Raz-Lee Security appears to have broken the code on remote data access, making it simple enough for any user to seamlessly access data on any remote data store.
Raz-Lee Security is now offering, for a limited time, a free trial of its remote database access product DB-Gate. The new product, announced two weeks ago, appears to solve one of the longstanding impediments to companies keeping the IBM i at the center of their computing universe—access to non-DB2 databases.
Raz-Lee assigned several developers to work on the problem for about a year and finally solved the puzzle, according to Shmuel Zailer, Raz-Lee CEO. The result is a solution that provides transparent, direct IBM i client-only access to non-DB2 databases including Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, and more than 25 others.
DB-Gate installs on the IBM i server and requires no middleware or other software on the remote database server. The user uses standard SQL statements and commands to access data on the remote server, run queries, and update records.
"DB-Gate opens foreign databases and data sources to full access from the i, which, in the current world of heterogeneous data access and cloud access, is of ever-increasing importance," Zailer said during a live Webinar last week. He pointed out that the solution "positions the i on a level equal to all other operating systems as the hub for application-related data requests, ensuring the continued and increasing use of the i in coming years."
Asked how the company came to develop such a solution, Zailer said they were searching for a way for the Raz-Lee security products to access data on other systems. Investigating if there already was an existing solution, they did find several others, but most were a bit cumbersome, he said. IBM has made access to DB2 data on IBM i from external databases a snap. And it is relatively easy to define and use another DB2 database on a remote system. But it is extremely difficult to connect natively to Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Access, PostgreSQL, MySQL, and other non-IBM databases from IBM i.
IT shops use a variety of convoluted schemes to get the job done—from batch FTP uploads, to complex software written on a per-case basis providing a real-time connection, to solutions that require an intermediate server, such as the somewhat pricey Oracle Access Manager that does provide remote access but only to Oracle databases.
In November 2010, I wrote an article for MC TNT Tips and Techniques titled "German Programmer Devises Novel Way to Access Any Remote DB from IBM i" in which I described how programmer Dieter Bender overcame the same problem of remote access from IBM i with his ArdGate solution. Bender donated the solution to the open-source community.
ProData, originator of the venerable DBU database utility, has another solution the company calls RDB Connect that is a collection of commands and functions that allow record-level access to remote data using RPG, COBOL, or CL. The user uses RDB Connect APIs to execute SQL queries to access the remote data.
Author and RPG programmer Scott Klement also has a solution in which he uses JDBC and Java drivers with RPG to access a remote database using SQL statements.
Zailer acknowledges these other methods do effectively provide remote access from IBM i but says that DB-Gate is much simpler to install, far easier to use, and has fewer limitations. The solution also streamlines certain necessary functions in the process that make it easier for everyday users to access these remote databases. One of them is the use of IBM Server Authentication System, which automatically passes the user's name and password to the remote database, creating a type of single sign-on (SSO) environment that helps make access to the other databases seamless. (DB-Gate, however, limits the username and password to 10 characters.) What's more, the solution uses the standard relational DB directory entry (RDBDIRE) to identify each database or data store. On the security side, it supports Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for secure data transfers.
DB-Gate relies on drivers for the various databases it wants to access. Some of these drivers are better than others, Zailer notes. Some are free, while others must be purchased—such as for MS Access. Meanwhile, Raz-Lee is in the process of writing a few new drivers for common databases, such as Excel, where the company believes the existing free driver is inadequate, says Zailer.
"DB-Gate is probably the most important IBM i announcement in a long time," Zailer said in a statement. "It allows a company to use its existing knowledge and programmers to facilitate distributed access."