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iSeries Web Access: Browser-based Client Access?

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If you’ve ever wanted IBM to implement Client Access in a browser, be sure to check out a new downloadable alpha product from IBM’s Client Access group called iSeries Web Access (www.iseries.ibm.com/clientaccess/beta/webaccess.htm). iSeries Web Access provides OS/400 server-side software that allows your users to access a Web-based portal view of iSeries or AS/400 information and resources through a common everyday browser. It’s basically the Client Access-in-a-browser product that a lot of people have been looking for, and it’s available for testing right now. iSeries Web Access offers your users a number of Web-based capabilities, including DB2/400 database access through built-in SQL requests, AS/400 Integrated File System (AS/400 IFS) integration, and the ability to display and manage printers and printer output. It also offers OS/400 object level security, customizable user interfaces that are created by the OS/400 administrator, and standard HTTP and Hypertext Transfer Protocol, Secure (HTTPS) interfaces.

With iSeries Web Access, the intention is to provide an OS/400 interface through a browser that doesn’t require you to install software on your client’s machine (á la the regular Client Access product line). All the connectivity software executes on your OS/400- based machine through Java servlets inside a Web Application Server running on an HTTP Server for AS/400 server instance. It’s a pure browser-based view into your AS/400- iSeries machine that runs on the server—not on the client, as currently occurs with Client Access Express for Windows.

Sounds Good, But...

Before you download, however, there are a few issues that you’ll need to deal with in order to run iSeries Web Access.

Casual and Remote User Access Only

iSeries Web Access is not intended as a robust desktop environment. IBM recommends that users who require full functionality through a browser look at WebSphere Host On- Demand for a solution. If you don’t want to go with an IBM solution, you can also try one of the many other shareware or commercial alternatives that also offer OS/400 functionality inside a browser. See the Midrange Computing Online Yellow Pages (www.midrangecomputing.com/ yellowpages) for a list of vendors.

Type of Software

According to IBM, you’ll need the following packages or features installed on your AS/400 to run iSeries for Web Access:

• OS/400 V4R5
• AS/400 Developer Kit for Java (5769-JV1) version 1.2 or 1.18
• AS/400 Toolbox for Java (5769-JC1)
• OS/400 QShell Interpreter (5769-SS1, option 30) to run scripts that are included with the product
• OS/400 Host Servers (5769-SS1, Option 12)
• TCP/IP Connectivity Utilities (5769-TCI)—Because it’s a browser-based product, it only runs over TCP/IP
• AS/400 Client Access Family for Windows (5769-XW1)
• WebSphere Applications Server (WAS) Advanced Edition V3.5.x (5733-WA3) or V3.0.2 (5733-WA3 or 5733-WA2); or WAS Standard Edition V3.5.x (5733-AS3) or

V3.0.2 (5733-AS3 or 5733-AS2)

• IBM HTTP Server for AS/400 (5769-DG1)

These requirements may change somewhat, so check the iSeries Web Access Server Software Requirements Web page for the most up-to-date and complete list (www.as400.ibm.com/clientaccess/ beta/iwaServerSoftwareRequirements.html).

WebSphere 3.0 Is the Server to Use

I asked my sources at IBM about the possibility of using the Tomcat server (see “Tomcat for the OS/400: An Open Source Web Application Server,” Don Denoncourt, MC, December 2000) or Bluestone’s Total e-Server Web Application server (www.bluestone.com) with the product. My sources said that at IBM, they bring code up on Apache and JServ on Linux before running it on the AS/400 and that they wouldn’t expect any problems running under Tomcat on the AS/400. IBM has no intention of limiting the code to WebSphere, but it is waiting for Tomcat to be officially supported on the AS/400 (even though a number of people are already using Tomcat inside OS/400).

Remember, This Is an Alpha

iSeries Web Access doesn’t have the complete capabilities or interface you might normally get from a Client Access product. For example, the iSeries Web Access alpha does not have 5250 emulation, and installation might be a little more involved than you are normally used to. As the product matures during 2001 and moves into the beta stage and (eventually) a final version, additional capabilities and more OS/400 integration will be added.

Testing, Testing...

So, the bottom line is this: A new browser-based version of Client Access called iSeries Web Access is being tested in an alpha version. To run the alpha requires a number of Java-based OS/400 features, an HTTP for AS/400 Web server instance, and the WebSphere Application Server for AS/400-iSeries V3.5.x or V.3.0.2 product (but you may see support for other Web Application Servers in the future). Again, for more information, go to the iSeries Web Access Web site.



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