Corridor for Active Server Available for AS/400

Reliability and adaptability continue to make the AS/400 a popular choice in the e-commerce field. And with e-commerce projections calling for continued growth over the next several years, these attributes are more important than ever. In preparation for this growth, Esker (Stillwater, Okla.) has made its Corridor for Active Server available to AS/400 users for the first time with Release 1.5.

According to Russ Teubner, president of Esker, the decision to make Corridor compatible with the AS/400 came about for a couple of reasons. "[There are] a lot of AS/400 users out there, and a lot of people are using it for e-commerce," Teubner says. "The AS/400 is serving as the back end for a lot of things in e-commerce, like inventory. Plus, we had a lot of AS/400 customers calling us up and asking if they could use Corridor, so we realized there was a market for it in the AS/400 community."

Corridor for Active Server 1.5 will enable integration of AS/400s into graphical Web applications, giving online customers self-service interaction with real-time business-critical data. Corridor consists of two primary components. A server-based run-time component processes Web applications residing on the Web server whenever browsers access them. A design-time facility builds the application for publishing on the run-time side. In order to use Corridor for Active Server 1.5, companies must have either Microsoft Visual InterDev or Microsoft FrontPage 98.

Esker first introduced Corridor in 1996, and later changed its name to Corridor for Active Server. When Esker first introduced Corridor, the feedback was that it was a good product but needed better development tools, according to Teubner.

Despite this need for better development tools, Esker felt it would be better to wait until the major companies released their own tools. Sure enough, Microsoft did just that, introducing Visual InterDev and including it in Microsoft Visual Studio. Then, Microsoft developed an open approach to Web application tools, creating an environment that allows third parties to plug in design-time controls to extend and enhance the functionality of Web application tools. "We didn’t want to create an application product that wasn’t going to be the norm, so we decided to wait until a major company developed better application tools," Teubner says.

Taking advantage of Microsoft's open approach, Esker developed Corridor for Active Server to exploit Visual InterDev and the Microsoft Web technologies. The centerpiece of Corridor for Active Server is the Builder, which plugs into Visual InterDev, FrontPage 98 or PowerSite Web from Sybase Inc. (Emeryville, Calif.). Using the Builder, a customer can log onto the AS/400 and navigate through all the channels until they get to the part where they want the integration to begin. The Builder allows a customer the option of using point-and-click/drag-and-drop techniques to select host information for inclusion in the Web applications, or input data into host applications from Web applications. In short, Esker’s Builder extends the functionality of Visual InterDev and/or FrontPage 98 by enabling developers to build Web-based applications quickly and easily.

According to Jerry Rackley, director of public and media relations for Esker, approximately 80 percent of its customers are using Corridor to gain access to legacy applications, since Corridor makes their AS/400 applications accessible to users through the Web.

Although Corridor for Active Server will be beneficial to Esker’s customers, it is also expected to be helpful for the consumer market. Instead of having to call a company to check the status of a delivery, consumers can go to a company’s Web site and type in an account number. Corridor for Active Server will then send the information from the Web application to the AS/400 to check the status of the order.

One of the advantages of Corridor for Active Server is its ease of use, according to Teubner. "During our research, we found that customers don’t have a lot of time, so that’s why we use Microsoft Visual Studio," he says. "We want to make it as easy as possible so that our customers don’t have to bring in consultants."

Pricing of Corridor for Active Server begins at $17,500 and is based on concurrent host sessions.