V4R4 Hits the Streets

With the release of V4R4 on May 21, IBM has gone far to streamline not only the AS/400 operating system but the AS/400 network environment as a whole. V4R4 of OS/400 delivers a number of e-business initiatives, introduces logical partitioning (LPAR) and ties these first two components together with enhanced security.

Despite the size of the code that comprises V4R4, this release does not offer a large quantity of new features and enhancements when compared to its Version 4 predecessors. Release 4 does, however, feature improved Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) capabilities, security through the L2TP link and Internet Key Exchange (IKE) protocols, Firewall for AS/400, Digital Certificate Manager functions, TCP/IP servers and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) capabilities.

"Overall enhanced network security capabilities are a general theme that customers will take advantage of," says Bob Elliott, 1999 project manager for IBM's AS/400 Brand. "Customers will more and more look to the Internet and to VPN technology over the Internet to take advantage of AS/400 function."

Increased use of VPNs will most prominently affect customers who would have used dedicated private networks when working with their trading partners and customers, according to Elliott. "Those networks would in the past have been prearranged, leased, expensive types of networks," he says. "In the future, with the enhanced security capabilities, AS/400 users will be able to take advantage of this using Internet."

One of the most anticipated features included within V4R4 is LPAR, which builds upon IBM's February introduction of the 7XX series of AS/400s in terms of server consolidation. "V4R4 won't be driven by a hardware requirement, as it has been in the past, but truly will be more driven by customers looking to take advantage of new functions such as LPAR, the enhanced security, the enhanced performance implemented with our significant focus on TCP/IP," Elliott points out.

"With V4R4, there are some significant functional enhancements in terms of our management of multiple locations, which we call 'management central,'" Elliott adds. "This makes it much easier for folks from a central site to manage a large, distributed complex of AS/400s and maintain consistency."

As increased use of the Internet plays a greater role in AS/400 environments, OS/400 security grows more sophisticated. SSL has been implemented as a layer within the AS/400 that various parts of the system can now take advantage of without having to integrate it into the individual components separately, according to Elliott. "They can call on that resource and use it from a common layer of software within the AS/400," he says.

Additional e-business enhancements include the IBM HTTP Server for AS/400 and WebSphere for AS/400, which turns an AS/400e into a Java-based Web application server. WebSphere is designed to provide high-performance database access, directory services and access to other AS/400 resources via connectors and industry-standard object request brokers.

On the application development side, V4R4 introduces Java Security Extensions, as well as enhancements to the AS/400 Java Virtual Machine (JVM), AS/400 Developer Kit for Java, AS/400 Toolbox for Java and Java Servlet support via IBM WebSphere for AS/400.

With V4R4, IBM also officially changes the name of the AS/400's DB2/400 to DB2 Universal Database for AS/400. More than simply a name change, IBM's goal is to bring its AS/400 database into parity with its DB2 Universal Database (UDB). While DB2 UDB for AS/400 does not share a common code base with DB2 UDB on other platforms -- such as Unix, Windows NT and MVS -- it is consistent in function with the IBM database on those platforms.

DB2 UDB for AS/400 brings with it improved access for JDBC and SQLJ, as well as full support for Java clients. Universal application has been improved with the addition of Web-based data warehousing tools and full Java application server support. Universal scalability has been enhanced with improved encoded vector index support, introduced with V4R3. Additionally, universal management has been improved with the addition of Operations Navigator, which provides a Windows Explorer-like interface for graphical database management facilities.

AS/400 users should be aware that IBM will release an add-on pack with additional enhancements to V4R4 during the fourth quarter of this year. This add-on -- announced in February -- will primarily consist of object relational support for the Universal Database. "The vast majority of the function contained within the enhance pack exists within V4R4 but is disabled as part of the code shipping in May. In the fourth quarter, we will turn that on with a small amount of additional code," Elliott says.

V4R4 continues to travel down the same consistent path IBM started with V4R1, according to Elliot. Enhancements introduced with V4R4 consist of both visible changes and internal re-architecting. "If you look at the new lines of code and enhancements that have been made as part of V4R4, it's as large as V4R2 and V4R3 combined," he points out.