Web Interface Almost Looks Like Old-Fashioned C/S

Web-based connections to AS/400 sessions are still no match for traditional client/server. There's still less security and functionality in a browser-based connection than in a straight-on 5250 emulation session. However, Farabi Technology Corp. (Montreal) is trying to bring Web-to-host closer to client/server as we knew it with the addition of ActiveX controls to HostFront, its Windows NT-based Web-to-AS/400 package. This provides HostFront -- which already includes Java-based file-transfer capabilities -- added features and security in AS/400-to-PC file transfers.

Many users are seeking the same file transfer capabilities and security in Web-based environments that are part of traditional client/server environments, says Charles Machalani, business development manager for Farabi. Such requirements include support for SQL-based statements and SSL-encrypted file transfer support. "We brought those features to an applet or browser-based solution with ActiveX controls," he says. Along with enhanced file transfer security, all sessions maintain native AS/400 security.

Through embedded support for SSL 3.0 and 40-and 128-bit encryption by RSA Data Security Inc. (San Mateo, Calif.), a file transfer operation can be executed by any authorized user, vendor, partner or customer in a high level of security over a corporate intranet or the Internet, from Windows-based desktops.

HostFront, which supports nine PC file formats and five AS/400 file types, provides a three-tier architecture, with a Windows NT server acting as a gateway between the AS/400 and Web clients. Operating in conjunction with Microsoft SNA Server and Internet Information Server (IIS), HostFront is designed to provide a natural TCP/IP-to-SNA protocol boundary that shields the host from the risk of intrusion. Farabi is currently working on support for a TN5250e engine to be included in future releases of HostFront, according to Machalani.

In addition, Farabi is using ActiveX controls to mimic the display session and print capabilities inherent in traditional client/server, Machalani continues. While previous versions of HostFront supported Java, the language "has limitations at the client side," he says. "You have no access to hard drives and resources." An ActiveX control embedded in the product enables remote host printing at any location.

Atlas Van Lines (Canada) Ltd. (Oakville, Ontario) recently implemented the latest version of HostFront to enable its far-flung network of agents to prepare pre-printed forms -- such as estimates, invoices and bills of lading -- from browser-based PCs. Prior to the installation, Atlas's agents accessed the company's main AS/400 through a proprietary 9,600 character-per-minute dial-up system that had to be mailed out to each agent.

"The problem was finding a Web-to-host solution that provided printing on preprinted forms over the Internet," says John Girolami, manager of technological development for Atlas.

HostFront for AS/400 is currently available with prices beginning at $5,995 for a 32-concurrent user license. A HostFront Publishing module is also available as a server-based option to HostFront at a price of $5,995.