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Are You Ready for Apache?

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Barring unforeseen circumstances, IBM is planning on making the iSeries implementation of the ubiquitous Apache HTTP Server available in December of this year. Apache HTTP Server will be able to run alongside the existing HTTP server on your iSeries system. For those of you familiar with Apache Server, you’re probably wondering what IBM has changed to allow it to integrate with the iSeries. For those of you unfamiliar with Apache Server, a little background is in order.


What Is Apache?


Apache Server, developed in 1995, came out of a desire by a group of eight individuals, who collaborated over the Internet, to provide bug fixes and improvements to the public domain HTTP server. These eight people formed the Apache Group (now the Apache Software Foundation). Basically, what they did was compile all the bug fixes and enhancements made by users nationwide, integrate them into the existing public domain HTTP server, test it on their own personal systems, and then release the code to the Internet community as the Apache Server.

Over time, the Apache Software Foundation has accepted proposals for enhancements, bug fixes, and other improvements from the user community and then integrated those changes into subsequent releases of Apache Server. The important point to note here is that Apache Server started out as an open source project and remains an open source project to this day. This means, among other things, that anyone can submit requests for enhancements to the Foundation and have just as much chance of having his changes implemented as anyone else.

Since its first release in 1995, this UNIX-based tool has become the most widely used HTTP server on the Internet. IBM recognized the strategic importance of Apache Server a few years ago and has been working with the Foundation to allow IBM to port Apache Server to the iSeries and modify it as needed to work with the iSeries architecture. IBM will finally (next month) release an iSeries implementation of Apache Server for you to take advantage of. But what does Apache Server mean for you on the iSeries?


Apache for iSeries


One of the benefits you’ll see in using Apache Server is that your iSeries will now be using an industry-standard HTTP server. This will make integrating your Web-based business

much easier, since you can now share HTTP configurations among all of your systems (including those cruddy old UNIX systems you have hanging around) without extensive modifications. This is something you couldn’t do with the current HTTP server on the iSeries. Because Apache is an industry standard, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of future enhancements from the user community to this open source code. It also means that you will be working with the only version of HTTP server enhanced by IBM.

IBM is planning on keeping the current HTTP server around for the foreseeable future but certainly not forever. In fact, once Apache Server is released, there will be a drive to encourage iSeries users to migrate their current HTTP configurations to Apache. And you know how IBM encourages you to move from one product to another, don’t you? It drops support on the old product and eventually phases it out of the operating system altogether. Before this happens, you should look into migrating your current HTTP server configurations. To help with this task, IBM will be releasing migration tools with the Apache Server. Be warned, however, that IBM is already saying that a considerable amount of work may be required to migrate complex HTTP configurations to Apache.


What’s Supported?


IBM has enhanced Apache for the iSeries in several ways. Here’s what’s supported in the iSeries implementation of Apache Server: user profiles; validation lists; Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) client certificates used with user profiles and validation lists; native SSL support; considerable code page conversions (EBCDIC support) and Common Gateway Interface (CGI) conversion modes; additional tracing support for TCP; a new browser- based GUI interface for the Apache configuration; Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) directory storing of configuration files for users; support for CGIs written in RPG, COBOL, and REXX; support for CGIs in Portable Application Solutions Environment (PASE); prestarted CGI jobs; integration with STRCTPSVR and ENDTCPSVR commands; support for archiving log files (including DDS format); Native Language System (NLS) enablement and future enhancements; support for dynamic local memory cache; denial-of-service detection and prevention; Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) subagent; support for the WebDAV protocol; support for all iSeries file systems; persistent CGI; configuration and group file APIs; high availability and hot backup; and much more.


Get Ready


Apache Server is coming and one day will be the only HTTP server available for iSeries. However, in the meantime, you will still be able to run the current HTTP server alongside Apache server. This should allow you to make a smooth, gradual migration to Apache. In the coming months, there will be more information available on iSeries Apache Server. Until then, you may want to learn more about Apache Server on your own and perhaps even download a copy to run on your PC to see how it works. While the version you download from the Foundation’s Web site won’t have all of the same functionality as the iSeries Apache Server, its configuration will be pretty much the same. In any event, the version will give you a good feel for how it’ll be configured on your iSeries system. For more information and a free download of the Apache Server, point your browser to www.apache.org

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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