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Thinking About Putting Your AS/400 on the Internet?

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So anyway, the cop sees a guy run a red light. The cop spins his car around and pulls the guy over. As the car ahead of him maneuvers to the side of the road, the cop sees the driver hurriedly pull his seat belt on. When the cop walks up to the car, he says to the driver, “I’m going to have to cite you for running a red light and for driving without a seat belt.” The man bellows at the cop, “Not wearing a seat belt? What do you call this?” and shakes the belt at the officer. The cop says, “Listen, I’m not going to argue with you. Let’s just ask the lady riding with you.” The cop leans down and speaks to the lady in the passenger seat. “Ma’am, was this fellow wearing his seat belt the whole time he was driving, or did he just now put it on?” The woman looks the cop square in the eye and says, “Officer, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 30 years of marriage to this man, it’s that you don’t argue with him when he’s drunk.”

It’s Expensive!

How many times have you asked a question only to get a completely unexpected answer like that? While it may not happen very often, those times when it does can really knock your socks off. That’s what happened to a friend of mine recently when he asked one of his employees to research the cost of getting a 24/7 dedicated Internet connection to put an AS/400 on the Internet.

My friend’s company leases two Model 150s and one Model 170 each month for about $150 to $200 each. These AS/400s have to be moved when they are needed for a software demonstration somewhere or when a particular employee is working from home on a project. This company was looking for a solution that would let it consolidate all of its development onto one box that could be shared by any employee via the Internet. It also wanted to create an Internet presence that would let its customers learn more about it as well as be able to download software PTFs. And since it is a loyal AS/400 shop, it was looking to use the AS/400 to build as much of this Internet presence as possible. My friend figured it’d probably be fairly expensive because the site where he wanted the 24/7 connection was basically starting from scratch in terms of hardware and software. He just didn’t have any idea how expensive.


He discovered the total initial cost for building a 24/7 Internet-capable shop ranged from a low of about $9,000 all the way up to a high of about $20,000. Of course, this amount wasn’t simply for the 24/7 Internet connection; it included all of the fees and other sundry equipment that the ISPs and telephone companies had recommended he purchase, such as a new server, firewall, and router. To say he was shocked would be an understatement.

Let me itemize some of the features and fees quoted by the vendors. Keep in mind that not all of these items and services were in every quote. And not every feature my friend considered is listed here. However, this should give you a pretty good idea of what comparable services will cost, should you be thinking about creating a similar Web presence:

• T1 line—$1,000 to $1,300 startup fee

• ISDN line—$375 startup fee

• Router—$600

• New telephone equipment—$8,000 to $15,000 (This piece wasn’t required for Internet access but was suggested by the telephone company to bring the old system up to current standards.)

• New Microsoft Windows NT Server—$3,000 to $5,000 (This optional piece was so the company wouldn’t have to worry about exposing its development AS/400 to the Internet.)

• Connection fees (ISP and telephone company)—$500 to $1,000

• Consulting services to configure router, firewall, phone system, etc.—$2,000 to $4,000

That’s a lot of bucks to spend! After evaluating these costs, my friend decided that his company didn’t really need to have its AS/400 on the Internet. He could continue to pay the monthly leasing fee for all three boxes and still come out ahead. And he found his company could still have a Web presence by using a Web hosting service, which turned out to be a whole lot cheaper (about $20 to $100 per month!). The main services and features his company wanted to offer clients and potential clients (i.e., a Web presence, a place to learn about company activities and news, and a place to download software PTFs) could be handled by the Web hosting provider that rented them space on its server. And since no database transactions such as queries were required for what it wanted to accomplish, the company decided that there really was no point in putting its AS/400 on the Internet.

Time for a Decision

There are a lot of companies out there chomping at the bit to get on the Web. The perceived value of having a presence on the Internet is, in many cases, outweighing common sense. If you are a typical AS/400 development shop that doesn’t really have any products or services that need to be served from your AS/400, ask yourself if you really need to connect your system to the ’net. If you feel you need the exposure provided by the Web, why not look into a Web hosting provider instead? Use the right tool for the job.

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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