We are excited to announce, in preview, the Microsoft Azure Logic Apps Connector for 3270 Screens.The new Microsoft Connector for 3270 Screens (3270 Connector) allows enterprise developers to build modern applications that automate end user task flows based on legacy IBM mainframe 3270 programs, to deliver Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and other integration capabilities to transform business.
A traditional method for interacting with applications on an IBM mainframe is through a 3270 terminal or terminal emulation software program on a personal computer (often referred to as a green-screen program). While this mainframe connectivity method has been used for years, it has several limitations, such as inability to efficiently develop high-scale web and mobile applications.
Using Logic Apps with the new 3270 Connector, enterprise developers can more easily build new composite applications and APIs that incorporate existing line-of-business 3270-based mainframe programs with modern cloud services, to significantly drive business innovation, reach new customers, and improve operating efficiencies.
How the Connector works
Because the screens and fields in a 3270 application are unique to the customer, the 3270 Connector must use metadata about the customer’s application. This metadata contains information on how to recognize screens, how to navigate from screen to screen and where to input data and where to expect results. This metadata is generated from the 3270 Design Tool. The design tool has three modes; Capture, Navigation, and Methods. You start with the Capture mode. In this mode you capture the screens required to perform a given task. In each screen you mark something in the screen that can uniquely identify it. This could be a line of text or a more complex set of conditions (e.g. this text and this field is not empty). In Navigation mode, you layout a plan of how the Logic App can navigate through the screens. In some case there may be more than one path the application can take (e.g. one path may be the result and other an error). For each screen you configure what keystrokes need to be sent to get to the next screen (e.g. CICSPROD <enter>). When the navigation plan is complete you can then define your method. In Methods mode you can choose which fields on a screen will be the input parameters and which fields will be the output parameters. For each parameter you can also specify the data type (e.g. string, integer, date/time, etc.). Once everything is defined you can test your method against the live host to confirm it is operating as expected. The final step is to generate the metadata file, called an HIDX file. At this point you can now go into the Azure portal and upload this HIDX file as a Map into your Integration Account. When you add the 3270 Action to your Logic App, you will create a new Connection. The connection configuration will contain the information for connecting to your host and which Integration Account to use. When the connection is saved the Action will have a drop-down list of the HIDX files stored in your Integration Account. After selecting an HIDX file, the methods you defined in the design tool will be list in the Methods drop down. Selecting a method will then allow you to add the parameters you define in the design tool. Now the action is ready to connect to your mainframe, drive the screens for your application, enter data, return the results, and disconnect.
The 3270 Connector includes a Windows-based design tool, to record end user task flows using a Microsoft TN3270 client, or optionally import IBM CICS Basic Mapping Support (BMS) screen program layouts, define a navigation plan over the existing mainframe 3270 program, and then define inputs and outputs for the plan for use within a Logic App Action. The new connector will automate data entry tasks, help eliminate typos from manual entry, and leverage the features in Azure to create whole new business applications.