The increasing popularity of distributed computing is causing some problems for organisations that still want to access their mainframe applications from client/server networks. One company that has found a way through this problem is China Light and Power (CLP). CLP's computer technical support manager, James Kwok, said the company started to adopt client/server computing two or three years ago, and last year began looking at interfaces to connect to the mainframe. Up until now, most of the company's client/server applications have been departmental applications, such as a fire protection system, departmental, financial and document management systems. At the same time, CLP has also developed a large customer billing application on the mainframe that needs to be accessed by PC. After extensive testing, the company adopted three tools that allow communication between the client/server network and the mainframe. The first two packages, Sterling's Connect Direct and Sybase's MDI Gateway are commercially available packages that allow access to data held on the mainframe. The two packages were tested for a month, and the whole process, including seeing presentations from different vendors and performing cost benefit analysis, took about three months. The third tool developed in-house, is based on APPC or application to application communication, a standard used to allow communication between mainframes and across platforms. APPC is used to allow applications on different platforms to talk to each other So far, CLP is very happy with their solution. 'End users find it much more user friendly, and it's easier for them to access the data they want,' Mr Kwok said. As for the future: 'We think the GUI front end is the way to go.' CLP will not be moving away from the mainframe altogether, instead they plan to find the appropriate platform for each application. Mr Kwok said that although their computing systems were becoming more and more distributed, they would still need a centralised system for the whole corporation. He said: 'For new applications we tend to give higher priority to client/server, but if there are advantages in the mainframe platform, we will develop on the mainframe. That is why they will continue to co-exist.'