Going GUI: Point and Click Targets Client Integration

In the past, "point and click" on the AS/400 came across more like a journey than a destination. But with the introduction of OS/400 V4R3, IBM is expected to reach new levels of Windows-based client integration.

A lot of AS/400 customers are not convinced the AS/400 works well in a point-and-click environment, according to Tom Jarosh, general manager of IBM AS/400 Brand. "The AS/400 is not so much a stand-alone entity anymore," he says.

"We’re tying in the operations environment in a variety of ways to make it simpler and more intuitive to people used to a PC environment," says Drew Flaada, 1998 project manager for AS/400 Brand. "We have substantial investments that we’re delivering in the marketplace with V4R3 in the areas of the user interface that we provide and our ability to integrate with other environments."

New items added to the AS/400’s "point and click" support include Operations Console, E-Z Setup Wizard and Client for NT File System. Enhancements to previous Windows-interface components affect Operations Navigator, Client Access for AS/400, AS/400 NetServer, NT Server for AS/400, NetWare, Welcome Center for AS/400, Information Center and e-Jump.

Operations Console is a "follow-on" to AS/400 Client Access Comm Console and works with TCP/IP Windows 95/NT clients. Operations Console provides a system console session and graphical control panel and supports customer control panel functions. According to Flaada, this new feature enables the remote connection of an operator’s console to an AS/400, so users can do remote systems management from a central location.

The EZ-Setup Wizard is a Win32-based program designed to simplify initial setup tasks and reduce setup time. The application leads users through a setup process, transferring users to Welcome Center for AS/400. The CDs used for the setup take a customer through all the setup processes – including tying in their cabling, initial setup parameters and setting up user profiles. The Setup Wizard is designed to facilitate installation for "someone with more of a PC or browser background than that of an AS/400 background," Flaada explains.

Client for Windows NT File System provides AS/400 access to NT files in the NT File System via AS/400 IFS APIs, making use of TCP/IP transports to communicate with any NT server in the domain. Client for Windows NT File System also supports connection to both NT on the IPCS and stand-alone NT servers. This allows distribution of applications by AS/400 as a control point for management and enables any AS/400 application that can use data formatted on the NT server to have access to that data.

V4R3 also offers an enhanced Operations Navigator, which enables the user to select installation by function, as well as view and send messages. Operations Navigator is designed to help users "operate an AS/400 in the way they’re used to operating a PC," he says.

Operations Navigator also provides access to Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) directory services, DCE Setup and Client Management, TCP/IP Security Setup, NetServer viewing, network file system management and enhanced DB2 for AS/400. Additional features include the Security Wizard and Management Central, for real-time graphical performance monitoring of managed and remote AS/400 systems.

With the enhanced Operations Navigator, IBM emphasizes the benefit of moving out of a green-screen environment and more toward a modern interface, says Joe DiCecco, IBM senior software engineer and team leader of Operations Navigator for GUI design. There are some savings to be had with a modern user interface, including a shorter end-user learning curve. "[Operations Navigator] simplifies how things get done, rather than simply re-mapping the green screen," he says.

Operations Navigator has been under development for several years, and will continue to be a work-in-progress, according to DiCecco. "You can’t re-do the entire machine interface in one fell swoop, especially not on a 10-year-old machine," he notes.

Client Access for AS/400 features Windows 95/NT Client Refresh and enhanced Windows 3.1 Client. Client Refresh supports Windows 98, provides additional DBCS support, includes Microsoft ODBC Version 3.0 Driver Manager, Advanced Function Printer (AFP) 32-bit viewer, autosync support over NS router, central administration enhancements and IBM Twinaxial adapter for TCP/IP. V4R3’s Client Access is also designed to deliver an enhanced Windows 3.1 client – via PTF – that includes TCP/IP printer emulation, device ID support and bypass sign-on support.

AS/400 NetServer – introduced with V4R2 – now provides native file and print sharing for PC clients. NetServer supports those PC clients running Windows 3.1/95/NT connected via built-in Network Neighborhood and who are using the AS/400 userid/password. Using NetServer, an AS/400 appears on an NT network neighborhood just as any other NT server would, according to Flaada.

NT Server for AS/400 maintains currency with Microsoft NT – NT 5.0 when available and Microsoft Terminal Server – and provides functional enhancements, such as having the NT event log mirrored to the AS/400, enhanced CD-ROM sharing, full-function tape with error logging, the capability to submit NT commands from the AS/400, additions to NT install command for usability and NT dump capabilities. Enhanced NetWare supports interaction with NetWare 5.0 servers and includes TCP/IP support.

Welcome Center for AS/400 contains customer setup instructions for Models 600, S10, 170 and 150. It provides customer guidance prior to calling service and includes IBM global network dialer and a trial usage period, which varies by geography. Welcome Center also includes Netscape Navigator 4.04 and handles crossflow from EZ-Setup. The Center also provides a link to TechStudio, Information Center and AS/400 Online Library.

While Information Center has been updated to contain V4R3 information, e-Jump to V4R3 now supports direct upgrades from V2R3, V3R0.5 and V3R1. The expansion of e-Jump is particularly significant to pre-V3R2 users, who can now move to a Year-2000 compliant version of OS/400 with one upgrade.