Resolving Rumors: Will IBM Rewrite OpsNav to Pure Java?

IT Infrastructure - Other
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

One of the more persistent stories being circulated throughout the AS/400 world is that IBM has definitely decided to totally rewrite the AS/400 Operations Navigator (OpsNav) interface to Java within the next few years. While there are some obvious benefits to this approach, including the ability to control your AS/400 through a Web browser, the answer to the question “Will IBM rewrite OpsNav to Pure Java?” is not as clear-cut as you might think.

To clarify what’s happening, I discussed this question with IBM. Here’s the situation as I understand it.

1. IBM has developed a set of good XML-based tools to create new applications in Java, and IBM is already using these tools for future development. Because OpsNav is totally compatible with Java, including Java plug-ins, a lot of the development for new OpsNav features is being done in Java. As a matter of fact, the Virtual Private Network (VPN) component of OpsNav is the first component to be totally written in Java. So a migration of sorts is already happening, and many new components are being written in Java.

2. IBM is weighing a total Java rewrite against the need for OpsNav to fulfill its primary mission. OpsNav’s mission is to provide a GUI for managing your AS/400. Many features still need to be ported from the green-screen to the OpsNav GUI. IBM is reluctant to undertake a major project to rewrite existing code when new functionality still needs to be added to the product to provide parity with green-screen commands.

3. Rewriting the existing OpsNav C++ code to Java is a major undertaking. A number of IBM people have told me that OpsNav consists of about 1 million lines of C++ code. Any effort to recast this code in Java would be a major undertaking that would require a few years to accomplish. Porting OpsNav to Java is not something that can be done overnight, and, as I mentioned, the rewrite would detract from IBM’s primary mission for OpsNav.

4. IBM is examining this possibility. Rewriting OpsNav to Java is an incredibly attractive option because it automatically provides AS/400 management functionality from any desktop (Macintosh, UNIX, Linux, IBM Network Stations, etc.) that contains a Java Virtual Machine (JVM).

In addition, because OpsNav can also accommodate Java plug-ins, OpsNav is a great environment for deploying company- and vendor-written Java-based business applications so that you can eliminate 5250-style green-screen access for your users. (For more information on this capability, see “Exploiting Operations Navigator’s Plug-In Power,” MC, June 1999.) Being able to export an entire AS/400 client/server environment to any desktop is very attractive, so the total rewrite option is definitely under consideration. Is IBM thinking about doing this? You bet.

Given these considerations, here’s my best take on the situation. IBM sees the value in totally rewriting OpsNav to a pure Java product and is actively considering doing that. However, IBM also understands that—if it decided to rewrite all of OpsNav’s features to Java today—a total rewrite would affect its ability to finish the porting of all AS/400 management features to OpsNav, which is IBM’s first priority. As a result, there are no committed plans to rewrite OpsNav to a pure Java product at this time. This doesn’t mean IBM won’t budget for such an undertaking sometime soon. It merely means that it is not in the plans today.

On the plus side, however, IBM has the tools, the architecture, and the motivation to implement any number of new OpsNav features in pure Java. In fact, it’s already doing so with some modules, and I expect this trend to continue. OpsNav is completely flexible in this regard, and, if and when IBM decides to do the total rewrite, it will have the tools, expertise, and experience to do it with.

So, will IBM rewrite OpsNav to pure Java? From my research, it seems like everyone considers it a great idea, and IBM is definitely positioning itself for this possibility, but IBM needs to resolve some other issues before a rewrite can occur. The OpsNav Java rewrite is not in IBM’s plans today, but don’t rule it out sometime in the future.


“Exploiting Operations Navigator’s Plug-in Power,” Doug Petty, MC, June 1999

Related materials

• AS/400 Operations Navigator home page:
• AS/400 Operations Navigator Plug-in Support Web page:
• AS/400 Operations Navigator Plug-in Support White Paper:
• “OpsNav: New York-to-L.A. Enormous,” Joe Hertvik, MC (Web Edition), May 1999,