Lansa Serving AS/400 Data from NT

Microsoft may have pioneered the notion of "embrace and extend," but Lansa USA Inc. is now putting it into practice. And the results may not favor Microsoft in the long run.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based AS/400 application development tools vendor is embracing Windows NT as a Web server, but hopes to be able to extend those customers to AS/400 Web serving technology. Lansa has released a new version of its e-business development tool, Lansa for the Web, that generates Java servlets to connect an AS/400 database to a Windows NT Web server. The move allows customers who use AS/400s for their transactional data and Windows NT for Web serving to link the two together, creating transactional applications on the Web server.

Bill Benjamin, Lansa's VP of business development, says the support for Windows NT Web serving is actually intended to help customers move on to AS/400 Web serving.

"The AS/400e offers better security, simplicity, scalability and availability over NT," says Benjamin. "As NT Web sites grow in both transaction rate and application complexity, we believe many will want to turn to the AS/400e as a Web server utilizing [IBM’s] WebSphere [application server]."

If the AS/400 is so much better than Windows NT for Web serving, why work with NT in the first place? "We’re seeing some hesitation in the market," explains Benjamin. "People have this perception, for whatever reason, that the AS/400 is not suitable as a Web server, so we’re responding to that business need by providing Web serving of AS/400 data off NT.

"We still recommend the AS/400 [for Web serving], but if a company is already connected to the Internet and using NT as their Web server, we now provide access to their AS/400 data. They don’t have to port that data over."

Clive Astle, research director at Lansa, says that in many cases, another department -- independent of the IS department -- in an organization will have its own static Web site served off NT, that is not integrated with the organization’s AS/400 transactional system. "These customers are asking us, ‘What can we do, how do I integrate them together?’" he says.

By "flipping a switch," Lansa for the Web can turn customers’ static applications on NT to transaction-based AS/400 applications using an NT-based Web front end. If customers wish to move their Web transaction serving from NT to an AS/400, they can use Lansa’s 100 Percent Pure Java Administration utility to change the server location configuration option.

"As our customers get ready to evolve their static Web sites into transaction-based Web applications, they will need tools to make that transition easier," says Patrice Mitchell, VP of AS/400 entry systems at IBM. "We’re excited about the way Lansa has leveraged WebSphere and Java on AS/400e to allow customers to move quickly to Lansa applications."

The new feature is a free upgrade to existing Lansa customers on maintenance contracts. Customers using AS/400 systems that do not support Java [pre-V4R2] can use CGI instead of Java servlets for connecting their NT Web servers to the AS/400.