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Thin Client Technology

Window On the Web

The following write up describes a state-of-the-art tool set for developing applications for execution over a network. Special emphasis has been given to programs for execution over the internet. Any abbreviation (expanded or not) can be found at the end of the document ( see glossary ).

This document can be printed in an HTML format or downloaded in the form of a PDF document. See "Literature" for specific instructions.

Click here to go back to the WOW introduction


The internet is changing everything. Access to centralized information anytime, from anywhere using a common protocol unleashes opportunities for use of the internet as never before. No one argues this point, no one.

The advancements of networking infrastructures, combined with the acceptance of HTML as the common protocol, is the magic that makes the internet work. From the users perspective, it’s never been easier to access HTML formatted information by using special programs known as “browsers”. e.g. Internet Explorer, NetScape, Opera, MSN Explorer. And for those developing basic applications, HTML development tools are numerous and make the task relatively easy. One need only look at the millions of web sites created this past year - the majority of which being developed by non IT professionals using internet tools such as FrontPage, Dreamweaver, PageMill, HotDog, and others. Nothing could be easier for both the developer and end user.

So what’s the problem?

Although the HTML standard works well for the internet’s original intent, things become extremely complex as soon as application developers try to simulate even the most basic information management requirement via the internet. e.g.; Adding and updating records to a centralized database; Searching for specific records of information; Verifying data as it's being entered; Protecting information;

Amazingly, any of the previous basic requirements introduces an enormity of complexity that is difficult to fathom. So much so, the true potential of a business's internal use of the internet is typically ignored due to the significant development and maintenance efforts involved. Although browser “extensions”,  “plug ins”, and “scripting languages” have tried to fill this void, they have created a difficult, frustrating, and often times incompatible solution for those application developers trying to take full advantage of the internet. Combine the previous difficulties along with a complex development environment for the most popular device accessing the internet today (PC running Windows), and it’s no wonder businesses are frustrated trying to reach their full potential via the internet.

The Ideal Solution

Simplify, simplify, simplify! i.e.; Make the complexities of application development for use on the internet transparent to developers. Eliminate the requirement of developers having to learn HTML, HTML extensions,Java,  Java Script, Visual Basic, C++, PERL, CGI,  VBScript, Active-X, XML, or even OOP. The ideal and final solution should also remove the issues of compatibility as it relates to multiple browser releases for use on multiple platforms. Let developers create client/server GUI applications just as they currently do for use over a LAN - with  no regard whether the final application is to be accessed over the internet, a LAN, or both. Even allow developers access to traditional programming languages such as COBOL, FORTRAN, and C to regain the productivity of a previous generation of developers - and legacy software already developed. And finally, the solution should provide a mature set of application development tools that simplify, centralize, standardize, and speed up application development for use over any network - not just the internet. That’s what WOW is all about.

Database Systems Corp. ( DSC ) has been developing software productivity tools since its founding in 1978. As a result, DSC has a mature and time tested set of software packages that address virtually all areas of application development. The combination of all the individual software components is currently packaged as  the Network Development Kit ( NDK ) and has been designed to significantly reduce the time it takes to develop information management applications for use over a network.  Throughout the Company’s history, DSC products have been advanced to take advantage of the most current technologies and popular operating systems. The latest of these state-of-the-art advancements include client/server, GUI, and access via LAN, WAN, and the internet.  

NDK is comprised of two major programs known as the NDK / Server component and the NDK / Thin Client.  The NDK / Server software can execute on UNIX, LINUX, or the WINDOWS/NT operating system. The NDK / Thin Client is available for most Window operating systems; e.g. Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, Windows 2000, Windows NT, Windows ME.


NDK current components include a comprehensive file system, ODBC interface, screen builder, application library, report writer, query facility, transaction processor, 4GL, web builder, and a sophisticated Thin Client. Additionally, the NDK components are integrated to a common dictionary enabling application development to be standardized, centralized, and highly productive.

Figure A - Typical LAN set up

Although NDK was designed to remove laborious and mundane work typically required to develop an application for networks, it was also designed to allow developers access to legacy programming languages. However, since NDK has  its own high level procedural language (a component known as EZTRAN), no other language is required for even the most sophisticated applications. The importance of this previous statement should not be under estimated! In effect, the methodologies and tools developed by DSC totally eliminate the need to know such disciplines as HTML, HTML extensions, Java, Java Script, VBScript, Perl, CGI,  Active-X, OLE Objects, COM, DCOM, XML, C++, Visual Basic, or even pushing "objects" for today’s networked environments - including delivery for use over the internet. Additionally, since WOW does not use HTML, it completely eliminates the nightmare of browser incompatibilities due to multiple releases for use over multiple platforms. 

Although using NDK for new application development is a logical step for simplification and productivity, legacy programs can also reap significant benefit since traditional programming languages such as FORTRAN, COBOL, and C can even remain for continued development. In most cases, legacy programs using NDK can be accelerated  to achieve the look and feel of even the most progressive applications of today - at a fraction of the time typically expected. This would include no less than client/server methodologies, GUI for end user presentation, and being accessed via a LAN, WAN, the internet, or all three. The GUI presentation can even include graphics, sounds, and movies provided the end user display device can accept this media. Once legacy programs have been integrated with NDK, they may present their data screens in GUI, character mode (if preferred), or both depending on the users display device accessing the application; e.g.; PC running Windows, dumb terminal, PC emulating terminal.

Mixing the Networks

To take advantage of WOW on a network set-up as shown in Figure B, only the LAN must be registered for use on the internet ( a simple and inexpensive procedure ). Once the previous is done, any application developed or integrated using NDK, this same application can be accessed via the internet just as if it were operating over a LAN. Additionally, the original developer need not be concerned whether the final application is to be accessed via a LAN, the internet, or both. To the end user accessing the application over the internet, nothing appears to be different than when accessed locally!!

Figure B - Typical internet and LAN set up

The ramification of the previous for both the developer and the end user is significant and far reaching. Although the advantages of end users accessing an application over a LAN are no doubt speed, security, and control, internet access to the same application opens entirely new possibilities. Although one might think speed would be a major issue for such an internet  access, it’s none-the-less extremely fast since WOW minimizes data traffic. Unlike typical HTML pages of the internet where entire pages are retransmitted across the net on errors, WOW collects information and sends only what is required in the form of message blocks. It also caches key elements that ensure future communication with the end user is highly efficient and minimized. Although the connection speed to the internet is important, WOW makes any connection run more efficiently regardless of its speed.

Figure C - Example GUI screen on LAN and internet

Security Over Net (SON)

Although placing applications for use over the internet is highly desirable, some applications require security safeguards to protect data that is considered sensitive. To ensure the protection of such data, DSC can provide either an end to end proprietary encryption method, or utilize other commercially available techniques as may be specified by a client.

Example WOW Usage

Now consider a few practical applications of Window On the Web.

Example 1.  A remote sales force needs to update their forecasts and schedules at their central corporate office (see Figure B.). To fulfill this requirement, the  individuals would require access to the internet by wireless, dial up, DSL, or Cable. Of course each would  have the NDK / THIN CLIENT accessible on their desktop. Except for the access provider subscription charges, these remote individuals would incur no telephone charges nor the cost of a VPN.

Example 2.  The goal is to provide geographically remote individuals access to a common application which is also being accessed via a LAN at corporate offices. Perhaps the requirement is an interactive application designed to maintain a large customer base or inventory list. WOW handles this requirement perfectly and makes the remote access efficient and cost effective since no telephone charges would be applicable. For all practical purposes, it’s just as if all individuals assigned these duties all resided at the corporate office.

As the last example, consider a call center requiring agents to work from their homes as well as corporate offices. Ideally, and for all practical purposes, the call center software should appear and react the same at either location. Additionally, the "at home" agents should have the ability to participate in all inbound, outbound, blended, and even predictive dialing campaigns!

To make the above requirement a reality for this call center, the packages of TELEMATION, PACER, NDK/WOW, and WOW Thin Client are seamlessly combined to make a single source solution for the preceding requirement. Remote agents need only a PC, a spare telephone line, and access to the internet.

NDK / Web Designer

Although NDK is a breakthrough for developing GUI applications for use over a LAN and the internet, there are certain requirements that still lend itself to a more traditional HTML presentation when the application requirement is for  access over the internet. i.e. ; Consider end user video displays that make it impossible to use WOW since no Windows operating system is provided at the client side. e.g.; Macintosh, Web TV. However, since these devices typically provide a browser that can interpret and respond to the HTML protocol, (Internet Explorer, NetScape, Opera, MSN Explorer) the logical choice for application development is HTML.

It should be noted, however, that unlike applications using WOW, HTML style applications require the user maintain his own web server in addition to registering the LAN for internet access.

Figure D; HTML style application using NDK / Web Designer

To assist developers for this type of requirement, DSC also provides a comprehensive Web Designer component to simplify and expedite even HTML development. In summary, the NDK Web Designer gives developers full web page access and the ability to merge database information with existing web pages. These same applications can be interactive similar to WOW implementations. Additionally, and in the tradition of all NDK components, development is performed with well defined functions that allow developers to simply “fill in blanks”, “pick a number”, “depress a button or function key”, or “type in free form text” as may be requested. Although the Web Designer provides for rapid application development when HTML is required, these types of applications can now be far more sophisticated than ever before since the entire NDK tool box is accessible at this time. Once again, no knowledge of disciplines such as HTML, HTML Extensions, Java, Java Script, VBScript, Perl, CGI,  Active-X, COM, DCOM, XML, C++, or Visual Basic is required.

Click here for more on the NDK