IBM Delivers Sweeping AS/400e Series Enhancements

September 11 will mark the third time in the past 12 months that IBM has managed to pack a long list of new features and enhancements into a new release of OS/400. In keeping with the previous two releases, V4R3 follows the "more is more" approach, as IBM delivers a sweeping litany of enterprise features and functions addressing topics such as performance/capacity increases, Windows desktop integration, e-business, Java and business intelligence.

"What we are delivering, starting with V4R2 and now enhancing and extending with V4R3, really levels the playing field in all the functional areas that people have held us up as having shortcomings in the past," says Drew Flaada, 1998 project manager for AS/400 Brand.

With September’s announcement, IBM is introducing new technology without disrupting the existing architecture, according to Jim Pertzborn, VP of server and workstation development for IBM’s Server Brand.

Foremost in the area of performance/capacity increases are new processors for AS/400e Series Models S40, 650 and 170, as well as new processors for custom mixed-mode servers and custom application servers. With these processors, the S40 and 650 support DASD capacity up to 2.1 TB, and memory has been doubled to 40 GB.

Not to be outdone, the entry-level Model 170’s memory capacity has been increased 3.5 times to a maximum of 3.58 GB, while the DASD capacity has been doubled to 175 GB. Improvements to the 170 increase the Processor Commercial Processing Workload (CPW) rating to 220 and the Interactive CPW rating to 30.

Custom server solutions now feature new processor configurations designed to better enable the integration of third-party software solutions. Enhancements to custom mixed-mode server configurations enable support for a DASD capacity of up to 2.1 TB. The popularity of custom mixed-mode environments has translated into the shipment of more than 500 of these servers thus far, with at least half going to Europe, according to Debra Thompson, VP of enterprise systems for AS/400 Brand.

V4R3’s performance/capacity enhancements also include integrated hardware disk compression, where data is dynamically compressed/decompressed by the DASD controller, which is independent of the AS/400 system processor. In addition, V4R3 offers Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM), which enables the automated, transparent management of data across a storage hierarchy, based on user-defined policies.

Improved Windows-based "point and click" client integration features offered with V4R3 introduces a new Operations Console, E-Z Setup Wizard and Client for NT File System for AS/400 users. Also included with V4R3 are enhancements to Operations Navigator, Client Access for AS/400, AS/400 NetServer, NT Server for AS/400, enhanced NetWare, Welcome Center for AS/400, Information Center, e-Jump, Tivoli and reduction in abnormal IPL time.

New e-business features available through V4R3 include a payment server, NetQuestion and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) Directory Services. IBM also uses the release of V4R3 as an opportunity to enhance several of the AS/400’s existing e-business functions, including: HTTP Server for AS/400; Firewall for AS/400; Net.Commerce; Domino; Distributed Computing Environment (DCE); and Euro currency symbol support.

V4R3 business-critical application development includes enhancements to Java, San Francisco for AS/400 support, POSIX threads, and ILE C and C++ for AS/400. Specific Java enhancements include the integrated Java Virtual Machine (JVM), AS/400 Developer Kit for Java (compatible with Sun’s JDK 1.1.6), AS/400 Toolbox for Java and Java servlet support via IBM HTTP Server for AS/400. On the San Francisco front, Version 1.3 is expected to be available on V4R3 during the fourth quarter of 1998.

IBM is making a major investment in Java, as V4R3 indicates, notes Pertzborn. "Java is a perfect match for the AS/400," he says. "The ability to manipulate objects is inherent in the AS/400’s machine language."

V4R3 advances IBM’s business intelligence strategy on the AS/400 by introducing encoded vector indexes and new database monitor APIs. Encoded Vector Indexes are similar in function to bit-mapped indexes, but are designed to take less storage space and scale better. The new OS also features enhancements to SQL, ALTER TABLE performance, DB2 for AS/400 SMP parallelism, and IBM DataPropagator Relational Capture and Apply 5.1 for AS/400.

Business intelligence enhancements also remove SQL package size limits and upgrade "scalar subselect" in UPDATE, as well as support multisystem subquery, C++ precompiler and ALIAS. DataPropagator Relational Capture and Apply 5.1 for AS/400 have been improved to update source and replicated tables, include both V1 and V2 DataPropagator Architectures and GUI Control Center. In addition, the new product number – 5769-DP2 – is compatible with V4R1, V4R2 and V4R3.

The accelerated pace at which IBM delivers new OS/400 releases is in keeping with the rate of technology, according to one industry analyst. "It’s pretty much the nature of an industry that now seems to be measured in Web years [equal to about three months]," says Maria DeGiglio, publications editor for D.H. Andrews Group (Cheshire, Conn.).

"While V4R3 brings a tremendous value proposition to the AS/400 and to the direction of AS/400," DeGiglio points out that whether or not a company chooses to upgrade will be determined by their individual needs. "There are some companies that need to stay leading edge because of their business case. And they have the development environment and the resources to do that. There are other companies that will skip a release, or test a release for some time before implementing it," she says. "Companies must determine for themselves where they want to go."