A popular method in the ’90s to enhance terminal applications – the practice of creating an appended front-end for older, typically character-based applications – has been around for years. That’s actually a longer time than the web has been around. But since the mid to late ’90s, this practice has largely revolved around putting a graphical representation of an application represented in a browser – a web enabled user interface (UI).
Useful for applying a modern and more functional UI to old applications, it had benefits in not requiring changes to the source or ‘back-end’ application, and is particularly useful when working with mainframe or other host applications that are based on legacy technologies like COBOL. All appended work could be done with modern and popular web technologies.
A popular method for many Verastream projects over the years, this allowed old applications an easy route to address changing workflow needs and simplify training requirements and bring them more in line with the productivity capabilities of newer applications.
Though, as the IT world became more services focused (with service-oriented architecture, etc.) as a best-practice for working with enterprise applications, web enablement was pushed to a second-class status. For the last several years, the majority of Verastream legacy modernization projects have been focused on creating services out of legacy applications. I, for one, agreed with this approach as a real SOA has all the benefits of web enablement and more. But now, due to some to the way users work and some big advancements in web technologies, web-enabling applications is experiencing a noticeable resurgence.
One aspect is cloud computing. This ‘cloud’ focus has given rise to the web being a place for applications and not just pages – HTML5 being a game changer for creating really great web centric applications. The other is what we, as users, are willing to use for computing. Ten years ago, the pinnacle of productivity was the desktop (or laptop). Today, it is a mix of smart phones, iPads (tablets), and ‘traditional’ computers. Our current reality is, no operating system nor device is dominant.
So how do you take applications that were written long before this ‘sea-change’ in user behavior came about? It’s simple: front-end the applications with web technologies (the new web technologies that are better than ever) and allow users to access their applications from wherever on whatever they are working from.
When you look at your application and user needs, maybe a web-enablement project is something to consider once again.