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A Better Way to Distribute Your AS/400 Software Changes

Change Management
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If your AS/400 is used as the central development system in a larger network, then it’s likely that, as you make code changes and create new applications, you are constantly propagating those fixes and enhancements to remote systems. If this is the case, then you know what a pain it can be getting changes to the other sites. For many shops, using the Send Network File (SNDNETF) command is the only way to accomplish this. Using SNDNETF allows AS/400 shops to send source and data files, including AS/400 save files, to other AS/400s on the same SNA network. Once there, objects can be restored or compiled and placed into production.

An Oldie but a Goody

For years, this technique has worked fine, if a bit slowly, and, in fact, is still the procedure du jour in many shops. Using SNA to propagate source code and object changes to remote AS/400s is great because you can use it between any two AS/400s that have a modem connection. It’s not all peaches and honey, though. There are problems with this technique. For one thing, it’s pretty slow, especially when sending large files.

The problems don’t end there, either. To use SNDNETF, you’ll have to configure the Systems Network Architecture Distribution Services (SNADS) settings using the Configure Distribution Service (CFGDSTSRV) command on each AS/400 that you’re going to send network files to. Once that’s done, you’ll still need to configure line descriptions and controllers and make sure that all settings on both networks match. While this isn’t rocket science, it can be a formidable task. As the last piece, after you have everything configured correctly, you must ensure that both ends of the connection have the QSNADS subsystem up and running before you’ll be able to send data.

When all is right with the universe, you’re ready to send your changes to the target system. This method has worked well for years, but there are better ways to manage your code changes and software upgrades. In this article, I’m going to tell you about one of them.

The Concept


One of the biggest problems with using SNA is that it doesn’t take advantage of all the advances in communications, such as TCP/IP and the Internet. Most AS/400s are moving away from SNA and moving to TCP/IP networks. In just a few years, it’s likely that all AS/400s will be on this type of network. If you haven’t already, you should be preparing your shop to reap the benefits of using the TCP/IP services. I’m going to show you how to do just that.

The concept for this technique is pretty simple. You want your programmers to be able to create all their code changes and enhancements in the same way they’ve been doing for years. What you’re going to do, however, is put the onus of implementation on the user rather than on the programmer. After that, it’ll be up to the user to decide when the changes should be implemented.

There are several reasons for doing it this way. One is the issue of timing. By making it a user responsibility to upload and restore object/code changes, you free the programmer of the responsibility of coordinating with the user a time when the upgrades can take place. If the users have all the changes in hand and can easily apply them at their leisure, then it’s a piece of cake for them to find a spare 10 to 15 minutes when no one is using that particular system, and the software can be upgraded. If it’s up to the developer to do this, he’ll constantly be trading phone calls with the user, trying to find a time when he can log onto the user’s system and restore or compile the changes.

You want a system that will let a programmer write a piece of code, package it for the user, and then let that user upload it when he has the time. Making that concept a reality is a bit more complex than it sounds. The solution will be made up of the following pieces:

• One AS/400 command

• One AS/400 CL program

• One AS/400 display file

• Two AS/400 physical files

• One AS/400 RPG IV program

• One PC-based FTP server program

• InstallShield

Most of these you’ll be familiar with. You may not be as familiar with the concept of an FTP server or with InstallShield.

Why an FTP Server?

Everyone knows that you can run an FTP file transfer on the AS/400. If you have two AS/400s connected to the Internet, it’s a simple matter to transfer FTP files between the two systems. Or, if you have a PC connected to an AS/400 via TCP/IP, it’s very easy to use the PC’s FTP client to transfer files to and from your AS/400. What is not so simple is transferring files directly from the AS/400 to the PC. This is because, unlike the AS/400, most PCs do not act as FTP servers. To do so, they’d need an FTP server package on them.

In my solution, you want to be able to automatically FTP your program and code changes in the form of a save file to the PC, where it can be packaged using InstallShield. If you wanted to, you could run FTP commands from the PC and send them to the AS/400 to save objects and download the changes, but that requires an extra level of complexity


and familiarity with FTP and PCs that many traditional AS/400 programmers don’t possess.

What I use here is a PC FTP server called Serv-U that I downloaded from the Internet. This is a shareware product that, if you decide to keep it, requires a nominal license fee. I use this product to give my PC the capability of receiving FTP commands from my AS/400. It’s very easy to use and only takes about 5 minutes to install and configure. Set it up to run as a system service so that it starts every time the PC boots, and you never have to think about it again. The nice thing about this particular product is that it also lets me execute PC commands from the AS/400 without the requirement of having Client Access/400 installed on my PC. There are many other shareware FTP programs out there, so use whichever one best meets your needs. Visit the CNET Shareware.com page (www. shareware.com) as a starting point to begin looking for FTP server software.

InstallShield

The other half of the PC equation is using a package named InstallShield. InstallShield is probably the most well-known and most overlooked software in the world. It is used by more companies on a daily basis than Bill Gates has lawsuits. It’s also one of those packages that works so well that, even when you’re using it, you barely notice it.

Shown in Figure 1, InstallShield is basically a product that lets developers take all the pieces of their software (e.g., programs, menus, and data files) and condense them into one simple package that users can use to install the software on their systems. Typically, PC programmers have used InstallShield to distribute their PC-based software packages. In fact, IBM uses it to install Client Access/400, and Visual Basic (VB) has a subset of InstallShield built into it that allows VB programmers to build executable installation packages. In my solution, I take that traditional PC programmer’s approach and apply it to the AS/400-based software PTFs.

The Final Pieces

The last few pieces of this puzzle are some pretty generic AS/400 programs and files. PTFSYS is a command interface to FT0001C. FT0001C is a CL program that prompts the user for the type of save to perform; runs the save; calls the program to build the FTP script; and then runs FTP script, sending the files to the PC’s FTP server. FT0001R is an RPG IV program that actually builds the FTP script. RSTLIBNAM is a physical file that is created in library QTEMP and will be sent to the PC client during the FTP download. FTPCMDS is a work file used to hold the FTP script built by FT0001R.

On each AS/400, there should exist a user ID named FTPUSER with a password of FTPUSERID. (You’ll need to create it if it doesn’t exist.) This is the profile that FTP will use to log onto and restore objects to the various AS/400s. This user profile should be used only by this utility. Keep in mind that, by hardcoding the user profile and password, you are creating a security breach. You may want to modify the FTP script to prompt the user for the password. You can do this by simply leaving the password out of the FTP script. When you do, FTP will sign on with the FTPUSER user profile and then prompt you to manually enter the password. Also, a library named FTPLIB should exist on each AS/400. This is the name of the library the save file is sent to. Again, if the library doesn’t exist, then you’ll need to create it. If you want to change the FTP script to send it to a different library, then you’ll need to do so in the InstallShield setup script.

Putting It All Together

OK. So there are the pieces. Here’s how it works. The AS/400 programmer writes his code and compiles the programs and files. Now, he needs to get those changes (what I’ll refer to as PTFs) to the user’s AS/400. The programmer runs the PTFSYS command I’ve created. This command will save the programmer’s changes to a save file, which will then be FTPed to his client PC. Once there, the programmer opens InstallShield, opens the PTF


Distribution System project, and clicks on the Media Wizard menu option to package the changes and build the installation media (diskette, CD-ROM, packaging for the Web, etc.). The programmer then sends the installation media to the user either on a diskette or on a CD-ROM or as an email attachment. Or, if the programmer’s shop has its own Web site on the Internet, the install package can be downloaded from there. At this point, the programmer’s job is done. It’s now up to the user to decide when he will upload the changes.

When the user is ready to upload your PTFs, he will load the installation media on a PC connected to the AS/400 via TCP/IP and double-click on the Setup.exe program. When the setup program is executed, it will create a directory on the user’s PC under the Program Files directory on the C drive. The AS/400 save file you created will be copied to this directory, along with some other required installation files. The user will be prompted to select the IP address of his AS/400 from a list generated from the PC’s C:WindowsHosts file, and an FTP upload script will be created on the user’s PC. If the Hosts file does not exist, the user will be prompted to enter the TCP/IP address of his AS/400. The final step in the installation process will be for the setup program to automatically run the FTP script, which uploads the save file to the user’s AS/400 and restores it to the library the programmer specified when he created it. That’s it!

A Bit More Detail

Let me go over that in a bit more detail. CL program FT0001C is executed from the PTFSYS command and displays the screen shown in Figure 2. Based on the save type chosen, either the Save Object (SAVOBJ) or the Save Library (SAVLIB) command will be executed to perform the proper save. The programmer also enters the name of the libraries to save and restore to. This information is used by InstallShield to build the FTP upload script on the user’s PC when he runs the Setup.exe program to install your software. RPG program FT0001R builds the FTP download script that sends the save file to the programmer’s TCP/IP-connected PC.

For this to work correctly, the files must be downloaded to the same directory on the PC every single time. When you download the code for this utility from the MC Web site, you’ll find a Setup.exe program.

Run this program to install all the code on your AS/400 and create a directory named MC PTF Distribution System under a directory named MC, which is under the Program Files directory on your PC’s hard drive. You can change this directory name if you want, but beware that, if you do, the instructions on including files in the InstallShield build will need to be changed to reflect the new name. The path names hardcoded in the RPG IV program will need to be changed, too.

Using InstallShield

I’ve included a generic setup script for InstallShield that you can use in your own system. When you purchase InstallShield, you’ll receive the User’s Guide with it. This guide will explain many of the commands shown in the script. Familiarize yourself with the commands I’ve included in the script and modify them to fit your own needs. To create the basic InstallShield package required for this utility, you’ll need to perform a few steps, which are outlined in the InstallShieldUsage.rtf file. Keep in mind that, as you learn more about using InstallShield, you can make your own package as complex as you like. The complete setup and usage instructions for using InstallShield with this utility are contained in two text files included with the download from the MC Web site. InstallShieldProjectSetup.rtf describes the steps you take to create your own InstallShield installation project using the generic script I’ve included here. InstallShieldUsage.rtf contains instructions on how to use InstallShield on a regular basis to create your own software installation media.


What You’ll Get when You Download

All of the AS/400 code, the PC FTP batch files, a shareware version of the FTP server, a generic InstallShield setup script, a Readme.txt file, and the two InstallShield setup and usage text files are included in the download file you can get from MC’s downloadable code Web site at www.midrangecomputing.com/mc. Once you’ve downloaded the code, click on the Setup.exe program to run the setup and install the software on your AS/400 and PC. View the Readme.txt file for system requirements and late-breaking installation notes.

You will need an active TCP/IP connection to your AS/400 to load the software on the system, and the AS/400’s FTP server must be started. Also, before you run the Setup.exe program, create an AS/400 user ID named FTPUSER with a password of FTPUSERID. If you already have a user profile on your AS/400 named FTPUSER, you will need to modify both the RPG IV program and the Install Shield script to use a different user ID. Make sure you give these profiles enough authority to save and restore objects on your system. The source code and objects required for this utility will be placed in a library named MCCODE in a source file named MCSOURCE on your AS/400. The Setup.exe program will create this library for you using the FTPUSER profile.

User Empowerment

Once your user has the setup media (diskettes, CD-ROM, or what-ever), he simply clicks on the Setup.exe program on the media, and your software PTFs will be uploaded and restored on his system.

At first glance, this sounds as if it’s a lot of work. But really, after you create the initial InstallShield project and install the FTP server on your PC, it’s amazingly simple. The programmers create code changes just as they always do and have only two additional steps: Run the PTFSYS command to save and download those changes to the client PC, and click on a couple of menu options in InstallShield to build the installation media. After that, it’s just a matter of getting those changes to the users so that they can upload them when they are ready. Managing software distribution has never been easier!

References and Related Materials

• Cat Soft Serv-U FTP Server Web site: www.cat-soft.com
• CNET Shareware.com page: www.shareware.com
• InstallShield Software Corp. home page: www.installshield.com


A_Better_Way_to_Distribute_Your_AS-_400_Software_Changes06-00.png 395x287

Figure 1: You’ll need to modify the InstallShield script before you can use this utility.

A_Better_Way_to_Distribute_Your_AS-_400_Software_Changes06-01.png 395x226

Figure 2: Run this program to save and download your code changes to your PC.


Shannon O'Donnell
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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    Are there still companies that use AS400? Of course!

    IBM i was built on the same foundation.
    Watch this recorded webinar with IBM i Chief Architect Steve Will and IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington to gain a unique perspective on the direction of this platform, including:

    • IBM i development strategies in progress at IBM
    • Ways that Watson will shake hands with IBM i
    • Key takeaways from the AS/400 days

     

  • Ask the RDi Experts

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericWatch this recording where Jim Buck, Susan Gantner, and Charlie Guarino answered your questions, including:

    • What are the “hidden gems” in RDi that can make me more productive?
    • What makes RDi Debug better than the STRDBG green screen debugger?
    • How can RDi help me find out if I’ve tested all lines of a program?
    • What’s the best way to transition from PDM to RDi?
    • How do I convince my long-term developers to use RDi?

    This is a unique, online opportunity to hear how you can get more out of RDi.

     

  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using NodeRun.com as a pre-built development environment

     

     

  • Inside the Integrated File System (IFS)

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericDuring this webinar, you’ll learn basic tips, helpful tools, and integrated file system commands—including WRKLNK—for managing your IFS directories and Access Client Solutions (ACS). We’ll answer your most pressing IFS questions, including:

    • What is stored inside my IFS directories?
    • How do I monitor the IFS?
    • How do I replicate the IFS or back it up?
    • How do I secure the IFS?

    Understanding what the integrated file system is and how to work with it must be a critical part of your systems management plans for IBM i.

     

  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.

     

     

  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption

     

     

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.

     

     

  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

     

     

     

  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.

     

  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.

     

     

  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.

     

     

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.