The AS/400 Meets the Lotus Domino Server

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One of the most powerful features of Lotus Domino is its ability to retrieve data from a variety of sources, including Lotus Notes databases and ODBC-compliant data sources such as Microsoft Access and Lotus Approach. This article will concentrate on the ODBC connection between Notes and the AS/400. I will briefly look at the ODBC configuration, then take a more in-depth look at the Lotus Notes programming required to achieve data retrieval from AS/400 tables. I will also explain both simple column lookups and more intricate SQL queries. Finally, I will show you how to take all this functionality and build a Notes database.

Our Story Begins...

At Zerks Unlimited, James is pondering a directive he has recently received from Jay Griffiths, the company’s president. Jay had been getting complaints from personnel at the manufacturing plants about the fact that it takes too long to get the raw materials they have ordered. After a little investigating, James found that a paper trail is slowing the entire process. It goes like this: A paper request is submitted and placed in the plant chief’s inbox. He prices the order from AS/400 tables, approves the request, and places it in the fax outbox. A few times each day, an executive assistant faxes the requests to headquarters. From there, they are given to the Data Entry department, assigned a purchase order number, and passed along to Receiving. This process takes a minimum of four hours to transpire, but it usually takes a day to complete. Jay’s directive tells James to remove as much of the paper trail as possible and implement an electronic solution. James has one big hurdle, though—all the product information is stored and updated on AS/400s, which don’t have easy workflow tools that the manufacturing plant employees can utilize.

Fortunately, James has just the tool—Lotus Notes. He has had great success in the past with a help desk application that utilizes many of the Lotus Notes workflow capabilities, such as an approval process and group collaboration. The help desk databases have been running for well over a year, and, because of good planning, the Notes infrastructure still has enough capacity to handle many more applications.

James’ Proposal

James meets with Jay and proposes a Lotus Notes solution with ties to the AS/400 back-end. James explains that the plant workers, armed with Notes, can fill out a form that not only requests an item, but also exactly prices that item at the same time. (See Figure 1 for the plant workers’ form.) The pricing information would come from a Notes data request to the AS/400. The plant worker would then press a Submit button that routes the form to his or her team leader. The team leader would approve or deny the request and then route it to Data Entry. Data Entry would receive the Lotus Notes document, press another button to assign a P.O. number and route the document to Shipping and Receiving. Again, the AS/400 would supply the P.O. number. The entire process could take less than two hours, despite the thousands of miles between plant and headquarters. After a small diversion to discuss some AS/400 connectivity issues, we will watch James’ proposal come to fruition.

AS/400 Connection

A series of articles that appeared in the May/June 1996 issue of Client Access/400 Expert can provide you with information on connecting Windows 95 clients to the AS/400. Once a successful connection is established, the ODBC driver will need to be configured. The ODBC driver setup screen is shown in Figure 2. James uses the Client Access/ 400 ODBC driver to connect to one of his AS/400 machines, named ZERKS01. He will use his AS/400 log-on ID as the user ID and specify PURREQ as the default library. The value you type in Data Source Name is used in referencing this ODBC connection record from Notes, which James will show us later. Finally, James has left all the options set to their default values; you may need to tweak the values for your specific situation. Refer to the Help button for a more in-depth explanation. James will need to set up this ODBC driver on all the user’s desktops. Of course, each user will have a specific user ID.

Simple Data Retrieval

The most basic Lotus @function for data retrieval is the @DbColumn. As the name implies, the @DbColumn will return a table column. We will first investigate the parts of an @DbColumn statement and then watch James as he applies an @DbColumn to his new Notes database.

@DbColumn(“ODBC” :
“NoCache”; ;
; ;

; : ; “Distinct” : )

•“ODBC”—Identifies that an ODBC data source will be accessed.
•“NoCache” or “Cache”—Specifies whether the column of data will be cached into memory for subsequent lookups. “Cache” is the default if left blank.

—As seen in Figure 2, the data source is defined in the ODBC setup dialog box. Incidentally, the source name is limited to 32 characters.

and —Logon and logon password. With the AS/400, you can usually use nulls in the place of the and . That information is obtained when the client logs onto the AS/400.

—Library path and table name. If the library is the same as the default library defined in the ODBC setup (see Figure 2), then only the table name will need to be coded.

—Column header name from the AS/400 table.
—Controls the handling of possible null values in the data returned from the @DbColumn. This value is optional. If no value is coded, then all nulls are ignored and not returned with the data set. Possible values are “Fail”, “Discard”, or a replacement value specified between double-quotes.

“Fail”—If a null is encountered, no data will be returned and an error message is generated.

“Discard”—Is the same as coding no value at all, which creates the effect of .

“Replacement value”—All nulls are substituted with the replacement value and returned in the data set.

•“Distinct”—Removes all duplicate values on the back-end before the data set is “handed over” to Lotus Notes. Since Notes is limited to 64K block of returned data, specifying “Distinct” may allow for a larger data set to be returned. This parameter is optional.

—Either “Ascending” or “Descending” may be used. This value is optional. If no is specified, the data returned may or may not be in the same order as the AS/400 table.

Figure 3 shows the properties box for the keyword field titled Product. As you can see in the code that follows, the @DbColumn pulls a list with all unique values, sorted in ascending order from the ITEM column in the PARTLIST table. This “Parts” ODBC connection was defined in Figure 2.

@DbColumn(“ODBC”:”Cache”; “Parts”;””;””; “PARTLIST”; “ITEM”;”Distinct”:

Since we don’t expect the part list to change frequently, the “Cache” option has been specified. This will allow the list to stay in memory for as long as the Product Request database is left open. If the part list changed many times per day, the “NoCache” option would have been the appropriate choice. It would definitely take longer to retrieve the data, but it is better to retrieve an accurate list slowly than an inaccurate list quickly.

Complex Data Retrieval

The @DbColumn is great for retrieving a column, but what if we need to obtain a specific piece of data? James will utilize both the @DbLookup and @DbCommand to complete the Request form. The @DbLookup is best suited for returning a particular record that matches a cross-referenced key from another column. For instance, we have a two-column table of names and associated phone numbers. With any given name, we can use an @DbLookup to retrieve that person’s phone number. Similarly, we can use an @DbCommand to perform an elementary SQL query to retrieve the phone number. Let’s examine the two @functions separately.

@DbLookup(“ODBC” : “NoCache”;
; ;

: NullHandle; ;
; “Distinct” : )

The @DbLookup is identical to the @DbColumn, but with the addition of two parameters: , the name of the column used in matching the key; and , which is the key by which the specific piece of data is located.

All other parameters have same definitions and rules as @DbColumn. As you can see in the code that follows, @DbCommand has only one divergent parameter: . The parameter can be set to one of three options: an SQL statement that adheres to the AS/400 DBMS SQL syntax, a command string that uses the AS/400 command language, or a stored AS/400 procedure.

@DbCommand(“ODBC” : “NoCache”; ; ; ;
: NullHandle)

As shown in Figure 3, a plant employee selects a product from the keyword list and then presses the button to the right of the Product Specs field. When the button is pressed, it takes the value from the Product field and does a cross-reference to obtain product specs and price per unit. The shipping and handling cost is computed after the user is prompted for his plant location. Basically, the location is referenced on another AS/400 table and the shipping and handling charge is returned. The completed request form is pictured in Figure 4.


Let’s take a line-by-line look at James’ button code, shown in Figure 5. Line 1—Using the “Parts” ODBC connection record and given the Product item from the ITEM column in the PARTLIST table, cross-references the SPECIFICATION column to return value. Only one specification is required to be returned, so no sorting is required. James could have just as easily returned the part number column, or the column that lists the cautions and warnings for the product. Information is cached due to infrequent table changes and the returned value is assigned to the Info field.

Line 2—Using the “Parts” ODBC connection record and given the Product item from the ITEM column in the PARTLIST table, cross-references the COST column to return value. Only one cost is expected to be returned, so no sorting is required. Information is cached due to infrequent table changes and the returned value assigned to the Cost field.

Line 3—Retrieves plant location list from another Notes database. Uses the Notes database replication ID to find the database and then uses the “PersonResp” view to return the first column.

Line 4—Prompts the user to select the plant’s location. Line 5—The SQL statement is set using the plant location from Line 4. The shipping and handling cost is returned from the SHIPPING column in the RECEIVING table. This cost data corresponds specifically to the plant location data in the PLANT column.

Line 6—The @DbCommand uses the SQL statement from Line 5 to retrieve the shipping and handling cost using the “Parts” ODBC connection record. Since there are frequent changes to shipping and handling costs, a value of “NoCache” is used. is set to “Fail”, thus causing an error if the @DbCommand returns a null. Assign to temporary variable.

Line 7—If an error occurred in @DbCommand from Line 6, the function returns a zero. Otherwise it returns the shipping and handling cost from the query. In either case, the SH field is assigned the results.

The variables that begin with the letter t are temporary variables. James uses this naming convention as a way to help other programmers easily identify fields from temporary variables in formulas.

Putting It All Together

In his request form, James programmed with @DbColumns to retrieve entire columns of data from an AS/400 table and then used @DbLookups and @DbCommands to narrow down the data to a specific record. The request form we have seen is just part of James’ Product Request databases. This request form consists of the first leg of the product requisition workflow process and is activated when the “Submit” button is pressed. It all starts when Anne, the raw materials master, notices that the Vanadium bin is just below the threshold for ordering more materials. Vanadium is, of course, needed for the manufacturing of Zerks. So, she creates a new request document selecting Vanadium Pellets from the keyword field. Anne then presses the button next to the Product Specs field and when prompted, responds with the plant location of Hancock, MI. The rest of the fields are filled in according to the AS/400 data returned with the Notes ODBC queries. She looks over the document for errors, then presses the Submit button. One day later, she notices that the Vanadium bin has been topped off.

Tips and Techniques Used in This Application

Here are a couple of tips that I’ll pass along about this application, the first of which applies only if you are using release 3 of Notes.

In Lotus Notes R3, you cannot use the ODBC parameter in @DbColumns, @DBLookups, or @DBCommands; but rather you will have to use the DLENS parameter. You will also have to install and configure the Lotus DataLens product to have connectivity to any ODBC-compliant data sources.

If problems arise during the ODBC connection set-up, you can use Microsoft Query to help debug the problem. Figure 6 shows one of the possible Lotus Notes error messages.

You will have to configure an ODBC connection on the Lotus Domino server to allow Web access to the AS/400 data or allow scheduled agents to run against the AS/400 back-end.

You’ve seen AS/400 data retrieved from a Lotus Notes document using @functions, but @functions are limited in that they can only retrieve data—they cannot add, modify, or delete data on the AS/400 back-end. However, using three of LotusScript’s classes, data can be added, modified, or deleted: ODBCConnections, ODBCQuery, and ODBCResultSet. Another great use for LotusScript is to give Web users the ability to gain access to AS/400 data. In another story, the president of Zerks Unlimited has been surfing the Internet and found that their main competitor, Widgets, Inc., is selling widgets on the Web. How does one easily get information from the AS/400 onto the Web? Lotus Domino to the rescue! Fortunately, James has just finished Zerks’ migration to Lotus Domino 4.51 and is ready to use the built-in Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP) server to serve up Notes databases on the Web. More on these projects in forthcoming issues.


The_AS-400_Meets_the_Lotus_Domino_Server06-00.jpg 450x337

Figure 1: Plant Worker’s Request Form Figure 2: AS/400 ODBC Driver Setup

The_AS-400_Meets_the_Lotus_Domino_Server06-01.jpg 450x212

The_AS-400_Meets_the_Lotus_Domino_Server07-00.jpg 450x365

Figure 3: Properties Box for Product Keyword Field Figure 4: Completed Request Form

1. FIELD Info := @ DbLookup(“ODBC” : “Cache” ; “Parts” ; “” ;”” ;

2. FIELD Cost := @ DbLookup(“ODBC” : “Cache” ; “Parts” ; “” ;”” ;

“PARTLIST” ;”COST”;”ITEM”;Product);
3. tLocation :=@ DbColumn(“NOTES” : “Cache”; “8625632F:00636F2C”;

“ PersonResp”; 1);
4. tChoice := @Prompt([OKCANCELLIST];”PLANT”;”Choose your plant

location from the following
list:”;@Subset(tLocation;1); tLocation);


The_AS-400_Meets_the_Lotus_Domino_Server07-01.jpg 450x337

6. tSH := @DbCommand(“ODBC” : “ NoCache” ; “Parts” ; “” ;”” ;
tSQL : “Fail”);
7. FIELD SH := @If(@ IsError(tSH);0;tSH)

Figure 5: Button Code Figure 6: Lotus Notes ODBC Error Message

The_AS-400_Meets_the_Lotus_Domino_Server08-00.jpg 225x83



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  • 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.



  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave 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.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

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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.