OpenConnect Systems Inc, Dallas, Texas, is hoping to beat off all pretenders to the web to host communications throne with the announcement of its latest OEM, Sun Microsystems Inc. The company, formerly known for its SNA to TCP/IP gateways, has written a Java-based thin client to legacy system called WebConnect, which it licensed to networking giant Cisco Systems Inc at the beginning of the year. Cisco also took a minority stake in the company at that time. Two weeks ago, the company bagged an OEM agreement with Oracle Corp. The Sun announcement converts what was previously a marketing agreement, whereby Sun bundled an eight-user WebConnect license with its Netra servers, into a full blown OEM agreement. OpenConnect says these three major OEM’s should open it up to the market to such an extent that it could even see WebConnect becoming a de facto standard for web to host communications. The company admits there are already a raft of companies boasting such a product, but it says there are several features that make its offering unique.
WebConnect sits on a web server, and connects to any mainframe, mini or Unix system running TCP/IP or through a TCP/IP gateway. A thin client making a call to the host is sent a Java applet, which either executes a terminal emulation program, or a new, graphical front end application to draw together legacy data onto one screen. WebConnect Version 3.0, due at the end of the month, is, the company claims, the first of its kind to be written in Java 1.1. This enables thin clients to have access to local printing and file transfer, which is not possible under Java 1.0. Version 3.0 also offers three sizes of applet that can be downloaded, according to the workspace requirements of the user. Only the functionality required for each user is downloaded. The basic applet takes only 35kB, OpenConnect says, because WebConnect uses TCP/IP to download the applet, and not HTML, as most of its rivals do, which would generate 24 packets of data to WebConnect’s seven. Using TCP/IP also gives WebConnect users a persistent connection and the option of RSA encryption for security. The company says WebConnect is scalable up to 1,000 users, and is priced at $90 per user. OpenConnect is also announcing WalkAbout for mobile users, which enables a secure, persistent 3270 connection from a wireless, Microsoft Windows CE- based device.