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Can You Afford Free Web-based Access to Your iSeries?

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V5R1 brings many cool new tools to iSeries systems administration and operations. Last

month, I introduced you to some of the new security features available in V5R1, such as long pass phrases, digital signatures, and program data creation templates. This month, I’m going to venture away from the area of security and focus instead on one of the other exciting new products being announced with V5R1. Although it won’t be generally available until the third quarter of 2001, you can download an alpha copy today and begin learning how to exploit it.

Web-based Access to iSeries Is Easy!

There are many vendors out there who will sell you products that allow you to gain access to your iSeries via the Web. And while most of those products are full of bells and whistles, you may not be willing, or able, to justify the expense of purchasing one of them—especially not if your only goal is to provide limited access to your iSeries from the Internet. If you’re a person who needs casual access to your iSeries from the Web or if you have folks at your shop (such as operators or salesmen) who need limited access, and you don’t want to provide a lot of user support or spend a lot of money, then IBM has a great solution for you! In the April V5R1 news, IBM announced a new product that will ship with the iSeries and AS/400 Client Access Family for Windows product (5722-XW1). Known as iSeries Access for Web, this free (with a full Client Access license) product will allow you to perform most of your operational needs via the Web. In fact, many of the tasks you perform everyday, such as checking operator messages, working with spooled files, and querying databases via SQL, can be done through iSeries Access for Web.

Requirements and Installation

iSeries Access for Web will be generally available with the V5R1 iSeries and AS/400 Client Access Family for Windows licensed product beginning September 1, 2001. Until then, you can download the fully functional alpha version of the product from IBM’s Client Access Web site at www-1.ibm.com/servers/eserver/iseries/clientaccess. Since iSeries Access for Web is a 100% Pure Java servlet, you’ll need to ensure that you have WebSphere Application Server (WAS) 3.02 or higher installed and configured on your iSeries, as well as the iSeries HTTP Server. There are a few other hardware/software

requirements, but not many. Check out the IBM Client Access Web site for the complete list.

Using iSeries Access for Web

So that’s how you get it, and that’s what you need to make it work. Now, how and why would you use it? Actually, using iSeries Access for Web is the simplest step of all. When remote users need to get onto your iSeries, they enter the Web address of the iSeries Access for Web product into their browser and press the Enter key. Their browser will be connected to your iSeries, and a logon prompt will be displayed, requiring the user to log on to your system. The first thing they’ll see after entering their login information is the default iSeries Access for Web main page, which is also fully customizable by you. That’s it. And in case you missed that, let me rephrase it: You do not need to install anything on the user’s PC. Everything they need is served to their browser via the iSeries HTTP Server. No more software administration nightmares!

So what can you use this product for? How about using it as a way to provide your salesmen with a tool they can use to look up item availability information? To achieve that functionality, you can customize the iSeries Access for Web main page to provide a link that your salesmen can click on to jump over to your item inventory screens. You can tie the HTML forms presented there to your DB2/400 data via a variety of methods, including calling legacy RPG IV apps, calling ILE CGI programs, using the included WebSphere Host Publisher (which currently costs $10K, but will be included with a Client Access license beginning in the third quarter of 2001), and using many other methods I don’t have room to mention here.

Or, perhaps, you have an operator who needs to monitor output queues or check messages on your iSeries. By customizing the default page the user sees, you can provide links to specific output and message queues. You could even customize the default page so that it displays dynamic company news and information your sales force and other employees can look at. And, if the user really needs 5250 emulation, the included 5250- mapper emulation tool can be used. Be warned, however, that this emulation tool is pretty raw. In fact, it looks a lot like the old AS/400 Workstation Gateway product that’s been around for years. It’ll get the job done, but it won’t be fun using it. Still, if you need that type of connectivity for one-time or special use, it’s a great alternative. One caveat I should mention here is that the 5250 emulation tool is not available with the alpha version of Access for Web that you can download today. However, it will be included with the GA version of the product.

Give It a Shot

The iSeries Access for Web tool is bound to make your life as an administrator or operator easier. If your users can access the iSeries from anywhere in the world via their browsers, without having to install additional software, you can’t help but have a winner on your hands. And, since this product will ship as part of the iSeries and AS/400 Client Access Family for Windows product, you really can’t lose. Download the alpha version today and try it out. When the GA version comes along in a couple of months, you’ll be ahead of the game! And by the way, if you’re still at V4R5, you can also use the iSeries Access for Web product on that release.

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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