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AS/400 Connectivity Alternatives

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Getting tired of being chained to Client Access/400? Looking for AS/400 connectivity alternatives? Then, read on! This article will highlight some of the other choices available to you.

Client Access/400, which, includes Personal Communications 5250 (PC5250), is perhaps the most widely used connectivity and 5250 emulation software in the AS/400 community. Client Access/400 provides multiple connection options (i.e., TCP/IP, NS/Router, IPX/SPX, WinAPPC Compatible 32-bit, Microsoft SNA Server, etc.) while the PC5250 software provides for an easy-to-use emulator window with a customizable toolbar and support for multiple terminal and printer emulation sessions. Best of all, both products are fully supported by IBM, have frequent updates, and are easy to acquire when configuring or ordering a new AS/400. Why then would you ever want to use anything else? Perhaps there are some good reasons. This article will explore some of the other emulation and connectivity products available to AS/400 users and offer you some suggestions on why you might want to consider those products over Client Access/400.

Just a Salad for Me

Sometimes when I’m installing Client Access/400, I feel like a person walking into a smorgasbord restaurant for the all-you-can-eat buffet and then getting only a salad.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred when I’m installing Client Access/400, all I need is an NS/Router or TCP/IP connection and 5250 emulation. I don’t need Graphical Access, Operational Navigator, AFP Viewer, or any other fancy tools and options. So why, then, am I paying for this all-inclusive product when I don’t need it?

When ordering new emulation software, choosing this all-inclusive package just seems to be easier, since all you have to do is include it with your new AS/400 or call your IBM marketing rep and order it. When you think about it, though, this is silly. Most shops have only one or two types of connectivity needs. Usually, it’s twinax and possibly access through a LAN or a modem. When your needs are few, there’s no sense in paying for all those extras. What you want are connectivity and emulationproducts that are tailored to your specific requirements.

Let’s take a look at what products are available.

Synapse Communications

The WinAPPC family of products from Synapse Communications offers you a wide range of connectivity and emulation software options that meet a variety of needs. If you need only 5250 adapter cards, Synapse offers its own version, which contains an onboard coprocessor; this means that your PC’s precious Interrupt Requests (IRQs) are not taken up by the new card. For those shops that use only twinax, Synapse offers its WinAPPC product. With this set of tools, your users can connect to your AS/400 through the included NS/Router software. In addition, WinAPPC comes with display and printer emulation as well as the WinTran file transfer utility for PC-to-AS/400 data transfer.

If you have certain users who perform only PC-to-AS/400 file transfers, check out the WinTran software. It’s available as a separate product for a fraction of the cost of the WinAPPC software.

When was the last time you ever heard of IBM offering to sell its data transfer utilities unbundled? What if you have users who need TCP/IP-to-AS/400 connectivity? Synapse is ready for you with its WinAPPC Lite software package. This package allows TCP/IP connectivity but does not include the WinTran file transfer software. I suppose that it would have been nice if Synapse had more evenly bundled the features of its products. For example, why couldn’t it have included its file transfer software with both NetManage’s NS/Router version and the TCP/IP version? Of course, TCP/IP users have FTP available to them as a standard option of OS/400, so this may be the reason for not including it with WinAPPC Lite. However, as things currently stand, you’re still getting a great bargain when you compare all you’d have to buy with the Client Access/400 package.

Affinity Systems

What other vendors provide this piecemeal approach to AS/400 connectivity and 5250 emulation? Affinity Systems offers basic PC 5250 adapter cards that let you run pretty much anyone else’s 5250 display and printer emulation software. Affinity Systems offers both regular desktop and PCMCIA versions of its 5250 adapter cards.

The company also offer its 5250 Client for Windows+ emulation software. This is a less expensive alternative for those users who need only 5250 emulation. The 5250 Client for Windows+ allows two concurrent emulation sessions. This does not mean two display sessions and two printer sessions. This means you can have two display sessions, one display and one printer session, or two printer sessions. While not as full-featured as the WinAPPC product, it is still a great low-cost alternative at $129.

Better On-line Solutions

Better On-line Solutions, or BOS, as it is more commonly known, has long been an industry leader in connectivity and emulation products. BOS offers 5250 adapter cards, emulation software (BOSâNOVA), file transfer software via BOSâNOVA, and remote (dial-up) emulation. You can even purchase a combined 5250 adapter card and emulation software solution with the BOSâNOVA Plus package.

In addition to 5250 connectivity, BOS offers a Web-based connectivity option using any Web browser supporting Java 1.1. The new product from BOS, Jadvantage, is a unique Java-based solution for connecting your users’ PCs to your AS/400 via the Internet/intranet and TN5250. What this means for you is that your users can now access your AS/400 via the Internet and still retain their 5250 green-screen look and feel.

Perhaps the nicest feature of this product is the fact that it can be installed on any type of PC, regardless of the operating system. So, if you have a mixture of Windows, Macintosh, and UNIX in your shop, relax. Now, all of them can have 5250 emulation using Jadvantage and just about any Web browser.

One feature that is not available with Jadvantage is file transfer; however, since they are already connected to the Internet/intranet, your users can take advantage of FTP. Still, it would have been nice if BOS had written some interfaces for file transfer as well. Perhaps we’ll see that capability in the future.

Wall Data

No discussion of AS/400 connectivity and PC5250 emulation would be complete without talking about RUMBA from Wall Data. Although I have no statistics to back up my assertion, it’s likely that RUMBA is the second most popular connectivity/emulation product available. One of the prime reasons for this—besides the fact that it’s a great product—is that IBM shipped RUMBA with its Client Access/400 16-bit software. In fact, even before IBM was shipping its own 16-bit PC5250 emulation software, it was including RUMBA. When Windows 95 and 32-bit processing came along, many shops migrated to the new platform but kept RUMBA as their emulation software rather than using the new 32-bit PC5250. Although no longer included or shipped with the Client Access/400 32-bit product, RUMBA is still widely available and actively supported as well as easily enhanced.

RUMBA offers connections through NS/Router and TCP/IP among other connection options. When comparing Wall Data to the different connectivity/emulation vendors in this article, you’ll notice the lack of any mention of 5250 adapter cards. The reason for this omission is that Wall Data focuses more on what happens once the connection is made rather than on the physical access itself. However, Wall Data has made significant improvements in TCP/IP access, as evidenced through its Cyberprise Services family of products. Cyberprise is the term Wall Data has given to its ability, as a corporation, to assist businesses in moving to new computing platforms and finding new business solutions, including the Internet.

The Reflection for the AS/400 family of products from WRQ, one of the industry leaders in connectivity and emulation, is a complete connectivity and emulation solution that is fully Windows 3.1, 95, and NT compatible. This product offers a full range of features, including the following:

• One of the fastest SNA file transfer tools available
• Support for FTP (in addition to the file transfer utility)
• 5250 emulation over both SNA and TCP/IP
• Active Document support, allowing you access to your 5250 sessions in both Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer. (When you type in the URL of your AS/400 and your browser connects to the AS/400, you will be presented with a standard 5250 emulation screen.

• Reflection Basic, WRQ’s proprietary Visual Basic (VB)-like language. This programming utility provides for limited client/server support and is also a great Windows scripting tool.

Also built into Reflection is support for OLE 2.0, Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) Server, ODBC, high-level language API (HLLAPI), messaging application program interface (MAPI), and API support for VB and C++. For SNA connectivity, WRQ includes NS/Router from NetManage. TCP/IP connectivity includes support for Multi- Protocol Transport Networking (MPTN) and TN5250. If you’re looking for a complete Client Access/400 replacement, take a look at WRQ’s Reflection for the AS/400 suite of tools.

Attachmate Corporation

Attachmate has long been known as a solution provider for AS/400 emulation with its Rally! for AS/400 product. Rally! for AS/400 is a very good, easy-to-use, 5250 emulation tool that offers a programmable tool bar and printer emulation. Rally! is available for both 16- and 32-bit Windows environments.

As with many of the other products mentioned in this article, Rally! provides complete SNA functionality over TCP/IP with support for MPTN, most SNA gateways, and CISCO NCIA (Native Client Interface Architecture). In addition, Rally! includes its own native 32-bit APPC router for your Windows 95/NT environments. Windows 3.1 clients will be glad to know that Rally! continues to provide support for their 16-bit

WRQ

NS/Router, Client Access/400 router, and even the PC/Support 400 router. Rally! is also fully integrated with the Windows environment through the use of shared folders. Your users can simply drag and drop files onto your AS/400 for backup by using Windows Explorer. Files will be stored in the Integrated File System (IFS) on the AS/400 as stream files. No more losing important data when a PC’s hard drive crashes! Rally! also offers OLE DB, ODBC, and DBQuery for seamless SQL interfacing. Rally!’s batch file transfer utility makes PC-to-AS/400 (or vice versa) file transfers painless.

These are just some of the features and capabilities of the Rally! for AS/400 product. There are many more, too numerous to mention in this format, but they are well worth your time to check out.

Computer Lab International

For more than a decade, Computer Lab International (CLI) has been well known for its 5250 emulation products. Like Synapse Communications, CLI provides many connectivity and emulation solutions. Looking for a complete twinaxial 5250 hardware and software solution? Try its INFOPRO 5250 product. INFOPRO 5250 is a Windows-based 5250 emulator and an adapter card. The INFOPRO 5250 adapter card is unique in that it can operate in two modes, native INFOPRO mode or IBM-compatible 5250 adapter mode. In INFOPRO mode, which requires the INFOPRO 5250 emulation software, the adapter card uses shared addressing. This allows up to four display sessions that take up only one address on your AS/400. In regular IBM-compatible 5250 adapter mode, the card acts as any other IBM-compatible adapter card so you can run other emulation products such as Client Access/400 or RUMBA with it. INFOPRO 5250 also supports printer emulation.

In addition to the INFOPRO product, CLI offers as a separate product its 5250 emulation software, WIN5250-I, which is completely Windows compatible. If you are searching only for 5250 adapter cards, CLI offers its 5250-IW emulation adapter, the 5250-NL parallel-port emulation adapter, and the 5250-PCM PCMCIA emulation adapter for notebooks. All adapters are fully IBM compatible and support up to two emulation sessions. CLI is a great place to look when you need to purchase only pieces of the 5250 connectivity/emulation puzzle.

Scratching the Surface

As you can see, there is more to the PC-to-AS/400 connectivity and emulation world than just Client Access/400. This article scratched only the surface of what’s available, focusing on just a few vendors. See Figure 1 for a more comprehensive list of vendors as well as for contact information. The next time your shop needs to make a connection from a PC to your AS/400, take a look at what else is available. You might be glad you did.

Affinity Systems

1000 N. Broad St. Lansdale, PA 19446 Tel: 800-644-1170 Fax: 215-412-9991 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.affinitysys.com

Attachmate Corporation

3617 131st Ave. S.E. Bellevue, WA 98006 Tel: 800-426-6283 Fax: 425-747-9924 Web: http://www.attachmate.com

Better On-line Solutions

7762 E. Gray Road, Suite 300 Scottsdale, AZ 85260 Tel: 800-866-6267 Fax: 602-951-1792
Email:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.bosweb.com

California Software Products, Inc.

2901 S. Pullman St. Santa Ana, CA 92705 Tel: 714-435-0900 Fax: 714-435-0192 Web: http://www.calsw.com

Computer Lab International (CLI)

580 S. Melrose St. Placentia, CA 92870 Tel: 800-727-5250 Fax: 714-572-8008 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.computerlab.com

Core Technology Corporation

7435 Westshire Drive Lansing, MI 48917 Tel: 517-627-1521 X541 Fax: 517-627-8944 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.ctc-core.com/ibm

DCS Software & Services

2610 Hwy. 544 W. Wylie, TX 75098 Tel: 972-429-8200 Fax: 972-429-8216 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.popi.net/dcs

East Coast Computer, Inc.

601 S.W. 4th Ave. Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315 Tel: 800-829-6163 Fax: 954-463-3355 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.ecc400.com

Farabi Technology Corporation

4981 Levy St. Laurent, Quebec H4R 2N9 Canada Tel: 800-565-3455 Fax: 514-332-3915 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.farabi.com

HiT Software, Inc.

4020 Moorpark Ave., Suite 100 San Jose, CA 95117; Tel: 408-345-4001 Fax: 408-345-4899
Email:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web: http://www.hit.com

Hummingbird Communications Limited
1 Sparks Ave. North York, Ontario M2H 2W1 Canada Tel: 416-496-2200 Fax: 416-496-2207
Email:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web: http://www.hummingbird.com

I-O Corporation

2256 South 3600 West Salt Lake City, UT 84119 Tel: 801-973-6767 Fax: 801-974-5683 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.iocorp.com

I/O Connections, Inc.

3535 Lincoln Ave. Ogden, UT 84401 Tel: 800-245-0109 Fax: 801-393-0170 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.ioconnections.com

Lognet Systems Ltd.

927 Temple St., Suite 2 Whitman, MA 02382 Tel: 781-857-1200 Fax: 781-857-1294 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.lognet-systems.com

NetManage

10725 N. De Anza Blvd. Cupertino, CA 95014-2030 Tel: 408-973-7171 Fax: 408-257-6405 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.netmanage.com

Pericom Software

2271 Hwy. 33, Suite 106 Hamilton Square, NJ 08690 Tel: 800-233-2206 Fax: 609-588-8906
Email:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.pericom-usa.com

Praim Inc.

140 Congress St., Suite 2 Portsmouth, NH 03801 Tel: 603-431-0606 Fax: 603-436-6432 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.praim.com

Productivity Systems, Inc.

9330 W. Lincoln Ave., Suite 3 Milwaukee, WI 53227 Tel: 414-321-8688 Fax: 414-546-8499
Email:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.psi3164.com

Redoc, Inc.

105 E. 4th St. Hoyt, KS 66440 Tel: 913-986-6435 Fax: 913-986-6280 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.redoc.com

Synapse Communications

11 Sacramento Ave. San Anselmo, CA 94960 Tel: 800-457-5250 Web: http://www.synapse.com

Teubner & Associates, Inc.

100 E. Seventh Ave. Stillwater, OK 74074 Tel: 405-624-8000 Fax: 405-624-3010 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.teubner.com

Wall Data Incorporated

11332 N.E. 122nd Way Kirkland, WA 98034 Tel: 800-755-9255 Web: http://www.walldata.com

White Pine Software

542 Amherst St. Nashua, NH 03063 Tel: 603-886-9050 Fax: 603-886-9051 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.wpine.com

WRQ

1500 Dexter Ave N. Seattle, WA 98109 Tel: 800-872-2829 Fax: 206-217-0293 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: http://www.wrq.com

WRQ (Europe) Buitenhof 47 2518 Ah Den Haag The Netherlands Tel: 31.70.375.11.00 Fax: 31.70.375.12.04 Web: http://www.wrq.com

Figure 1: PC-to-AS/400 connectivity/emulation vendors

SHANNON ODONNELL
Shannon O'Donnell has held a variety of positions, most of them as a consultant, in dozens of industries. This breadth of experience gives him insight into multiple aspects of how the AS/400 is used in the real world. Shannon continues to work as a consultant. He is an IBM Certified Professional--AS/400 RPG Programmer and the author of an industry-leading certification test for RPG IV programmers available from ReviewNet.net.
 
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