V4R4 Advances e-Business Initiatives

The demand for continuous, worldwide access to systems and information has in turn created a demand for IT departments to deliver on the promise of e-business. With the wealth of enhancements introduced in V4R4 of OS/400, IBM moves forward with its goal of offering a secure infrastructure upon which to build an AS/400-based e-business.

Major enhancements to the operating system serve to: broaden use of the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs); increase security through the L2TP link and Internet Key Exchange (IKE) protocols; improve the performance and security of the Firewall for AS/400; consolidate Digital Certificate Manager functions; incrementally improve a variety of TCP/IP servers; update LDAP currency; and pull together Lotus Domino and Java.

If the e-business mindset is taking over the world, both from a corporate and consumer standpoint, then Java is the agent enabling this transformation. "Java is the preferred programming language for us for doing e-business on the [AS/400]," says Dick Kiscaden, e-business solutions manager for IBM's AS/400 Brand Partners In Development organization. V4R4 contains many features that make the Internet complete as a public data access network, in many ways the "the modern-day equivalent of the telephone system, only for data," he adds.

IBM is also promoting V4R4 on the strength of its capability to enhance Web application server middleware available on the AS/400, according to Kiscaden. This will help users better take advantage of Lotus Domino, WebSphere and open interfaces for business partners and ISVs, and for using Java as the integrating language. In the second half of 1999, for example, users can expect enterprise Java bean support native on the AS/400.

"IBM is making an important statement by showing its AS/400 users that their systems have a great degree of e-business potential," says Tom Bittman, VP and research director with Gartner Group (Stamford, Conn.). "This is meant, in part, to keep AS/400 users from moving to Unix or NT. While IBM talks a lot about growing new business, about 90 percent of [V4R4 e-business enhancements] target the installed base."

Client Access can now be used over the SSL, as can Operations Navigator and Management Central, according to Kiscaden. "We also added virtual private networking, which is becoming very popular, for example, between two locations within an establishment who may very well have T1 links onto the Internet anyway," he says. "You can now use that link as your private network."

A VPN encrypts at the low-level IP layer -- unlike Sockets -- and eliminates the need for trading partners to agree upon the same value-added network (VAN). "Everybody's got a connection and now can literally transfer data without concerns about the information on that link," Kiscaden says.

IBM had offered SSL via the firewall with V4R3, but now it's available natively, according to Kiscaden. "This keeps us moving down the path of incorporating natively the functions that you need to do e-business," he says. For the purposes of executing applications like supply chain management, or using the Internet as a network to connect remote establishments, users are "in pretty good shape for doing this."

L2TP link protocol has been added to OS/400 with V4R4, as has IKE protocol to set up keys by manual or dynamic assignment. L2TP is an enhanced link protocol that provides a "multi-hop virtual circuit" through the Internet, while IKE is used to set values and parameters in the exchange of encryption keys and policies. IPSec -- the protocol used to transfer data encrypted at the IP layer -- is now implemented below the AS/400 Machine Interface, where it is hard-coded to the metal of the system for faster performance, according to Kiscaden.

--L. Greenemeier