server (MSS).  MSS meets one of IT’s greatest challenges—keeping up with an ever-changing IT security landscape. Customers always say, “We have 1000s of desktops at 100s of global locations. How do we keep up with PCI DSS, SHA-2, and TLS standards? How can we keep all of our clients up-to-date and secure? Just when we get everything updated, something new comes along that requires touching all of those workstations again.”

Rumba+ with Host Access Management and Security Server

Well, Rumba+ Desktop combined with Host Access Management and Security Server solves the problem.  Together, these products make it possible for you to:

  • Take centralized control of your host-access operations. You can lock down 100s (or 1000s) of desktops with ease, control access using your Identity and Access Management system (yes, it’s possible), and grant or deny access based on group or role. You can quickly apply changes to align with business needs or make post-install adjustments. And you can do it on your schedule, not someone else’s.
  • Reinforce security as you remove the need for mainframe passwords. By teaming Rumba+ Desktop with MSS, you can integrate your host systems with your existing IAM system. Then you can replace weak eight-character passwords with strong complex ones. You can even banish mainframe passwords—and password-reset headaches—by automatically signing users on to their mainframe applications.
  • Build a wall of security in front of your host. You can deliver end-to-end encryption and enforce access control at the perimeter with a patented security proxy. You can also enable multifactor authentication to authorize access to your host systems—which means you can take complete control of who is accessing your most valuable assets.

Micro Focus terminal emulation products have been providing secure access to host systems for decades. As technology advances and the security landscape continues to change, you can count on Micro Focus to help you find a better way.

RUMBA9.4.5
Sr. Product Marketing Manager
Host Connectivity
(Orginally Published here)

Move beyond weak mainframe passwords with advanced multifactor authentication

Flexibility is the key when it comes to multifactor authentication and you can also use these same methods to authorize access to your host systems as well. You can set up different authentication requirements for different types of users and manage everything from a central console. David Fletcher provides more insight in his blog….

More and more companies are moving to multifactor authentication. Almost everyone agrees that multifactor authentication is the best way to provide the strongest level of authentication (who you are). This technology is taking hold in many industries, and for the most part it’s working pretty well. Now ask yourself “How can I use multifactor authentication to authorize access to my host systems?”

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Complex and Expensive?

Wow—things just got really complicated and expensive. Think about who is accessing your host systems today. Employees all over the world with different devices and different access needs. Business partners who need access but don’t have your same systems and devices. What about customers who are actually updating their own data via web services on your host systems? The level of complexity that comes with implementing multifactor authentication for enterprise applications is hard enough. Now throw in the mainframe and it’s enough to keep anyone from moving in that direction.

But what if there was a flexible and manageable way to use multifactor authentication for host applications? Because Micro Focus is the expert in securing and managing access to your host systems, we have developed new capabilities to make implementing and managing multifactor authentication flexible and affordable. You can even use the same products for implementing multifactor authentication for your enterprise applications and authorizing access to your host systems.

Affordable and Flexible:

The key to making multifactor authentication affordable and flexible is having a system that supports many different ways of authenticating. Such a system could support whatever methods of authentication are right for your users and your budget.

There are many different ways that a user can be authenticated. You can take advantage of the fact that most (if not all) employees or partners have a cell phone. No need for costly devices to increase security to your systems. What if you could let a partner choose between answering three security questions or using a fingerprint for authenticating or a combination of questions and cell phone?

Flexibility is the key when it comes to multifactor authentication. Now you can also use these same methods to authorize access to your host systems as well. You can set up different authentication requirements for different types of users and manage everything from a central console.

Micro Focus® Advanced Authentication, combined with Host Access Management and Security Server (MSS) and one or more of our terminal emulation clients, provide up to 14 different methods of authentication to authorize access to host systems. As new technologies emerge, you can count on Micro Focus to stay ahead of the game so that when you are ready to make a move, we are too.

To learn more about enabling multifactor authentication to authorize access to your host systems, contact your Micro Focus sales representative today.

Originally published here

Achieve peak performance at #MFSummit2016

The inaugural Micro Focus cross-portfolio summit opens this week. Andy King, General Manager for UK and Ireland offers his insights as to what to expect from the program.

This is a big week for myself and Micro Focus. On Wednesday, I raise the curtain on the future of our new company and our products for the customers who want us to take them into tomorrow.

Since the 2014 merger with the Attachmate Group, we have become one company operating two product portfolios across six solution areas. The single aim is to meet our customers’ mission-critical IT infrastructure needs with enterprise-grade, proprietary or open source solutions.

But what does that mean in reality? We are all about to find out.

#MFSummit2016: Current challenge, future success is our first cross-portfolio conference. The format mixes formal sessions and face-to-face opportunities, informative overviews with deep-dive, issue-specific questioning. It is a first chance to check out the roadmaps, and share experiences with our experts.

The focus is firmly on interaction; product specialists and fellow customers will be there to discuss your business and IT change issues. Set your itinerary to get maximum value from the day. The 12 sessions are split into three broad themes.

SUMMITT

Build. Operate. Secure.

Whether your IT issues span every area of build, operate and secure, or are confined to one or two, Micro Focus has it covered with a diverse range of products and solutions that will help to meet the challenges of change. I’ve selected three sessions to illustrate the point.

Secure

Dave Mount, UK Solutions Consulting Director presents an Introduction to Identity, Access and Security. Dave’s view is that understanding and managing identity enables better control of internal and external threats. He illustrates how our solutions can help our customers better understand and manage these threats. Find out how from 11 to 11.30pm.

Operate

From 1.30 to 2.20 pm David Shepherd, Solutions Consultant, Micro Focus and Stephen Mogg, Solutions Consultant SUSE discuss how Micro Focus and SUSE could help customers meet escalating storage requirements and costs with secure, scalable, highly-available and cost-effective file storage that works with your current infrastructure. If that would help you, then check out The Race for Space: File Storage Challenges and Solutions.

Build

Immediately after that, our COBOL guys, Scot Nielsen, Snr Product Manager and Alwyn Royall, Solutions Consultant, present Innovation and the Next Generation of COBOL Apps. It’s a demo-led look at the future that show the way forward for modernising COBOL application development and deployment in new architectures. So if you are ready for new innovation from older applications, get along to see that between  2.20 to 3.10 pm.

Networking opportunities?

Of course. Whether you are enjoying refreshments, post-event drinks – or your complementary lunch – alongside industry representatives, product experts and customers, visiting the pods for demos or roadmap walkthroughs, then the whole day is a refreshingly informal way to resolve your technical questions or business challenges. Alternatively, ask your question of the expert panel at the Q & A session at 3.45 to 4.15 pm.

PH House

In summary

Our promise to delegates is that after a visit to #MFSummit2016 they will be in a better position to navigate the challenges of business and IT change.

Wherever you are in your IT strategy, Micro Focus solutions enable our customers to innovate faster with less risk and embrace new business models. #MFSummit2016 is our opportunity to show you which solutions will work for you, where – and how.

Sounds attractive? You’ll really like our stylish venue, Prince Philip House. It is handy for Piccadilly, Charing Cross and St James’s Park Tube stations. Attendance is free, but book here first.

I’ll be speaking from 9.30. See you there?

Merging Attachmate and Micro Focus will change how you think about Terminal Emulation

There is no company out there that has the depth and breadth of technology and product expertise that we bring to the table. David Fletcher blogs about how the Micro Focus and Attachmate merger is leading to stronger and more secure host access solutions.

When it comes to mergers and acquisitions we have all heard and read about the chaos that comes from the ones that don’t work.  Remember when AOL announced that it was buying Time Warner to create the “world’s largest media company” or how about when Sprint and Nextel agreed to merge only to have Sprint shut down the Nextel network a few years later?

The interesting thing is that these days’ mergers fail more often than marriages.  There are many reasons for failures – technology differences market changes and especially company cultural differences to name a few.

Not only did these mergers above fail – they brought a lot of pain and suffering to their customers.  They gutted the market place with the lack of ability to make something new and better out of two different companies and cultures.  They took a chance to re-think their strategies and failed to move forward with the products and services into a new age of technology and customer satisfaction.

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The Micro Focus and Attachmate merger is leading to stronger and more secure host access solutions.

With this merger, there is now no other company that can better address the needs of organizations that want to fit their host systems into a modern and secure IT environment.

With our combined portfolios our customers can:

  • Deliver best-of-class terminal emulation solutions across the range of devices required by their business users
  • Harden their endpoints to help secure the sensitive data and protect the host systems accessed by end users…without impacting user productivity
  • Simplify the interaction with non-intuitive mainframe apps for today’s “Facebook generation” users not familiar with green screens
  • Non-invasively extend the business logic embedded in mainframe apps to developers as web services
  • Work with a single partner that is focused on helping companies get the most out of their long-term IT investments

Whatever mainframe or host system you have – we have experts with years of experience with these technologies.  When it comes to understanding how to secure and manage access to mainframe and host systems – there simply is no vendor that has a more complete set of solutions to protect your critical data-in-motion or at rest.  When it comes to enabling mainframe-based applications to new users in new ways – no other vendor is as passionate about bringing new solutions to our customers. There is no company out there that has the depth and breadth of technology and product expertise that Micro Focus brings to the table.

So how will this merger be different than other technology mergers?

It’s easy to say, “Oh, but this merger is different”.  But what really matters is how have our companies fared with mergers in the past and how is this merger benefiting customers for the future. Both Attachmate and Micro Focus have a history of mergers and acquisitions where we have taken the opportunity to bring products and services into our portfolio to provide more value for our customers.

Since this merger was completed in November of 2014 we’ve been working hard on the nuts and bolts that make a company work.  Bringing together people, systems and processes to make it easy to do business the combined Micro Focus company.  We’ve also been busy working through our product portfolios and determining how we can best enable this combined product set to help customers secure and manage their host systems.  We’ve been cross-pollinating our products with the best of breed technologies so that our customers can take advantage of these solutions without having to swap applications.

Here are just a few examples of how we are bringing these technologies together:

  • Reflection Desktop and InfoConnect Desktop now offer the User Interface Modernization capabilities that originated with Rumba+
  • Delivered Host Access Management and Security Server to market which will allow our customers to centrally manage and authenticate access to mainframe systems from our terminal emulation clients.

It’s been a challenge – but we’ve stayed focused on driving new releases and updates for the products that our customers rely on.   Take a closer look what we’ve been up to:

As these products move forward we will continue to invest in and enable the best technologies and solutions across the portfolio.  No longer will customers have to choose between different products for the solutions they need.

When you look at your mainframe and host systems, ask yourself – are you getting the most out of these investments as possible?  If it was simple and less risky to your business to re-think how you are using these systems– what would you do differently?

Just like with anything – change is hard and can be daunting but now you have a combined company in your corner to help you re-think your business and make each step of the way a safe one.

Keep your eyes on Micro Focus over the coming months as we continue to drive innovation that solve modern customer challenges with host systems.  Take a look at how our customers that have taken the steps to make change to their systems and processes and how they have benefited.  This could be your business.

Health Plan of San Mateo

Bauverein der Elbgemeinden (BVE)

Renew Insurance

Rumba 9.4: A New Way to Think about Green Screens

David Fletcher, Senior Marketing Manager for Micro Focus Rumba, talks about the challenges with green screen applications and the innovative Screen Canvas feature now available in Rumba 9.4.

Lean and Green

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know about green screens. You probably wish they were more flexible and easy to use, but you still understand their overall value. You know that green screen applications, while written decades ago, still run the world. And behind the scenes, they make our lives easier in more ways than we may actually know.

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 ‘Sorry please hold, I will have to switch to another screen’

Most of us will have interacted with green screen systems[1]—for example, when you’re talking to a call center rep’ who is using one to look up your insurance details, or book your travel, or check your banking details. These are the people who often need to put you on hold because the “system is slow” or they have to “go to another screen.” That’s what these green-screen applications are like to use—complicated, convoluted, confusing. They don’t play well together, and don’t take advantage of the latest graphical interfaces either.

However, despite their limitations, green screens and the applications they “represent” are so entrenched in our world that now even mobile users want to access them from their modern laptops, tablets, and smart phones. So why are we content to continue interacting with these outdated systems? One simple reason: These applications are still business critical. And updating them is difficult, time consuming, risky, and prohibitively expensive.

But wouldn’t it be great if there was some way to bring these outdated applications into the modern world?

At Micro Focus we continue to make investments to help organizations get the most out of their existing IT investments—including core green screen business applications. We provide low-risk, easy-to-use software that modernizes the user interface of core business applications and drives business efficiency.

Enter the new Rumba 9.4

You may have read about the user interface modernization capabilities of Rumba in the past, but with this new release we have added more capabilities to help revive tired applications.

Rumba+ 9.4 offers a new facility called Screen Canvas. With Screen Canvas, you are no longer bound by the old 24 row x 80 column limits of the traditional green screen. You can combine what used to be several different green screens into a single page.

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Rumba9.4.2

Users with the new version can consolidate several green screens into a single page, re-organizing and merging disparate information to make the user experience more intuitive and easy to use – with no coding or changes to the host application.

To the customer, this is a new way to improve usability of older application. It is a new view of the green screen – it feels updated and contemporary.  It improves the user experience. To Micro Focus, it is the result of an ongoing commitment to improve the user experience for the customer.

And that’s not all. Rumba+ is the perfect partner product of Rumba 9.4 and enables customers to extend their reach even further, with access to Windows, iPad and mobile technologies. Ultimately, Rumba+ represents and supports a full evolution and modernization from green screen to GUI.

Learn more about the all of the Rumba product line, or contact your local sales representative.

RUMBA9.4.5
fletcher


[1] Green screens: Text displays used by the mainframe applications to present information to users.

Terminals: Traditional hardware/screens used to access core application green-screens. The IBM 3270 is a classic example.

Terminal Emulator: A dedicated computer program that replicates the terminal viewing experience through an alternative display, typically a PC screen. Rumba is a terminal emulator.

User Interface: The visible part of the operating system and an older, character-based user interface is a problem for anyone familiar with the Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) on personal tech, such as laptops and tablets.

Terminal Emulation how-to videos – Micro Focus Rumba+

Jordan Ashman from Micro Focus introduces a fantastic ‘how to’ Rumba+ Terminal Emulation video series on YouTube by Will Cass.

The thing about Rumba+ is that seeing it beats describing it. That’s what inspired Rumba doc writer Will Cass to produce a comprehensive video walk-through of everything you need to become a fully-fledged Rumba Screen Designer ninja.

This series of 19 training videos are a definitive, step-by-step user guide to working with our class leading user interface (UI) modernization technology. The videos were created for version 9.3, while most of the content works for versions 9.1 and 9.2, too.

End-users, administrators and professional services people will appreciate the practical, how-to angle while potential business users will see the potential that Rumba+ offers.

Rumbaad

Terrific for training – ideal for demos

Written and produced to be accessible to as many people as possible, they illustrate the key selling points of Rumba+ beautifully –simple to use, no coding, no extra skills required and all the benefits of an improved UI without the pain of a global modernization project.

What’s available?

Follow them chronologically and build your own application by working your way through every Rumba+ feature. Brand new and fresh out of the box, these new postings now feature on our YouTube playlist and the demo section of our Rumba pages. Enjoy.

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Here’s the list of all the videos available on the playlist

Getting started with the Rumba screen

Creating a history file

Starting a new project

Adding a Button Control

Adding a Chooser Control

Adding a Tooltip Control

Adding an AutoExecution Control

Adding an Image Control

Adding a Label Control

Adding a Calendar Control

Adding a GridCollector Control

Adding a Table Control

Adding a Collector Control

Adding a WebFrame Control

Adding a Tab Control

Adding an InputField Control

Adding a RadioButton Control

Adding a CheckBox Control

Taking the Project live

 

Is ‘terminal decline’ affecting user efficiency?

Business Leaders: while your internal systems might be working just fine, the means of accessing them may be a different story. Jordan Ashman’s latest blog looks at the challenges of effective customer service and how simple changes can provide a dramatic efficiency gain.

In the digital age, information is – or should be – easy to find, access and use. Take Smartphones, for  example. Today’s mobile phone offers Internet access, an array of applications including mail and social media, and a camera for the ubiquitous selfie – everything you need on the go is available in your pocket device.

Conversely, however, easy access to information in the enterprise is often denied to those who need it most. Many customer service managers, retailer order teams, call centres, telesales teams and service centres are struggling with outdated and cumbersome technology.  Too often, their systems are complex and the user experience outdated. Sustaining internal response rates and efficiency goals can often be a struggle, ultimately hampering the organization’s customer satisfaction levels.

As the day-to-day challenges grow for all these industries, efficiency is likely to drop. These challenges often come with time-critical operations, quality service performance and efficiency-related metrics.  So how can an organization remain efficient while maintaining its competitive edge?

First, let’s consider who is affected by the efficiency, or otherwise, of core systems. Essentially, anyone who needs fingertip access to customer information to meet performance targets: the list includes customer service managers, call centre staff, telesales teams and service teams. Additionally, any role involving processing orders ,claims, enquiries, telemarketing, help desks, or working with customer information through a business application. It goes almost without saying that any process efficiency could have potentially profound impacts.

The Truth – Stated in Black and Green

Every organization wants to extract maximum efficiency from their core business systems. Current systems are often inefficient – users find it difficult to locate information across multiple screens, and learning how to use theses outdated applications can be complex and time consuming. This ultimately hampers service delivery to internal and external customers. Take for example making an order over the telephone – the call taker will need to navigate many screens to create a customer profile, generate an order number, enter delivery and billing address, input payment details, choose delivery type and any number of other details.. If your line of business meets the profile sketched out above, productivity and customer experiences are very closely aligned and likely to be memorable for all the wrong reasons – namely long wait times, delays, and lots of needless questions.

These inefficiencies are unlikely to be purely procedural. It is more likely to relate to outdated systems which are slow to react and cumbersome to use. In short, customers and staff who use smartphone and tablet-style technology at home are bemused to discover the time it takes to do something which they consider to be quick and easy.

Research commissioned by Micro Focus uncovered the full extent of the issue. We approached 590 senior IT decision-makers in organisations with mainframes and green screen applications in their infrastructure were interviewed late last year. Among the highlights was the revelation that more than half didn’t feel that their applications – on which their business processes depend – were doing a ‘good job’.  So they understand the problem. Application performance must significantly improve.

What does good look like?

The ideal scenario – agreed by 98% of survey respondents – would be to add more features, such as web access, CRM programs and common software packages to their core business applications. The ultimate aim would be to make systems more productive, create a more efficient workforce and improve customer satisfaction.

For 65%, productivity enhancements would include pop-up calendars and dropdown menus, while 49% believed that mobile access to the application would deliver these benefits and 47% thought a “modern, fresh and user-friendly” interface would make all the difference.

Clearly, that is a disparate range of potential resolutions and achieving consensus on how to achieve them was equally difficult for respondents, with 77% believing that modernizing, re-writing or moving to ‘off-the-shelf’ commercial applications was “too expensive or risky”. But if doing nothing is not an option, and agreeing a way forward seems impossible, what options remain?

Introducing Rumba+

Rumba is the code-free, no-risk user interface modernization technology that delivers results. The beauty of Rumba is that it retains what works in your current application but adds all the features of full modernization to achieve the improvements needed.

From the ‘on-screen’ additions such as Google Maps and VOIP  that improves the service that people can offer through to the web, mobile and desktop access that enables users to significantly increase the number of places they can deliver that service from, Rumba represents the best in hassle-free, innovative technology.

Rumba+

Micro Focus Rumba+ has enhanced ‘green screen’ applications for thousands of customers around the world without replacing or rewriting the core business logic which is key to running their business.  It’s easy, it’s fast and delivers results within weeks. One customer reported efficiency improvements of over 100%. Imagine what handling twice as many calls could do for your operation. Want to see the transformation for yourself? Watch this demo.

Terminal Emulation & the magic of modernizing old applications

When I first joined Micro Focus I was lucky enough to sit through a number of product demos, the teams wanted me up to speed on what their stuff ‘did’. Up stepped ‘Rumba’. No – not Rumba the Latin American dance – this was a terminal emulator. Software for mainframe applications that gave the older ‘green-screen’ interface a fresh lick of paint or so I thought.

A former colleague recently resigned to join another firm, part of his note read ‘and for the first time in my working life the company I am joining is selling a product that I can actually touch’. This got me thinking. Having also spent a lifetime ‘in software’ I wondered what it was that I find so addictive about the industry. You can see code, you can see an interface, but there isn’t a physical presence you can actually handle or touch.

The big Corporates and their Marketing gurus have spent years trying to work out how to ‘define’ Software. IBM’s Software is the ‘Soul’ of technology campaign from 2000 was one of the better attempts made to try and make the intangible more tangible. Marketing folks did then what marketing folks do now and tried to make it about the experience we have with software and how we feel when we’re using software (but if we are collectively honest as an industry we’d all agree that we’ve subjected people to years of painful and frankly awful advertising.) Software, it seems, doesn’t lend itself to easy definitions and straplines – it’s more like the electricity in the wiring in our homes. Something you take for granted when it’s working that’s overly annoying when it’s not.

So software really is boring right?

Wrong! Software has me hooked and it’s not because of its ethereal nature. Software often provides that exquisite moment of happiness when someone sees a better or more efficient way of doing something that is currently painful. A faster or more collaborative way of attacking a problem. That’s what I find so incredible about the software industry – it’s not just the new apps and whizzy web tools that do this, it’s virtually all software – ever since software was invented – that can provide or did provide someone with a ‘lightbulb moment’. It’s about making life easier and allowing us to focus more time and effort on things we enjoy.

Could it be magic?

When I first joined Micro Focus I was lucky enough to sit through a number of product demos, the teams wanted me up to speed on what their stuff ‘did’. Up stepped ‘Rumba’. No – not Rumba the Latin American dance – this was a terminal emulator. Software for mainframe applications that gave the older ‘green-screen’ interface a fresh lick of paint or so I thought.

Then I saw it! Pow! Zap!

I’d started my career in software some 20+ years previously in a Software Laboratory Finance Department. Quarter End meant hooking up to various Mainframe Databases using a 3270 terminal and pulling off report after report. Manually typing ‘results’ into foils for an OHP (I kid you not), cross checking numbers, data, SQL queries and strings and all of this through a NOSS command line. Remember these?

These

I became extremely proficient in using both (as well as an old school DB2 database or 7) and Financial reporting became faster and faster as my skills grew…

……..BUT if I had a time machine and a copy of Rumba to hand – the Month End/Quarter End/Year end reporting cycle would have been a dream.  Instead of having 2 (3 if I was lucky) terminals to visually cross reference I would have only needed one screen for starters. Instead of typing commands I could’ve used a mouse and made hay with the ‘windows’ functionality. This was so much more than a gimmicky interface, although everything did look better too.

Why does that matter if it works I hear you ask?

How a screen looks really matters at the end of a 16 hour day when your eyes feel like they’ve been rolled in grit. I could’ve been there in my old job with the 99.999999%  of uptime an IBM Mainframe made available (before it was cool) AND all the advantages of a great modern user interface. The routine 16 plus hour days would have been consigned to history and I’d have been able to spend more time with my family at Christmas. And my eyes wouldn’t have felt like they’d been rolled in grit. I would have been a one–man-professional-power-house.

If I had actually sat through the Rumba product demo 20 years previously I would have become uncontrollably excited about the art of the possible. That is what software does – it makes the magic happen and the art of the possible into something tangible.

So spare a thought for the staff workers in car hire firms, Travel agents, car dealerships and logistics companies who use screens like the 3270 pictured above to this day. You’ve seen them at work and you’ll have spoken to many hundreds of them in insurance and banking call centers too. In civil service offices, public sector buildings and Governments. Whilst you’re on hold they are actually switching between screens and terminals. Hundreds of thousands of these folks exist all over the world working on old school terminal interfaces to this day.

With software there is gold in them there hills and moments of magic just waiting to happen.

If you’re reading this blog now wondering what the future of the now iconic Mainframe green-screen holds we have the white paper here you need to put on your reading list. If you’re one of the green-screen workers and you want a sneaky glimpse at some magic right now – head on over to YouTube to see how Rumba+ could be helping you. Then show your boss. With a bit of luck he’ll call in the IT folks and get a free trial up and running.

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It is software but I promise you will see what I mean.

atlast

 

Beyond Terminal Emulation: Rumba+ looking good with Award-winning usability

We always said it – and now we can prove it. Rumba+ really does represent a class-leading Terminal Emulation and User Interface modernization solution. . Good enough to have won a 2014 Product of the Year Award from Mobility Tech Zone.

rumbachampionFrom who…?

Mobility Tech Zone is the go-to web resource for the mobile broadband industry. It’s a rolling feed of news, analysis, product info and downloadable resources for mobility and communications professionals. It has a clear focus on the innovations they need to overcome the challenges of disruptive technologies like BYOD and the rush to mobile.

Mobility Tech Zone is sponsored by TMC and Crossfire Media and TMC’s remit includes call center technologies, just one area where Rumba+ is proving to be a game-changer. It’s likely that the judges recognise the potential of Rumba+ to make a real difference to their specialist area. Maybe that’s why they were “very impressed” with Rumba+….

Award-winning mobility

Carl Ford, CEO and Community Developer, Crossfire Media, explains. “As leaders in the evolution to mobility we feel our award winners are delivering on enabling users by making carriers and enterprise networks capable of supporting our exponential data demands.”

In other words, Carl was looking for products that genuinely enable mobility in data transfer. That could almost be a product description for Rumba, which is bringing mobility to business applications and enabling a new view on established applications, bringing a fresh perspective on the world of green-screens – and all without changing a single line of code. Now that’s innovation.

As the Mobility Tech Zone award has recognised, Rumba delivers on the ‘enabling users’ aspect –major players like Allianz are accessing their core applications with user-friendly home tech, such as iPads, Windows and web browsers to slash ‘on-boarding’ times and boost business efficiency.

Meanwhile Aviva Italia have used Rumba+ to improve the user experience for the people who use their applications – improving their chances of recruiting and retaining industry talent, as digital expert Matt Ballantine notes on his blog. Many other Rumba+ customers enjoy the productivity gains and bypass the accessibility issues plaguing nearly half the companies appearing in the ‘IT Growth and Transformation’ survey recently commissioned by managed services firm Control Circle.

Achievable modernization from Rumba +

Similarly, this Vanson Bourne survey discovered that 54% of CIOs believe their green screens are “negatively impacting end user retention and recruitment”, while 98% of respondents recognise that new features would boost productivity but think modernization is too difficult. Well not anymore!

Rumba+ is risk-free, cost-effective technology that improves end-user efficiency without recoding. Need five more reasons to make the move? Try these.

Delivering modern user experiences is high on the CIO agenda. Rumba + consistently outperforms other products in the terminal emulation space, as Adam Rates, Senior IT Manager at Allianz UK notes in their case study …. and Mobility Tech Zone agree. Try it for yourself right here….

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