With the February announcement of V4R2, IBM has confirmed the true magnitude of version 4. The V4R1 announcement was a mere appetizer. This is the main course! In this brief, I'll give you an overview of the software-related highlights of V4R2. I'll discuss the new Web-centric features of the AS/400, the extensions of OS/400, and the new languages and applications available to midrange programmers. In addition, I'll try to show the strategic importance of this historic announcement (see Figure 1 for upgrade parameters).
Never have so many completely new technologies been added to the AS/400 bag of tricks in one fell swoop. This announcement is undoubtedly the flashiest event in AS/400 history. Version 4 is packed with features and capabilities that allow the AS/400 to more than compete in today's server market-they make the AS/400 superior. V4R2 includes four developments that should change the way the AS/400 is both perceived and used:
o Native support for Lotus Domino
o A robust Net.Commerce e-business package
o A built-in Java Virtual Machine (JVM) optimized for the AS/400 but still 100 percent pure Java (see http://www.ibm.com/java)
o True Windows NT capability running on the Integrated PC Server (IPCS)
And these are only the sexiest of a multitude of new features. Wow!
The V4R2 announcement brings a level of flexibility, scalability, and plain raw computing power to the AS/400 that would have been inconceivable a few short years ago.
Native Lotus Domino support brings the world's most popular groupware to the AS/400 (see "Technology Spotlight: Using Groupware to Build Bridges," MC, September 1997). Although separately priced and installed, these Domino components give the AS/400 some totally new capabilities:
o Domino Version 4.6
o Notespump 2.5 (a data trans-fer engine)
o LotusScript scripting language including LotusScript Extensions (LSX) toolkit
o Domino's unique partitioning capabilities (up to 16 servers running in separate partitions)
o Integrated mail services via Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP)
o The world's best messaging system
Although it's far from clear how the AS/400 market will embrace Domino, having up to 16 independent servers scalable to thousands of clients (a number that's based on the Notesbench performance benchmark) adds a whole new perspective to AS/400 data integration.
It's obvious that IBM wants the AS/400 to become synonymous with e-business, and the company's not shirking its promise to give us the tools to make a profit on the Web.
IBM didn't neglect the basic infrastructure of e-business in V4R2. Several TCP/IP enhancements to improve and simplify the basis of Web communications have been announced:
o TCP/IP Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) for automatic workstation configuration
o TCP/IP Domain Name System (DNS)-finally, a global naming service!
o TCP/IP Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) and ISDN for improved Internet communications
o SOCKS client support for firewalled sockets communications
o TCP/IP routing (RIP Version 2) with enhanced TCP/IP performance
Along with improved HTTP APIs, V4R2 includes an integrated firewall, improved encryption and authentication capabilities, and NetQuestion (intranet search engine). Finally, Net.Commerce gives the AS/400 a powerful and flexible template for really making a profit on the Web. It provides a complete electronic storefront/catalog that can be used in conjunction with secure payment applications and other AS/400 enhancements to start doing e-business today.
And then there's the sweet aroma of Java wafting over the AS/400. With V4R2, not only are we getting a JVM that's integrated below the machine interface (MI), but we're also provided with the AS/400 Developer Kit for Java based on Sun's Java Development Kit (JDK) 1.1.4 (http://www.java.sun.com/) and the AS/400 Toolbox for Java-all for free!
The JVM implementation in OS/400 is leveraged to take advantage of the AS/400's unique 64- bit RISC architecture using a "Java Transformer" (direct execution compiler), that lets OS/400 run Java applications (byte codes) faster than most other platforms, without sacrificing Java's portability (although the machine objects aren't portable, the byte code is). Although technical details on this Java Class Transformer are sparse, it somehow performs a type of "verification"
that transforms Java byte codes directly to native 64-bit instructions, improving application performance. Even with the transformer, there's still plenty of room for improvement in Java efficiency, and IBM plans on a continuing effort to maximize Java performance on the AS/400 in the next year.
The AS/400 Toolbox for Java includes a set of AS/400-specific Java classes that provide access to DB2/400, message queues, printing facilities, and the IFS file system. VisualAge for Java and the AS/400 Toolbox are designed to jumpstart integrated Java development on the AS/400 (see "Client/Server Application Development with Java," MC, January 1998).
Although not officially included in this release, IBM plans on providing developers with selected components of the San Francisco Project (http://www.ibm.com/java/sanfrancisco) including a framework of e-business applications written in Java. Beta testing should continue throughout the summer, and the San Francisco Project Frameworks will be included in V4R3 sometime during the third quarter. With mature enterprise frameworks, business ledgers, and order/warehouse management, San Francisco could be a true application enabler for the AS/400 Java initiative. The AS/400 Division's Java strategy depends on Business Partners (BPs) buying in to concrete development goals, but, whatever the outcome, IBM has certainly thrown its full weight behind the marriage of Java and OS/400, and it will continue to pursue this path through its next series of releases.
The integration of Windows NT (purchasable from a Microsoft reseller) with the AS/400 has to be one of the most radical but sought-after developments that has hit this platform since its inception. It wasn't even conceivable a few years ago. Realizing that most of its customers, as a matter of course, had to have some type of network installed (usually NT-driven), IBM acceded to popular demand-a standard Windows NT 4.0 Server on the IPCS has become a reality. Up to 16 separate file, print, firewall, or spare servers can now be configured to run on the AS/400 IPCS (each server runs on a separate IPCS). For instance, if you want to use all 16 IPCS cards, you can configure 14 NT servers and one firewall, and still have a hot spare. A set of integration programs (chargeable) and device drivers provide integrated operations and user administration, including shared disk, tape, and CD-ROM devices. An internal high-speed TCP/IP LAN connection provides secure backup of combined AS/400 and NT data. Up to 14 storage spaces (between 1 and 8 GB each with maximum of 112 GB) can be created and linked to each IPCS, and this space enjoys the same protection (mirroring, checksum, RAID 5) as normal AS/400 external storage. Since the sharing of disk space and peripherals between servers leverages both device investments and system reliability, this melding of IBM and Microsoft looks mutually beneficial.
Although it will take some time to see if IBM can pull this marriage off, pairing the AS/400's strengths in availability, recoverability, security, and reliability with NT's obvious networking prowess is a bold move. I'm betting this is going to be a win/win situation. After all, combining the most secure, reliable computer in the world with the most popular, if quirky, networking software may just fix the inherent deficiencies in both.
OK, I've given you the delicacies, now I'll serve up some of the meat and potatoes that come with the V4R2 announcement. Referential integrity (RI) and referential constraints were introduced to the AS/400 with V3R1, allowing us to implement business rules in the DB2/400 database at the file and record level. V4R2 brings this trend to its logical conclusion: data
validation and business rule application at the row and column level using check constraints.
Although check constraints can't reference values in other rows or tables, they ensure that the columns in a single database record (only single member files are currently allowed) contain valid data.
Using the new *CHKCST (check constraint) type in the Add Physical File Constraint (ADDPFCST) command, you can now add a check constraint on a field that enforces one or more business rules, including its relationship to other fields. Although conflicting constraints can be configured, with proper design considerations, this new feature has the potential to save hours of application programming time by integrating business rules into the database design. The rules will be enforced on record insertion, update, and deletion (on Parent Tables whose RI constraint rule is Set Default or Set Null). Check constraints will have an SQL interface, be saved with the table object, and be maintained similarly to RI constraints. With more than 300 combined constraints (RI, Check, Unique, and Primary Key) available to each table, business rules can be applied directly to the database as never before.
Not only does V4R2 now have column-level constraints, but it also provides a new way to control column-level security using SQL statements (GRANT and REVOKE). Currently, logical files, SQL views, and stored procedures for ODBC can control security below the table level, but all require extra programming and are not enforced on all interfaces. The new method provides a flexible method of controlling update and reference authority at the column level (authority control to read the column is not yet supported). Using the GRANT SQL statement, users are given UPDATE and SELECT authority to only those columns they need to access. Primarily performed to screen update operations, column-level security can be displayed using the Display Object Authority (DSPOBJAUT) command, which has a new method of access (the F16 key) to show user authorities to each field in a file. Both check constraints and column-level security can easily be integrated into applications by monitoring for new messages that indicate when a business rule is broken or when an unauthorized user tries to access protected fields. Although restoring a user profile will not restore column-level rights, they are recreated when the private object authorities are reactivated (a CPD5031 message is issued if the object and column authorities become out of sync).
Aficionados of SQL will be pleased with DB2/400 support of stored procedures written purely in SQL. If you have an ILE C compiler with SQL installed, you can now use an SQL stored procedure to create a C program object using the Create SQL ILE C Object (CRTSQLCI) command or the Create Program (CRTPGM) command (I guess we RPG jockeys are now C programmers!). Many new SQL constructs have been introduced with V4R2:
o A mechanism to access system functions and APIs from an SQL stored procedure
o Execution paths based on multiple cases
o An enhanced FOR statement that can execute a statement for each row of a table with direct column access
o Improved loop/leave statement execution
o Improved error handling, including condition declaration
o An SQL CAST function that allows changing values from one data type to another
Dynamic SQL, the CASE construct, and a connect for Distributed Relational Database Architecture (DRDA) processing are now allowed in the SQL stored procedures. Finally, IBM has continued its refinement of SQL performance by significantly cutting insert time, optimizing date data type calculations, and adding a systemwide SQL cache.
Several database performance enhancements have been announced in V4R2, including a parallel index build on the SQL Create Index and Create Logical File (CRTLF) commands (this cuts by two thirds the time required to do an index build over a huge table on a 12-way system). A new feature of DB2/400 will allow the index optimizer to use multiple indexes on a single table.
A new data load utility for loading files from external servers should be useful in data warehousing. It has the ability to load exported data into DB2/400 files in parallel when the DB2 symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) is installed.
IBM hasn't forgotten to keep adding features to enhance the AS/400's reputation of rock-solid dependability. The Save-While-Active ability of OS/400 has been expanded to run when the Clear Physical File Member (CLRPFM), Add Physical File Member (ADDPFM), and Remove Member (RMVM) operations are executing. Support for generic library names and omit options have been added to Save commands. A great new restore feature that will significantly reduce restore time has been added: Multiple tape units can be used to concurrently restore objects to a library-and DLOs to a single auxiliary storage pool (ASP).
Abnormal IPL recovery time has been reduced, communications error recovery has been improved, and a long-neglected OS/400 design error has been corrected: Now, your system won't crash if your disk space is somehow filled to capacity! Under disk-full conditions, a screen with various options will now be displayed, allowing you to avoid a nasty lock-up.
The V4R2 announcement includes plenty of enhancements to the Performance Monitor and related tools. New job data based on the primary and secondary threads of a job can now be collected by the Performance Monitor, allowing analysts to distinguish and track all job threads. A new Convert Performance Thread Data (CVTPFRTHD) command creates a file containing records with job-level thread performance data. The overhead of collecting performance data can now be reduced with a new option to collect information on only jobs that actually use the CPU in a given interval (the amount of resources that are saved depends on system configuration). The Performance Explorer (PEX) now includes an expanded trace flexibility that groups tasks into focus areas for easy analysis (see "Collect System Data with Performance Explorer," MC, June
1997). New Java trace points have been added to PEX to help developers analyze both interpreted and direct Java execution.
Almost all aspects of Client Access/400 have been enhanced in some way in V4R2. One of the biggest improvements is the ability to use native TCP/IP for printer emulation and workstation IDs. Along with Domain Name System (DNS) and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), this greatly simplifies network management and operations. PC5250 benefits from the TCP/IP support as well with new keyboard mapping capabilities, hot spot support of URLs, a new data transfer icon (as well with improved data transfer performance), and ActiveX/OLE support. Graphical Access has a new look and resizing capability. The Operations Navigator has
an expanded view of the AS/400 network, showing multimedia (Ultimedia Systems Facility), the Internet setup (firewalls, connections), the network setup (TCP/IP, PPP, modems), and any servers. Many other enhancements have improved Client Access/400 installation, administration, security, and 16-bit compatibility. For programmers, ODBC has been improved, and a full OLE DB API set makes it a lot easier to access data from a variety of platforms.
IBM has included several customer-oriented enhancements in V4R2, including an expanded suite of SmoothStart offerings. Improved electronic delivery of PTFs and expanded Web-based services should be announced later in this quarter.
Although I couldn't possibly fit every aspect of the V4R2 announcement in this article, I've tried to give you a good overview of the features most important to the future of the AS/400. In my opinion, the announcement of V4R2 is going to have far-reaching effects that will become more obvious and influential as time passes.
Although it will take a while to see how customers react to the new capabilities of the AS/400, I'm betting that Lotus Domino will have the most immediate effect. The addition of this incredibly rich groupware environment to the AS/400 will give programmers and administrators a tool they can quickly integrate into their operations to get almost immediate results. Domino will provide users with improved communications, flexible database access that's easy to use, and instant Web integration.
Of course, Java is exciting, but it may take some time to make a real impact on AS/400 shops. If IBM and brethren are right, of all the announcements, Java will probably have the most dramatic long-range effect on the AS/400.
Moving NT networks to the IPCS sounds extremely attractive to me, but it will take some time to evaluate how administrators feel about this. One stumbling block to IPCS acceptance may be the traditional separation of midrange and networking staff. Unfortunately, there's often a degree of competition, if not animosity, between PC administrators and "big iron" programmers that could slow acceptance of the benefits of having both functions on one platform.
The plethora of Web-oriented improvements in V4R2 should improve both the image and capabilities of the AS/400 as an e-business server.
A few years ago, many people were ringing the funeral bells for the AS/400, but its demise was surely exaggerated. IBM has kept its promise to keep improving the power, flexibility, and performance of the AS/400, and if Big Blue keeps these improvements coming, we'll all have jobs on this platform for many years to come. Check for the latest developments at http://www.as400.ibm.com.
This release can be upgraded from, can create or save objects for, and can interoperate with V3R2M0, V3R7M0, or V4R1M0.
D. Ellis Green is a technical editor for Midrange Computing. He has over 15 years experience programming medical, manufacturing, and fiscal applications on IBM midrange computers. He can be reached at green@ midrangecomputing.com.
Figure 1: February 1998 V4R2M0 software release
Figure 2: Lotus Domino on the AS/400
Figure 3: AS/400 competitive advantages
Copyright 1998, Midrange Computing
With big things scheduled from its competitors, IBM's AS/400 can expect a serious platform year in 1998. IBM has groomed the latest star of its AS/400e line, Model 170, code-named Invader, to be a politician-to promise all things to all people, to find the best solutions, and, most important, to be a winner.
In the lower space of the midrange market, IBM is positioning the Model 170 as a price/performance value. On the top, IBM is putting the new machine as a powerful processing machine. The Model 170, IBM says, is capable of being a database server, an Internet server, a communications server, a groupware server, and a file/print server. In short, all things to all people.
Since the early 1990s, IBM has split its AS/400 line down two paths. One road leads down the straits of application systems. The other trail takes machines into the realms of advanced serving. IBM optimized the Advanced Systems, starting back in 1994, to run traditional interactive workloads, while optimizing the Advanced Servers to run client/server and batch workloads. The 170 is more of a hybrid system/server that offers better interactive performance than other AS/400 servers.
With Model 170, the system/server roads converge again. The difference between the AS/400e Model 170 and the stereotypical politician is that Model 170 has the potential to deliver.
While the Model 170 might be an easy vote for the existing AS/400 constituency, winning over fence sitters will take a serious candidate. An especially challenging group of swing voters is the IT and IS personnel who may be swayed by persuasive speeches from the eloquent Microsoft as it pitches its NT platform as the best solution.
IBM has positioned Model 170 to face off with the Redmond challenger, and it would not be out of line to expect IBM to place the 170 head to head with popular high-end NT solutions.
The 170 announcement highlighted the February IBM announcement, but it was only one of many noteworthy items. IBM also boosted the 150, among other things. See the sidebar, "Details, Details, Details," for more information.
These days more than ever, the midrange platform choice is a very political decision for IS and IT professionals. From IBM's perspective, V4R2, with its Lotus-charged set of built-in features, makes a great running mate for the Model 170. Model 170 ships with V4R2 and won't run any earlier version of OS/400. Big Blue hopes that the Model 170/V4R2 ticket will win big for the AS/400 platform in 1998. Of course, this isn't Red China, and other parties are campaigning for the midrange. Windows NT Server with BackOffice is getting on the ballot with scores of PC vendors trying to get out of small-town politics and play at the midrange level. Compaq and Dell are two of many PC server vendors hooking up with NT and BackOffice to champion the Windows platform this year.
A close look at the Model 170 will help explain why IBM expects it to be a winner.
As with any new politician, people want to know what this new AS/400 model is all about. IBM is not hiding any skeletons in the closet of its Model 170. In fact, IBM hopes to sell you on Model 170 with a roll call of issues:
o Model 170 is a "server" and a "system." Although Model 170 is stronger on the server side, IBM is quick to say that it appeals to the system demographics as well.
o Model 170 is priced to sell. IBM's goal is to competitively price the Model 170 against the midrange offerings of the number one PC vendor, Compaq.
o Model 170 has a strong processor set. According to IBM, Model 170 will outperform one 600 and three S10 AS/400 models in tandem.
o With V4R2, Model 170 has the software bundle to get information shops right into serious groupware, the Internet, file serving, and data management straight from the box.
o IBM's addition of Lotus Notes/Domino and Java to OS/400 along with the integrated DB2/400 database gives the 170 a serious software suite, adding significant value (see "OS/400 V4R2: The Real Version 4 Rears Its Head" in this issue).
If the target audience for the Model 170 is any indication, the key vote in 1998 will be cast by smaller shops. While pricing for the entire line was not revealed at press time, IBM did reveal the pricing for the entry-level Model 170. The 2159 processor feature set, which delivers Commercial Processing Workload (CPW) ratings of 16 (for interactive workloads) and 73 (for client/server and batch workloads), has a base configuration cost of $9,995 (U.S.). IBM compares this to a Compaq ProLiant 1200, whose base unit (sans disk capacity) is priced at $3,059. However, IBM notes that, for a 50-user environment, by the time you add the data management architecture and groupware capabilities of V4R2-in this case, Microsoft NT Server with Microsoft BackOffice 4.0-you are adding $13,475 to the cost of your system.
To summarize, IBM is making the Model 170 a powerful option that is just as affordable as competitively featured NT boxes. The low end of the midrange market is experiencing the most growth. The Model 170 is positioned to capture the hearts and pocketbooks of these little people.
Like all politicians, Model 170 is already thinking about re-election even before it wins the first time. Although you cannot upgrade the Model 170 to a high-end server model like the S30 and S40, IBM has provided an intra-model upgrade plan, offering five Processor Feature sets. If you
start with the 2159 Processor Feature set, you can upgrade all the way to the 2183 Processor Feature set, a 400 percent increase in performance. The base tower supports only the 2159 Processor Feature set. For the 2160, 2164, 2176, and 2183, you will need to upgrade with the expansion unit, doubling the footprint of the unit. (See Figure 1.)
Politicians should be good public servants, and good AS/400s should serve. The Model 170 shines when it comes to serving. The entry client/server CPW on Model 170 is more than twice as fast as that of the Advanced Entry 150 model. The entry Processor Feature set is on par with the high-end Processor Feature set of the AS/400e S10 model. On the high end, Model 170 trounces the S20 and thus leaves the 150 and S10 in the dust.
Note that the maximum client/server CPW rating for the AS/400e Model 170 is achieved with the second highest processor feature code, the 2176. Upgrading to the 2183 provides a client/server CPW rating of 319, the same as the 2176. However, the 2183 does provide a higher interactive performance rating than the 2176. (See Figure 2.)
A savvy political figure knows how to work with people. Savvy AS/400s are equally interactive. And while its interactive CPW figures are not as impressive as the client/server figures, the performance is very solid, especially on the high-end 2176 and 2183.
On the entry level, the interactive CPW on the 170 barely beats out the 150. However, with interactive ratings of 40 and an impressive 67 on the 2176 and 2183, respectively, the 170 holds tight to the high-end AS/400e 600 models.
When pitted against the older 500 and 600 series on interactive, the 170 does well, falling between the 500 and the 600 in interactive CPW performance up to the 2183. This score rocks over the high-end 500's mid-40 interactive CPW score.
If you are pleased with your 500/600 performance on the interactive side but would like to have enough power to do e-commerce and other serving functions, upgrading to the 170 provides a growth path, delivering a powerful server without compromising the system's performance. (See Figure 3.)
A successful politician has the right tools to solve problems, and so does the Model 170. With V4R2 and the balanced server/system power of the Model 170, IBM hopes customers will vote on this ticket as a total midrange solution. IBM is positioning the AS/400e Model 170 to do the work of several PC servers.
Start with the Model 170 hardware power and add the following features:
o DB2/400. OS/400 built-in database architecture makes a database server.
o Java. V4R2's Java and Web serving features make the Model 170 a full-featured Internet server.
o Notes/Domino. Lotus' native port of its groupware makes a Web-extended groupware server.
o Integrated File Server (IFS). With OS/400's IFS, the Model 170 becomes your file/print server as well.
Corporations, IS managers, and end users who depend on midrange products will be voting with their pocketbooks in 1998. With the impending challenge of Windows NT 5.0 on faster and faster low-priced Intel chips, the bottom end of the midrange market is going to be a tough race for IBM's AS/400 platform to win. However, with hardware like the Model 170 powering the V4R2 software strategy, IBM is going to give every platform on the ballot a run for its money.
Lucas S. Roebuck is news editor for Midrange Computing. After he finishes analyzing the midrange political scene, he is contemplating pursuing his own political career. He can be reached by email at roebuck@ midrangecomputing.com.
Lee Kroon contributed to this story.
Although the introduction of the Model 170 Invader overshadowed other hardware announcements from Rochester, IBM quietly made a significant number of improvements across the board on its AS/400e line.
On the advanced entry front, IBM enhanced the Model 150 with expanded DASD capacity, a new tape drive, a new Integrated PC Server (IPCS), and increased twinaxial capacity, according to IBM.
Although details were not available at press time, IBM confirmed that a faster QIC tape drive would be a part of the renovated Model 150. The maximum DASD capacity was increased from
16.7 to 29.9 gigabytes. The model also now has a maximum of 28 twinaxial connections, up from seven or 14 depending on the processor feature set. Finally, IBM boosted IPCS performance by putting in a 200 MHz Pentium II processor as opposed to the older Pentium 133 MHz processors from Intel.
IBM also announced that its AS/400 server line (Models S10, S20, S30, S40) will receive upgraded memory, disk, and connectivity across the board. (See Figure A1.) On the high end, Model S40 will have an eight-way processor feature code (2256) added. The new feature code has a client/server CPW rating of 1794 and an interactive rating of 64. All the AS/400e servers now support 28 simultaneously connected ASCII devices. Previously, the maximum was six (zero on the S10).
Not getting left out of the action, the AS/400e systems received boosts in their maximum DASD capacity. The Model 600 supports up to 175.4 GB, up from 85.5. The Model 620 now supports
944.8 GB, up from 704.3. The Model 640 got a memory and disk capacity boost. In addition to increasing its maximum disk capacity from 927.7 gigabytes to 1340 GB, the maximum RAM was also increased to 12.288 GB from 10.752. The high-end Model 650 now has a maximum disk capacity of 1546.1 GB, up from 996.4.