How many of you are doing client-server computing? I asked members of a users group I visited recently. Only a couple of hands were raised. What about connecting Client Access/400 to your users desktops? I wondered. More hands were raised, but further investigation revealed that most were using Windows 3.11 and RUMBA. OS/2? One member had two OS/2 clients. Three still had users running DOS Extended. What about Windows 95? I asked. Lo and behold, the majority was still not using the Windows 95 client. Any Java programmers out there? I wondered. To my surprise, someone said, Yes. Were doing active development with Java, but not on the AS/400 yet!
Real Client Access/400 users have a life that isnt all Windows 95/NT, ActiveX, Java, VisualAge, or whatever. Real Client Access/400 users just have real business problems.
If my local user group is any measure, true client/server computing still is not a cost-effective solution for major application development. There are too many solutions, from too many vendors, with no clear pathway that leads to the future. IBM offers so many different methods of performing client/server computing on the AS/400 that just researching the options takes more time than these professionals can afford. Microsoft provides good client/server access through Visual Basic and SNA Server, but these users are reluctant to invest in the Microsoft proprietary solution. For them, the Windows platform changes too quickly to sink big dollars into swampy soil. The result is a wait-andsee attitude. Until they can convince management that theyre making a wise investment, client/server application development is a go-slow process.
With Windows 98 looming on the horizon, these companies still rely on Windows
3.11 and DOS. Windows 95 is still considered too unstable and too expensive for general consumption in the workplace.
Windows NT is out of the question. Connecting to the AS/400 with the advanced features of Client Access/400 Windows 95/NT clients will be a project that extends out over the next few years.
All of these users are interested in TCP/IP, the Web, Java, and the future of client/server computing on the AS/400. All acknowledge that their companies are far from the bleeding-edge. Their jobs are to build networks and applications that work to management specifications, not to be beta testers for IBM, Microsoft, NetSoft, and Sun Microsystems. Show us how, they say. Well see if it will work for us.
With this in mind, heres a group of how-to pieces that show three different methods of AS/400 client/server computing. People like you, people who are in the trenches implementing hands-on client/server technology, write these articles. All of the client/server articles are designed to demonstrate the capacity of the AS/400 to deliver high- performance program-to-program communication.
If youlike a lot of peoplestill have DOS workstations, youll want to check out Bill Hansens piece of setting up virtual printers for the DOS Extended client. It demonstrates that DOS and the AS/400 still have a very powerful relationship.
All told, I think youll find this issue to be aimed precisely at the real Client Access/400 world in which were living. The Email, Pointers, and Advice section is in response to the questions you have been asking. Though Im still running behind on my email responses, Im steadily investigating and answering as many emails as I can.
Meanwhile, up in the clouds, the battles continue between Microsoft and Sun Microsystems over the importance of the Java language. As of today, Microsoft has stripped support for Java applets from its Web servers and Internet Explorer 4.0 browser. Gates is suggesting that he might recant if Sun Microsystems gives up its proprietary interest in the Java Virtual Machine so that it can become an ISO standard. Fat chance, responds Sun, just as soon as Microsoft gives up the Windows API! Java already is a de facto standard! All this makes interesting copy in the PC press, and of course it makes you wonder who is going to win: Microsoft or Sun. Like Daedalus in the ancient Greek myth, it seems that Bill Gates is intent on flying Windows ActiveX technology to the highest of heights. But the Internet is still a new enormous environment for Microsoft, with many non-Microsoft platforms (including the AS/400) supporting the development of the Java Virtual Machine. These non-Windows players are quite pleased that Java is providing heterogeneous cross-platform interoperability. They dont want to lose Microsoft from their ranks of Java enablers, but they dont want to end up like Apple, forced to supplicate to the NT operating system. Its an interesting soap opera, easily whipped up by the PC press into consumable news bytes: Gates Flies Too Close to Sun! will be the headline, or vise versa.
Im interested in whats going on up there in the clouds, but Im much more concerned with whats going on in your shop. Send me an email; let me know whats going on. No matter who wins the war, we still have a job to do, and thats what Client Access/400 Expert is really about.