Apparently, I’m not alone with WebSphere installation problems. Bob Balaban, lead architect of Lotus Domino’s Notes Object Interface and author of “Programming Domino 4.6 with Java,” said in a June 2000 Lotus Notes & Domino Advisor article, “The details of WebSphere installation and setup turn out to be a bit more complicated than anyone (including IBM) would like.”
Why the Pain?
Ok, so I didn’t really pitch my laptop through my TV—but I came pretty darn close. And I did finally get WebSphere installed.
Why’d I do it? I needed a Web application server for an Enterprise JavaBean (EJB) application that I was writing for a client. A Web application server extends an HTTP server to support Java servlets, Java Server Pages (JSP), and EJBs (as well as a number of other features, such as support for Extensible Markup Language [XML]). The AS/400 bundles WebSphere Standard Edition, and, since this company is planning on deploying the application on the AS/400, it would seem WebSphere is the obvious choice for a PC- based development system. WebSphere may be the obvious choice, but it is far from being the only choice. And it remains to be seen if it is the best.
Most Web application servers themselves are written in Java. (A Web application server is essentially a plug-in for HTTP servers. When the HTTP server receives a URL request for a JSP or servlet, it passes that request to the Web application server plug-in.) Because most Web application servers are written in Java, they can run on the AS/400. In fact, recently, after I turned down an idea for an article on the Servlet 2.2 API because WebSphere didn’t yet support it, the author, Jeff Markham, responded, “Why do we have to wait for IBM? Why don’t we just pop Tomcat on the AS/400? After all, it’s pure Java. I just installed Tomcat here, and it works.”
Tomcat is an Apache Software Foundation open-source Web application server that is available from http://jakarta.apache.org. Tomcat bundles an HTTP server along with support for JSP and servlets. I’ve used Tomcat on my PC, but Jeff tells me it works just fine on his AS/400. I’ve also used Sun’s JavaServer Web Development Kit (JSWDK), available for free from www.java.sun.com/ products/jsp/download.html. You probably don’t want to use Tomcat or JSWDK for anything other than development, and neither of them has direct support for EJBs, so what options are available other than WebSphere?
Please Select One
I’ve had personal experience with two Web application servers: BEA’s WebLogic (www.bea.com) and Allaire’s JRun 3.0 (www.allaire.com). IBM itself endorses WebLogic for the AS/400. In fact, IBM’s Redbook Introduction to Enterprise JavaBeans for the AS/400 System (SG24-5192-00) was published before WebSphere supported EJB, so its examples used WebLogic. IBM literature also points out that both BlueStone Software’s Total-e-Server and Novera’s jBusiness work well on the AS/400. Those products, however, range in price from $10,000 to $25,000. WebSphere is bundled with OS/400, so why am I talking about competitive products? Realize that the bundled version of WebSphere is the Standard Edition and does not include support for EJBs. For that, you need the Enterprise Edition (at a cost of $7,500 per processor) or a competitive server.
WebSphere’s competition is heating up. For example, Allaire’s JRun 3.0 Developer Edition is free. It has full support for EJBs as well as for JSP and servlets. The developer edition only allows three simultaneous connections, so for live apps you’ll want to pay the $795 for unlimited JSP and servlet connections or the $4,995 if you want support for EJBs, Java Message Server (JMS), and clustering.
After my painful experience installing IBM WAS 3.02 on Windows NT, I installed BEA’s WebLogic and Allaire’s JRun 3.0. Both installations went well. Configuration of those servers took hours rather than days, as it took me with WebSphere. But my client is sticking with WebSphere. Why? IBM’s integration of its Web applications server with Java integrated development environment (IDE) WebSphere, and VisualAge for Java (VAJ) is, as of today, the best in the market. WebSphere also integrates well with IBM’s HTTP Server for AS/400. VAJ has the most complete JSP, servlet, and EJB test environment available. But all that comes at a cost—in terms of product sticker price and required hardware. I expect the Java IDE and application server competition to quickly rival the integration capabilities of WebSphere and VAJ. And with competition comes improved products and decreased cost.
Because Rochester has made the AS/400’s Java environment one of the best in the market and because most application servers are written in Java, IBM’s WebSphere does not have a lock on the AS/400’s Web application server market.