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There's No Jeopardy in the New Express Client...or Is There?

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It’s not every day that IBM retools its Client Access product line, as it did with the February 9 announcement of the AS/400 Client Access Express for Windows (Express client) product. In this FAQ-style article, AS/400 Network Expert editor Joe Hertvik tells you everything you need to know about evaluating and getting started with Express client.

In February’s OS/400 V4R4 announcement, IBM officially announced the first major change in three years to its Client Access product line: the AS/400 Client Access Express for Windows V4R4 (a.k.a. Client Access Express or Express client) product. Express client is a new, PC-based AS/400 connectivity product designed for TCP/IP-only environments. Although many of Express client’s features are based on the current Client Access for Windows 95/NT V3R2 product (a.k.a. the Windows 95/NT client), Express client has completely different design goals and functionality.

You may be somewhat confused right now about where this new product fits into IBM’s strategy as well as into your own strategy in running your shop, and you probably have many questions that need answers.

In that light, let’s play Midrange Computing’s version of “Jeopardy” by matching our Express client answers with your Express client questions. (Okay, so the MC version gives the question first and then the answers. But isn’t that easier, anyway?) Although I cannot offer you any prizes for playing our game, I can play Alex Trebek and increase your Express client brainpower by giving you the accurate scoop on this interesting new product. When you finish this article, you’ll see that these answers and their corresponding questions form a fairly comprehensive Express client FAQ that will help you understand and implement Express client in your organization.

Why did IBM develop a new product instead of upgrading the existing Client Access for Windows 95/NT?

There are several reasons why IBM released a new product instead of producing yet another upgrade to the Windows 95/NT client:

• Users needed a more stable product that eliminated the well-documented compatibility problems of the Windows 95/NT client. Consequently, Express client consumes less Windows memory by running fewer Windows background tasks than Windows 95/NT.

• Express client is TCP/IP-only and eliminates the overhead involved in providing support for other AS/400 connectivity methods, such as SNA, Advanced Program-to- Program Communications (APPC), AnyNet, asynchronous dial-in, and others. Moreover, Express client uses only Windows-standard TCP/IP connectivity to connect PCs to the AS/400. Because Express client is TCP/IP-only, one of the most significant changes between the product and the Windows 95/NT client is that the NetManage NS/Router is not included with Express client.

• Express client moves the Client Access family forward into the 32-bit environment by dropping support for 16-bit applications, including 16-bit ODBC. This change also makes for a leaner, more stable product because Express client eliminates the additional overhead the Windows 95/NT client needed to support these applications.

• After five major releases and a large number of incremental service pack upgrades within each release, the current Windows 95/NT client has finally reached the end of its development life cycle.

By introducing Express client instead of another version of Windows 95/NT, IBM is re-creating the Client Access for Windows product line. Express client is a newer, smaller piece of software that performs better on the Windows desktop than its predecessor and can be expanded easily in future releases.

Is Express client a replacement for Client Access for Windows 95/NT, and will the Windows 95/NT client be discontinued?

When I first heard about Express client, I thought that it would replace the Windows 95/NT client. It does not. IBM will continue to make Client Access for Windows 95/NT available on the Client Access Family CD-ROM. The reason the Windows 95/NT client will not be discontinued is fairly obvious if you think about it.

Because Express client is made for TCP/IP environments only, IBM customers still need the Windows 95/NT client when they need to connect to an AS/400 by using a non- TCP/IP protocol, such as SNA. IBM cannot discontinue Client Access for Windows 95/NT because it is still the main connectivity option in non-TCP/IP systems.

Although IBM will continue to offer the Windows 95/NT client, the product will remain frozen at its current V3R2 functionality. No new features will be added; all new Client Access development will occur in Express client. Client Access for Windows 95/NT V3R2 will be the last version of the Windows 95/NT client that will be produced. So,

while you can continue to use Client Access for Windows 95/NT, it will no longer be the flagship product for the Client Access family. That distinction now belongs to Express client.

It’s also worth noting that, because the Windows 95/NT client also has a native TCP/IP connectivity option, you can continue to use the Windows 95/NT client for TCP/IP connections if you wish. You are not required to migrate to Express client. If you want to use TCP/IP but Express client is not compatible with your other application software, you can always install the Windows 95/NT client. Still, the Express client beta has proven extremely stable, and I expect that most people will have no problems using it.

What new features are available in Express client?

In addition to the decreased footprint and increased stability that IBM is trying to design into Express client, there are many other new features for your users that will interest you, including:

• Microsoft Standard TCP/IP connectivity. With Express client, all connections are accomplished directly from the applications to your AS/400 through standard Microsoft TCP/IP connectivity methods. Each application can maintain its own connection—complete with separate user IDs and passwords—if desired.

• Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) support by application. With SSL, you’ll be able to encrypt your Client Access applications for secure transactions over the Internet. However, this function is available only on boxes running OS/400 V4R4 or higher.

• Enhanced AS/400 Operations Navigator. This feature contains new options for connection management, IP packet security, virtual private networking, and many other items. Because many new Operations Navigator (OpsNav) features require new OS/400 V4R4 features, you will not be able to use all of the new OpsNav features until you

upgrade your AS/400 to V4R4. In addition, parts of Express client’s AS/400 Operations Navigator are written in Java, so it’s interesting to note that IBM is beginning to program its client software in Java.

• More middleware enhancements. These include enhanced ODBC drivers and functions, the AS/400 Toolbox for Java, an updated Client Access Express toolkit (featuring the AS/400 SDK for ActiveX and OLE DB), and PC5250 application enablers.

• Other PC5250 enhancements. Among these enhancements are new configuration options and host pages.

• New Microsoft system administration policy templates. These new templates provide expanded software management capabilities, including the ability to stop users from loading, running, or configuring Express client programs.

• A new data transfer wizard. Express client allows you to automate the data upload to the AS/400 function, making file uploads easier.

• New installation options. Express client provides for a “granular” installation, giving you more control over which options are loaded onto a client desktop.

• More Windows logon options. Some features have yet to be tested extensively by beta users because they depend on companion functions in OS/400 V4R4. However, as V4R4 is installed in more shops, these features represent future directions for IBM’s Client Access family.

What Client Access features are not included in Express client?

Because Express client is a more streamlined product, IBM has removed a number of features that are still available in Client Access for Windows 95/NT V3R2. In addition to the removal of 16-bit applications, here are some other Windows 95/NT client features not implemented in Express client:

• NS/Router, the AS/400 Connections program, and the AS/400 Connections icon. Express client connections are accomplished directly from the applications to your AS/400 through standard Microsoft TCP/IP connectivity methods. Because it is a TCP/IP-only product, Express client can eliminate these functions.

• Network drives and network printing. If you need to use network drives and network printing, they are still available through IBM’s free AS/400 NetServer feature. AS/400 NetServer uses the industry-standard Server Message Block (SMB) protocol to provide network drive mapping and network printer sharing for Windows users. To decrease Express client’s desktop footprint and use Windows-standard techniques when dealing with Windows desktops, IBM has chosen this method rather than maintaining a Client Access-specific solution. This change also increases the stability of your Windows desktop by using Microsoft’s networking support instead of Client Access drivers.

• Graphical Access for AS/400. The only terminal emulator included with Express client is PC5250; Graphical Access will no longer be offered.

• Communications Console program. This feature is being replaced by the AS/400 Operations Console program.

• Some Windows 95/NT client APIs. These include SNA-specific APIs (EHNAPPC_.../EHNDT_..., CPI-C), network print APIs (cwbNP_...), and license management APIs (LS...).

Except where noted in this article, there are no replacements in Express client for these features. If you have applications that are dependent on these functions, you still need to install the Windows 95/NT client to run those applications.

I’ve heard IBM is dropping PC5250 printer emulation in Express client. Is this true?

No. This is the result of people misunderstanding the difference between printer emulation and network printing. Printer emulation is using a locally attached PC printer as an AS/400 printer. This scenario is what you set up when you configure a PC5250 printer emulation session; you print your AS/400-generated spool files to a PC or network printer. If you are using network printing, you print a PC application printout, such as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, to an AS/400 output queue attached logically to a printer on your network, regardless of whether that printer is an AS/400 printer or a remote printer on another system. Network printing “prints” your network-based PC application printouts to a networked printer courtesy of your AS/400, while printer emulation allows you to print your AS/400-based spool files on a networked PC printer.

Express client is dropping Client Access’ network printing support in favor of AS/400 NetServer. However, PC5250 printer emulation is not being replaced; it will still be available in Express client.

Can Express client and the Windows 95/NT client coexist on the same machine?

No. If you install Express client on a machine already using Client Access for Windows 95/NT, Express client will automatically remove your Windows 95/NT client before installation. There is also an option for migrating an existing Windows 95/NT client configuration to Express client.

How do I get started with Express client?

Express client was announced formally on February 9, and its projected General Availability date will be in the latter part of May 1999. You can download the beta from the Client Access Web site at www.as400. ibm.com/clientaccess/beta/ express.htm. However, the download contains a number of large files, so if you are using a slow modem link, you will need to plan your downloading accordingly.

After its GA date, Express client will be licensed along the same lines as Client Access for Windows 95/NT. Contact IBM or your sales representative for specific licensing costs. The IBM product number for Express client is 5769-XE1. Express client is a new product that must be ordered separately; it is not an extension of Client Access for Windows 95/NT.

In general, you need an Express client license to use the following features on your Windows desktop:

• PC5250 display and terminal emulation
• PC5250 fonts
• Data transfer between your PC and the AS/400 Every other Express client feature can be installed freely, provided you have an OS/400 license. Although Express client’s version number is V4R4, the software is tested and officially supported on OS/400 V4R2 and higher. Express client may also work with limited functionality on AS/400 systems below V4R2 but is not officially supported by IBM on those systems. If you subscribe to the AS/400 Software Subscription service, you can receive the Express client free of charge with your subscription.

Any other words of advice on moving to the Express client?

Here’s my advice on rolling Express client out to your users:
• Start experimenting with the product, but remember that Express client is a version 1.0 product (although IBM labeled it V4R4). The first beta was stable enough that many people began pressing IBM for an accelerated rollout. The second beta was released in mid-January, and no major problems have been found as of this writing. I have found Express client to be very stable, and my readers have echoed that sentiment. However, because the product is new and not another Windows 95/NT upgrade, there may still be some hidden bugs. Therefore, you should test Express client thoroughly before you roll it out, but there is every indication to believe it will be a stable and valuable product.

• Don’t be in a hurry to migrate to Express client unless you want to and you’re ready. TCP/IP connectivity on the Windows 95/NT client is not going away, so you can pretty much migrate at your leisure. If you’re not upgrading to OS/400 V4R4 immediately, most of the benefits you’ll receive will be in better Windows memory management and increased desktop stability.

• Do an easy migration by using Express client to solve Windows 95/NT client problems first. Start with your problem machines. Many beta users have installed Express client on Client Access for Windows 95/NT computers that were hanging due to Windows- related memory problems. Because Express client has a smaller desktop footprint, it can solve many memory-related issues. The Windows 95/NT client also has a bad reputation when it comes to running on laptops, and Express client can help out there as well. If you can get Express client to behave correctly with your problem machines (where you are already spending a lot of time configuring and reinstalling), there shouldn’t be any problem running it on your well-behaved Windows desktops.

• New AS/400 customers should start off with Express client immediately unless a compatibility problem exists. If you have just purchased a brand-new V4R4 AS/400, proceed immediately to install Express client. If you roll out Express client from the beginning, you can take advantage of OS/400’s new V4R4 features.

• Set up AS/400 NetServer and start replacing your Windows 95/NT client network drives and network printers. If you’re using network drives and network printing in the Windows 95/NT client, start phasing them out by moving them to AS/400 NetServer. Making that change will prepare the way for Express client and better secure your network by patching some of the security holes present with the CA/400 network drives function. Using AS/400 NetServer will also eliminate some of the compatibility problems from your Windows desktops. Please note, however, that you must be on OS/400 V4R2 or above to use AS/400 NetServer.

• If you’re using 16-bit Client Access features or some of the obsolete Client Access APIs not available in Express client, start phasing them out. If you’re planning to move your shop to Express client, revise or rewrite any application dependent on these functions, as they will not work with the new client. This includes 16-bit ODBC and Common Programming Interface-Communications (CPI-C) applications.

• If you’re using Graphical Access for AS/400 as your terminal emulator, start budgeting for a new emulation package when you move to Express client. In Client Access for Windows 95/NT, Graphical Access was a nonlicensed product, which meant that some people used it as their terminal emulator simply to avoid purchasing a Client Access license. Since Graphical Access is not available with Express client, there are no more “free” terminal emulators from IBM (although you can always use the free Windows 95/NT Telnet product) once you move to the new client. If you’re in this situation, you will have to purchase a terminal emulation solution for your users, either in the form of Express client licenses or another third-party emulator. If you want to stay with the SEAGULL GUI, you may want to check out SEAGULL’s J Walk product.

Where can I go to get more information about Express client?

You can download Express client from IBM’s Express client beta web page at www.as400.ibm.com/clientaccess/beta/express.htm. IBM also maintains an Express client FAQ of its own at www.as400. ibm.com/clientaccess/beta/ExpessFAQ.htm. The AS/400 Network Expert newsletter also has been covering Express client, and you can find some recent articles on it in the March/April Web Edition at www.midrangecomputing.com/ane/99/03. In addition, Midrange Computing will be providing more Express client coverage as the product reaches it GA date.

For information about AS/400 NetServer, go to the AS/400 NetServer Web site at www.as400.ibm.com/netserver. This site contains many articles about what AS/400 NetServer is and how to configure and trouble-shoot it.

May I go play with Express client now?

Yes. Go and enjoy. Express client is an exciting new product that solves many existing Client Access for Windows 95/NT problems while adding valuable new functionality to IBM’s Client Access family. With that in mind, I encourage you to begin experimenting with it and start rolling it out at your own pace.

Other Related Reading

“The Express Client: The First Away Team Always Gets Eaten by Aliens,” AS/400 Network Expert, March/April 1999 “It’s Here! IBM Announces the Express Client with OS/400 V4R4,” AS/400 Network Expert, March/April 1999

“The New Client Access Product: IBM AS/400 Client Access Express for Windows,” Client Access/400 Expert, November/ December 1998

“What Happens to the Client Access/400 for Windows 95/NT Client Now?” Client Access/400 Expert, November/December 1998

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