Microsoft Includes AS/400 in SNA Server

Microsoft made sure to include support for AS/400 when it announced the availability of its Service pack 2 for SNA Server Version 4.0. With the release of SP2, Microsoft has enhanced SNA's ability to provide organizations with tools to preserve their investment in existing legacy systems while moving to newer computing models, including client/server and Web-to-host.

"SNA server is a comprehensive gateway and application integration platform that provides an organization with the best way to preserve investments in existing systems, such as the AS/400," says Paul Morse, SNA server product manager for Microsoft Corp. (Redmond, Wash.).

The OLE DB Provider for AS/400 is one of the features included in SP2 and acts as Microsoft's universal data access foundation, according to Morse. This enables Microsoft-based servers front ending legacy systems to get to object-oriented, as well as a wide variety of other, data sources. OLE DB2 allows the user to get directly into DB2 while OLE DB Provider for AS/400 allows the user access to file on the AS/400.

"If we look at it, we consider each company using AS/400 as a company that can benefit from the OLE DB Provider for AS/400 component of Service pack 2," Morse says. "There are a lot of Windows NT servers in AS/400 accounts today. With Windows NT server being right next to the AS/400, it doesn't make sense to treat them as islands. It makes sense to integrate them as much as you can. To that end, the features of SNA Server help you with that integration."

For those already using IP, Microsoft's operating systems can access the AS/400 using TCP/IP in a number of ways. There is a direct connection via IP, or the clients can now connect into the AS/400 directly using TCP/IP.

The SP 2 download from the Web is comprised of multiple executable files, according to Morse. SNA Server 4.0 must be running on a system for the download to be successful. "SNA Server 4.0 has been around integrating NT environments and Windows platform environments for many years with both AS/400s and mainframes," he says. "The type of integration we do has expanded significantly."

One industry analyst agrees that Microsoft's SNA Server allows AS/400 and NT servers to work better together. It is, however, unlikely that SNA Server "will do much in terms of causing a displacement for those devices, at least not near term," says Rob Enderle, a senior analyst with Giga Information Group (Santa Clara, Calif.).

"Bottom line," Enderle says, "an AS/400 customers is probably always going to be an AS/400 customer." The analyst does acknowledge that an offering such as SP2 "kind of caps AS/400 growth because now [users] can bring in low-cost Intel boxes and take care of some of the load that otherwise goes to the AS/400."

"Windows NT server represents an easy to set up and easy to configure world that Microsoft wants to integrate with the world of the AS/400," Morse says. "A company may have a lot invested in the AS/400 but they can also move to new computing technologies for development, to Web-enable or develop client/server applications into the AS/400.

"The AS/400 is not a perfect machine," Morse says. "It does have its shortcomings in terms of being able to do file and print and batch jobs and being super-graphical. Those things are changing, but the fact remains that [the majority of] AS/400s that exist are on Twinax today and the vast majority of application access is through green screens."

--L. Greenemeier