bridge of the enterprise: The Latest from Client Access

On February 9, IBM made another significant AS/400 announcement. As is becoming par-for-the-course, the minds in Rochester and Toronto hit the mark. You want systems with plenty of gas? They got ‘em.

Of all the highlights in this announcement – and there are quite a few – two excited me the most. The first was the simplification of the product line from three groups (traditional, servers and mixed mode) to one. Now maybe deciding which model to acquire will become a somewhat easier process for most companies. The second is the on-going evolution of Client Access for the AS/400.

Client Access Express. There is some real news here. For one thing, CA Express is for use only in Windows 95/98 and NT environments. Changes from the existing Windows clients are as follows:

  • All file and print serving functions formerly supported by the AS/400 have been moved to the AS/400 NetServer, which does not run the background tasks that formerly ran to support file and print as before. Similar to Microsoft Networking, if you want to make your printer available to the AS/400 network you will need to create a share. To use NetServer, only the "client for Microsoft Networks" (with file and print sharing enabled) must be installed on the client machine.
  • 5250 emulation has several enhancements that include better messaging, startup options, better cut and paste functionality and so on.
  • File transfer has been enhanced to support transfers without setting up a system connection. An additional enhancement here is the use of a wizard when uploading, which helps create a new AS/400 database file definition and add structure to the file. Additionally, tab delimited text files are now supported.
  • Administration enhancements include policy templates that can be used with Microsoft System Policies. This enables restrictions on the use of Operations Navigator to the level of which functions can be used and to the levels of folders that can be accessed. Additional restrictions can be placed on file transfers, even to the type of transfer. You can also control and limit ODBC usage.
  • AS/400 administration through Operations Navigator has also been enhanced. Management Central enables management of multiple AS/400s from a "central server" AS/400. This can be used to collect performance data, distribute and install PTFs, gather hardware and software inventory, execute commands and select objects for inclusion in a package to be distributed throughout the network. IFS (Integrated File System) folders can be created, renamed, deleted or moved. NetServer file and print shares can be created and managed.
  • Applications enablement has been improved via many enhancements to language support, an OLE DB driver and toolkits for Java and PC 5250 enablers.

The requirements for CA Express are steep, but there is no surprise there. For Windows 95 and 98, IBM publishes a minimum 486 66 with 16 MB of memory, and for NT a Pentium 100 with 24 MB of memory is suggested. Who is kidding who here? You can’t run the operating systems on that! I would say the minimum system should be a Pentium 166 with 32 MB for 95/98, and Pentium 233 with 64 MB for NT. Disk space requirements run from 58 to 103.5 MB, depending on what is installed.

This is all good news and an excellent reminder of IBM’s solid commitment to making the AS/400 a clear winner in a heterogeneous environment. As this commitment continues, our users will truly not know what platforms are in use throughout our organizations, nor should they. Moreover, many of our operators of the future will have never had to touch a green screen. This is a good thing. The more disparate systems look and act like one and other, the shorter the learning curves and the easier the support. Both of these result in a positive impact on the bottom line of our companies.

A veteran of the IBM midrange arena since 1983, Chris Gloede is executive VP for Business Solutions Group in Wayne, Pa.