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Top 3 Things You May Not Know About Terminal Emulation – But You Should!

by   in Application Modernization

Host Access – it's still relevant!

Host systems, including (but not limited to) the mainframe, AS/400 (IBM i), Unix/Linux, Unisys, HP 3000, HP NonStop, and airline reservation systems continue to be strategic for many organizations. In fact, IDC recently surveyed 800 companies worldwide using mainframe systems. When asked about the attitudes of organizations in regard to their mainframe systems, 68 percent of respondents indicated that “mainframes are strategic to our overall business success, and we are committed to long-term investment in this area.” Why?

Mainframe/host continues to be important for key business initiatives. But its influence is also expanding. There is a new ecosystem that surrounds host access. This ecosystem includes three key areas - security, automation, and the cloud. To keep it relevant, organizations should consider extending enterprise-level security to the host, leveraging automation initiatives with the mainframe, and providing host access from the cloud. As the host is now part of this connected, hybrid IT world, organizations need to pivot to ensure that they use terminal emulation with these initiatives.

This post covers the three things that you may not know about terminal emulation—but should.

1.    Leverage enterprise-level security

The host has traditionally been considered secure because it was obscure. It was historically locked away, not available to via the internet, and required a specialized set of skills that made it different from other systems. This isn’t the case anymore. The mainframe lives in the connected world—and as such it is more of a target than it has ever been!

The mainframe needs to be part of your overall IT security strategy, ensuring that the security controls that are used across the enterprise can also be used with the mainframe. This includes integrating it into the broader IT security strategy—like multifactor authentication (MFA)—to ensure that only authorized individuals access your critical assets.

MFA is a great control. However, it does not solve every security issue. So, what is the best practice? How can you be protected? The answer is to employ a “defense in depth” strategy. It’s the coordinated use of multiple security countermeasures to protect the integrity of the information assets in an enterprise. The strategy is based on the military principle that it is more difficult for an enemy to defeat a complex and multi-layered defense system than to penetrate a single barrier. Applying this to mainframe security, you must implement multiple security controls. These controls include:

  • Strong authentication, including MFA (as mentioned above).
  • Authorized access based on the principle of least privilege. One must have a legitimate need to access applications and data, based on their role in the organization before access is granted. This means that there must be a check before a user gets to the mainframe to ensure that they have authorized access.
  • Data encryption and protecting sensitive data that includes encryption, redaction, and tokenization.
  • Endpoint hardening strengthens security at the endpoints (devices) that access the mainframe to help prevent attacks. It secures systems by reducing the surface of vulnerability.

For more information about these controls see the blog post, Secure Mainframe Access—What Has Changed in the Last Year? Using these controls together gives better protection. It provides you with multiple layers of protection to help reduce the surface of vulnerability and help ensure that your data and systems are secure.

2.    Automation and the host

Automation, including robotic process automation (RPA) can be used with the host. Seriously, you can! RPA is a practical, non-invasive way to automate enterprise processes. It uses software “robots” to perform everyday tasks that boost productivity, while preserving underlying applications and IT infrastructures. Robots interact with applications and systems as we do, but are faster, more accurate, and highly secure. They save time, reduce costs, and free employees to work on other projects.

With so much important business data housed on the mainframe, it is logical to leverage the mainframe in RPA initiatives. But accessing and integrating mainframe data can be more complicated. There are a range of options for enabling the integration including web services or the more traditional application programming interfaces, like HLLAPI/EHLLAPI, VBA, or .NET.

Using RPA with terminal emulation to leverage mainframe data improves productivity and reduces your overall costs. Learn more about automation and the mainframe in the IDC white paper, Creating Modern Automation Strategies with the Mainframe, RPA, and More.

3.    Cloud access

The third, and last, item that you probably weren’t aware of with terminal emulation is that the host can be accessed from the cloud. Many organizations today are planning their journey to the cloud, and mainframe access should be part of that plan. Think about being able to quickly configure, deploy, and update terminal emulation functionality to end users from a single central location in the cloud (private or public). It can increase availability, scalability, and performance, improve security, and reduce costs for most applications in the organization, including host access. Benefits include:

  • Zero-footprint secure access: Move users from a desktop application access to secure web access that employs higher security standards and removes the need for desktop dependencies.
  • Cloud-first: Get the most out of the cloud by using an emulator that was designed for the cloud, giving you befits such as resiliency, flexibility, scalability, and cost savings.
  • Centralized control: Quickly deploy secure, browser-based sessions, with supporting keyboards, quick keys, and macros—and apply post-deployment modifications rapidly.

Accessing the host from the cloud is key to modern, secure, centrally managed terminal emulation. Learn more about secure, zero-footprint host access in this short explainer video: Secure, Zero-Footprint Host Access.


Terminal emulation is moving into the modern world, and you can move with it! To summarize, the three things that you should know about terminal emulation are 1) extending enterprise security to the mainframe, 2) leveraging RPA with the host, and 3) accessing the host from the cloud. Utilizing one or more of these initiatives will accelerate your modernization efforts with the host!

Learn more about these three things, in the following ways:

  1. Read the IDC white paper: The Modern Mainframe – Automated, Protected, Connected
  2. View the videos: Securing Mainframe Access Explainer, Integrate the Mainframe with your RPA Projects Explainer, Secure, Zero-footprint Host Access Explainer
  3. Read these blog posts: Creating Modern Automation Strategies with the Mainframe, RPA, and More, and Secure Mainframe Access—What Has Changed in the Last Year?
  4. Visit the webpage Mainframe Access and Security



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