Essentially a screen scraper, HATS is software from IBM/Rational that lets an organization take applications initially developed for 3270 and 5250 devices and give them a Graphical User Interface (GUI). According to IBM, HATS lets developers create Web applications targeted for the browsers on mobile devices. By using HATS, 3270 and 5250 applications running on the System z platform can, in effect, run on a range of mobile devices.
HATS consists of a toolkit that enables creation of the HATS applications and a run-time component. It lets developers hide unnecessary information, organize data into tables, and display only required input fields—critical capabilities when redeveloping applications for mobile devices. It also enables developers to provide drop-down lists of valid values for an input field, change the size and location of text, and provide navigation buttons.
HATS runs on the mainframe or on a PC attached to it, Searle explains. A new visual editor makes it easier to develop HATS applications. “With a little help, a developer can build Web-facing applications in two weeks,” he says. Since it basically is a screen scraper, it should be nearly bulletproof when used appropriately. “Projects succeed almost every time,” he reports.
Ball State University (Muncie, IN) finds itself on the cutting edge of mobile and Web 2.0 technologies. It started with a CICS application residing on the mainframe, the student schedule, which is frequently accessed by Ball State’s 20,000 students—increasingly through mobile browsers.
“When we have applications we don’t want to modify, we use HATS,” says Fred Nay, director of University Computing Services at Ball State. It typically deploys the application as a Web service. “With HATS, we’ve gotten to the point where we can get a Web service up and running in two hours,” he says.
HATS applications, however, add a little overhead, about 0.5 sec., to the response time, but by having the Web service go directly to the CICS COMMAREA, the school can accelerate performance.
For its student schedule application, the school didn’t want just any Web service. Although the application and Web service runs on the System z, students now spend much of their lives on Facebook, the popular social networking site. Nay’s plan is to let the students access their schedules directly from Facebook, which they’ll be able to do via any browser, including mobile browsers. “We shoot for the browser as the highest level of deployment to catch the widest audience,” Nay says.
The school started with the public Facebook Application Program Interfaces (APIs) and did some tweaking using Microsoft’s .NET (C#). Now students using mobile devices, and the usual desktop and laptop browsers, can access their Facebook pages and from there gain access to their schedule.
Viterra Inc., a grain cooperative based in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, is looking to its WebSphere portal to provide access for mobile devices. The company intends to build WebSphere portlets to connect with mobile devices, starting with the BlackBerry developed by Research in Motion (RIM). This is a Web services strategy with the portal acting as the services gateway to the mainframe applications while the portlet connects the mobile device.