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Head to Head: Jadvantage vs. Client Access/400

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A very large percentage of AS/400 shops use the licensed PC5250 terminal emulation software in Client Access/400 (CA/400) for Microsoft Windows 95/NT for green-screen access. There are many reasons for this, but perhaps the most common is that CA/400 is so easy to obtain. You can just add it to your order when you are purchasing a new or upgraded AS/400, and it’s delivered to your door along with all the other hardware and software. This is an easy way to get your AS/400 5250 connectivity software, but it may not be the best way.

The big trend today is for users to connect to your AS/400 from their home PCs. They know how easy it is to type http://www.weather.com to get to the Weather Channel’s home page when they want to see tomorrow’s forecast. Now they are probably asking you why they can’t log into the corporate AS/400 from home just as easily. CA/400 provides a means to do this, but there’s a new kid on the block who does it much better and much easier: Jadvantage from Better On-line Solutions (BOS). (See the BOS Web site at http://www.bosusa.com.)

Jadvantage is a Java-based software server package that resides on your AS/400 or a PC server. Jadvantage also provides 5250 terminal emulation and printing for PCs and Network Computers (NCs). There is no client-side software to install with this product. All that’s required for AS/400 connectivity is a standard Web browser such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. The only caveat is that the browser must support the Java 1.1 patch. Most, if not all, browsers support this patch, and if you don’t have the Java 1.1 plug-in already, it’s simple to download it from your browser vendor’s Web site.

In this article, I’m going to do a side-by-side comparison of CA/400 and Jadvantage for 5250 terminal and printer emulation. I’ll cover such topics as ease of installation, configuration, and software footprint. I’ll give you a well-rounded picture of both products so you can decide which is best for you.

The Basics CA/400

The CA/400 software is a feature code when ordering OS/400. Portions of the software come free with OS/400, while other parts require you to purchase a license. For example, if you only need to map network drives from the PC to the AS/400, the


CWBBS.EXE executable program comes free with the base portion of CA/400. On the other hand, if you want 5250 emulation, you must purchase a Client Access license to get the PC5250 emulation product from IBM.

CA/400 requires that a licensed program be installed on the AS/400. You must also have the CA/400 client software loaded on your PCs. The CA/400 client software can be installed from one of three places. First, it can be installed from the Client Access CD-ROM that comes with your install or upgrade. Second, it can be downloaded and installed from your AS/400 by using NetServer (see “Client Access without Client Access,” Client Access/400 Expert, July/August 1998). Third, you can download the installation files to a networked server and install CA/400 from the network. CA/400 and the PC5250 emulation product will only run on Windows-based PCs. They do not run on NCs.

With CA/400, you can connect to your AS/400 over the Internet. Once you are connected, you start a 5250 emulation session by clicking on a connection icon, which must be previously configured for you on your desktop. CA/400 can run with any version of OS/400 that is at V2R3 or higher, although you may not have access to some newer functions and features with the older releases of OS/400.

CA/400 runs many programs in the background every time Windows starts, even if you don’t need or want them to run. For example, the map network drives program runs constantly as well as the network printer daemon. These may be features your user never needs, but they use up precious PC memory.

Jadvantage

The Jadvantage software is ordered directly from BOS. Jadvantage contains both the server and its own emulation software as part of the base price. Jadvantage requires that software be loaded on the AS/400 if you want to use the AS/400 as the Jadvantage server. If you choose, you can instead load the Jadvantage server software on a PC server. Jadvantage does not require any PC client-side software. You are only required to have a Web browser capable of supporting the Java 1.1 plug-in. Jadvantage runs on any PC with a standard Web browser that supports Java 1.1. Because it runs as a browser application, the Jadvantage client can run on PCs, NCs, and any other client that uses a browser that supports the Java 1.1 plug-in. With Jadvantage, you can connect to your AS/400 and start a 5250 emulation session by keying in the URL of your AS/400 in the Location field of your Web browser.

If you load the Jadvantage server software on your AS/400, Jadvantage requires that your OS/400 version level be at V3R7 or above. You also need to have the Java Development Kit (JDK) installed. If you choose to run the Jadvantage software from a PC server, however, your AS/400 release only needs to be at V2R3. All features of Jadvantage are supported on all OS/400 releases from V2R3 on up. Because Jadvantage is never installed on your PC, it does not run any programs in the background like CA/400 does.

Installation CA/400

CA/400 requires that a licensed program be installed on your AS/400. This is usually done as part of a system upgrade or a system install. You go to the Work with Licensed program menu (GO LICPGM), choose the Install Licensed Program option, scroll through the list to find the correct version of CA/400, and install the CA/400 licensed program. After the OS/400 installation, you must install the CA/400 client on every PC that needs to connect to your AS/400. Installation is done by using the CA/400 installation CDROM, installing off the network, or by installing directly from your AS/400 using NetServer.

CA/400 client-side installation consists of starting the Setup program and deciding what type of installation you want (e.g., Typical or Custom). After selecting your installation options, the installation wizard copies the files from installation media to the PC. When the installation wizard is finished, you must restart the PC since many entries were written to the Windows Registry and, in order for these new entries to take effect, Windows must be restarted.


After Windows restarts, the first thing your new CA/400 client does is attempt to log onto your AS/400 to check the service pack level. It does this so that the client will always have the latest functions and features of the software. The problem with this is that the first time you reboot your PC, you most likely don’t even have a system configured yet in the CA/400 software. What ends up happening is that the Check Version program runs until it times out, at which point it spits out a message telling you it couldn’t connect.

Jadvantage

Jadvantage requires that you load the Jadvantage server software on either the AS/400 or a PC server. In either case, all you have to do is load the Jadvantage installation CD-ROM in any PC that is connected to either platform, select where you want to load the software to, and click Install. All required software is FTPd to the server platform in about four or five minutes.

Configuring CA/400

After closing out the erroneous Check Version connection error, you must go into the AS/400 connections wizard and configure a new connection. For a TCP/IP connection, you select TCP/IP as the connection method, plug in the TCP/IP address of your AS/400 as well as the AS/400 system name, and you are pretty much done. Now all you have to do is connect your PC to your Internet Service Provider (ISP), and click on the new connection icon you just configured. That’s it! You are on the AS/400.

Jadvantage

Configuring Jadvantage requires that you start the Jadvantage server on the host. On the AS/400, you need to change your current directory to Jadvantage and then run a special server startup program. You will be prompted to type in a few command parameters to start the server. When keying in these parameters, you must be very careful because they are case-sensitive.

Jadvantage allows you to print any type of AS/400 report or document across the Internet to your local or network-attached PC. To do this, it listens for print requests on a certain port of your AS/400. Unfortunately, IBM also uses this port to listen for print jobs. If you try to start the Jadvantage server before ending the IBM subsystem Line Printer Daemon (LPD) server job, your Jadvantage server will crash. This LPD job can be found by using the Work with Active Jobs (WRKACTJOB) command and then looking for a job named QLPDxxxx where xxxx is a four digit number. This is the subsystem job that “listens” for print jobs on a specific port. If your Jadvantage server session crashes because of this or any other reason, it’s best to sign off and then sign back on again. Failure to do so leaves certain lingering errors that will prevent you from starting the Jadvantage server. Running these commands interactively requires you to have a dedicated terminal for the Jadvantage server because the Jadvantage server runs interactively. There is an option that will let you run the Jadvantage server in batch, in which case, you don’t need a dedicated terminal. This is actually easier since it doesn’t require you to enter a long string of syntactically correct command parameters.

Once you’ve started the Jadvantage server on the AS/400 (or the PC server), you’ll need to configure a 5250 emulation session on the client. To do so, open your Web browser and type in the TCP/IP address of your AS/400 in the following format: http://AS400_IP_Address:8080/ Indexd.htm. This will point your browser to the correct IP address and the correct port (8080) on your AS/400. Indexd.htm tells the Jadvantage server what type of profile you are logging in as. You’ll see an HTML panel like the one shown in Figure 1. From this panel, all your user has to do to connect to your AS/400 is double-click the Display icon. They will then be presented with a 5250 browser like the one shown in Figure 2. Of course, you can make it even more advanced by naming the display session and creating a printer session if you’d like. The Jadvantage 5250 session has all the functionality of a standard 5250 keyboard.

Footprint CA/400


Depending on the options chosen, CA/400 runs a number of background programs in Windows 95/98/NT, even if you’re not currently connected to an AS/400. These programs are notoriously difficult to remove from Windows memory and may cause conflicts with other programs. They become permanent overhead for your Windows desktop.

Jadvantage

Since Jadvantage is run from the server as a Java applet, it creates no footprint on your Windows desktop and leaves no utility programs running in your computer’s memory.

Recommendations

If you are looking for a simple, elegant solution to getting your users connected to your AS/400 over the Internet, Jadvantage is an excellent choice. It is easy to install, easy to administer, easy to configure, and, best of all, easy for your users to navigate. CA/400 is a stable, well-supported product. However, it requires many licenses, requires someone to install and configure software on every PC that needs to connect to the AS/400, only runs on Windows platforms, and takes a huge chunk of your PC’s available memory. If you want the best option for Internet connection, choose Jadvantage.

Figure 1: The Jadvantage connection panel is very simple to use.


Head_to_Head-_Jadvantage_vs._Client_Access-_40004-00.jpg 600x430

Head_to_Head-_Jadvantage_vs._Client_Access-_40005-00.jpg 600x426

Figure 2: Now you can have 5250 emulation from your standard Web browser.


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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