TechTalk: You have plenty of options for remote TCP/IP connections.

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Q: We're preparing to upgrade to V3R1 of OS/400 and would like to move away from Client Access. From what I've read in MC, TCP/IP seems like a practical alternative. We don't use anything terribly sophisticated, mostly terminal emulation. I recognize that I'm probably going to have to purchase TN5250 emulation products, for example. However, we do have users who dial up to the AS/400 from remote sites. Do you have any suggestions about how to handle that situation in a TCP/IP environment?

- Servando Lopez

A: The good news is that you have a lot of options. The bad news is that you have to pick from this wealth of alternatives. IBM's Client Access, as of V3R1M1, runs over TCP/IP, but I'll count that out since you said you were considering moving away from Client Access. TCP/IP is a LAN/WAN protocol, so you need to have some method for dialing up to your LAN. For example, at Midrange Computing, we have a PC running Windows NT Server.

People working offsite can dial up to our server using TCP/IP and access both the servers on the LAN and the AS/400s. Windows NT is acting as a software gateway of sorts. There are also hardware options. These "black boxes" plug into your LAN and support various communications alternatives such as frame relay.

If your environment is such that this is practical, you might consider hooking your AS/400 to the Internet and having your remote sites dial up to an Internet service provider that is local to their area. This may save you some money on long-distance or leased-line charges. The biggest concern is whether you can secure your AS/400 both to your own level of satisfaction and also to your auditor's.

What I've described is just the tip of the iceberg. There are almost as many solutions for remote TCP/IP connectivity as there are LANs. Best of all, these solutions are often surprisingly inexpensive.

- Jim Hoopes