New aXes-Robot APIs provide batch access to 5250 programs.
You have a farm of IBM i servers with a collection of outdated hardware, highly customized applications, and an impatient management team that would just as easily scrap you and your colleagues along with the jumble of wires that only you understand. What to do? Go to the cloud—the cloud gateway, that is.
The latest version of aXes from LANSA has introduced a novel concept that can practically put lipstick on a pig—aXes-Cloud. No offense, but if you have a data center filled with stuff that even your boss is scoffing at but, embarrassingly, happens to run the entire company, you may want to consider a private cloud.
aXes originally was introduced as a screen-rendering solution for 5250 applications to convert the green-screen output to a simple and attractive GUI. That was a couple of years ago. Today, aXes has grown into this sweet suite of tools that can perform an amazing number of feats up to and including automating your data entry tasks through aXes-Robot to eliminate the need for manual entry.
aXes-Cloud is a way to Web-enable multiple IBM i servers regardless of their age or location and, commensurately, facilitate application serving for SaaS-based hosting environments. LANSA describes aXes-Cloud as an "extension" to aXes that provides all of the features of aXes to multiple computers and applications from a single installation on a cloud gateway server to users anywhere who have access to a browser—including those using mobile devices.
If that sounds a little scary from the standpoint of security, it probably isn't. aXes-Cloud uses end-to-end encryption from the user device to the cloud gateway and to the connected servers. While there always is a risk of intrusion when connecting to a network or the Internet, LANSA is well aware of these risks and has built the product to address them. For instance, it does not use Telnet or require that Telnet ports be opened, and it only uses HTTP ports for HTTP over TSL/SSL, or HTTPs.
There are three configurations of the aXes-Cloud the company envisions at the moment—the aXes Private Cloud, the aXes Public Cloud, and the Software-as-a-Service Cloud. Each has a slightly different configuration, but, in essence, you install a single instance of the aXes-Cloud software on a single IBM i cloud gateway server that sits between the user and the application servers. This cloud server could be a new machine, but it doesn't have to be. It could be a partition on an existing server or virtual server.
A new machine, however, offers the advantage of being able to gradually migrate applications onto it over time. aXes-Cloud provides browser access to all your IBM i applications without having to install new software on the application servers or change any of the applications. The aXes software then connects users to their desired or assigned IBM i applications that might be spread over a series of other servers. The cloud gateway can be appealing to companies running versions of OS/400 that pre-date V5R3, preventing them from installing aXes on an application server. Running aXes-Cloud would require at least one copy of the OS that was a later version, and the idea is that by installing one new server you can avoid having to update several older ones.
For the private cloud, users might employ a virtual private network to access the cloud gateway that in turn is connected to the application servers. This would give them access to all the applications and servers the company is running, and they could access those applications from a variety of devices, including mobile ones. This presents advantages to the administrator as well, since now you can access and control the administration of the servers from a remote location. Think the beach, or remember that fishing season is close at hand.
The aXes Public Cloud was envisioned primarily for hosting service providers and offers an easy way for them to provide browser access to 5250 applications. Service providers can even offer aXes as a service to customers to facilitate Web-enabling their applications. The customer may not be able to replace the application because it is highly customized or because they don't have the source code. The customer may have funds to support operational expenses but none for capital expenses, so the service provider can offer modernization services using aXes, including functional upgrades with aXes eXtensions that can introduce features such as drop-downs, group boxes, images, hyperlinks, lines, and simple boxes as well as hiding and enhancing screen content.
The aXes Sofware-as-a-Service Cloud provides the tools to allow ISVs to offer their packaged application software to their customers as a service. The ISV uses the Cloud Gateway to install the aXes cloud computing software and then has instances of their application on one or more IBM i servers. The advantage, of course, is that now their IBM i application is Web-enabled and browser-based so they don't have to redesign the otherwise green-screen application and can extend its life without programming.
The new version of aXes also offers new features to aXes Data Explorer, its DB2 query tool that allows you to build, run, and save queries against DB2 databases from a browser. You can query DB2 tables, print the results, and even copy them into Excel. The tool actually generates SQL code that retrieves data from the database, but if you wish to extend the SQL code, or write it from scratch, you may. Customers and business partners can now access the information they need through a browser.
aXes Spooled File Manager gives the administrator full control of output queues and spool files with all the functionality of the IBM queue and spool commands from anywhere using a browser, the Internet, or a local area network. It even allows you to convert spool files to PDF and HTML as well as text. The point-and-click Web user interface greatly simplifies spool file management.
One new aXes module, which is really a trio of APIs, is aXes-Robot. The module provides a means of automating data entry, using a Web service to retrieve data from a 5250 application, or using a 5250 application from your ASP .NET Web site. The APIs—one each for .NET, Java, and RPG—which are suitable for programmers with different skill sets, provide a wide range of automation and application integration through batch processing. They can solve the challenge of integrating 5250 applications with new applications by providing an integration interface that allows new applications to use 5250 applications to retrieve or update data without the source code.
aXes has come a long way since its introduction a couple of years ago, and LANSA's investment in the product suite shows a commitment to helping solve today's legacy integration and modernization challenges.
as/400, os/400, iseries, system i, i5/os, ibm i, power systems, 6.1, 7.1, V7, V6R1