MQSeries 5.1 Code Port Brings Relief to AS/400

Primed to take advantage of the ever-growing need to integrate disparate systems and applications, IBM has introduced an enhanced version of its MQSeries information infrastructure. This latest edition of the MQSeries family primarily addresses business integration, with particular emphasis on moving the infrastructure from a proprietary platform for messaging to promote industry-standard messaging.

MQSeries 5.1 is of particular interest to the AS/400 market because this release marks the porting of IBM's base MQSeries code to the AS/400, rather than maintaining separate code bases for the Unix and AS/400 platforms.

"With the AS/400, you get all the great features and benefits of a product sitting on the AS/400, but we were actually losing ground in terms of keeping it up to speed with our MQSeries 5.1 for the Unix products that were announced in January of this year," says Alan Everard, MQSeries business manager, based in Hursley, U.K. "One of the objectives here was to actually do a port of our code base onto the AS/400--which is a significant piece of work. Based on customer and market requirements, we feel it was well worthwhile doing it for our AS/400 customer set. This port was performed to ensure that AS/400 users had access to many of the latest features available on other platforms."

The MQSeries code base port will, in the end, bring MQSeries improvements to the AS/400 in a shorter amount of time and at less cost, agrees John Mann, senior consultant/analyst with Patricia Seybold Group (Boston). "You restructure the code so that what is specific to a platform is in one set of modules and what you can do commonly across all the platforms is in other modules, and you try to make the latter as big as possible."

According to Everard, key enhancements to the AS/400 version of MQSeries 5.1 include: the ability to have multiple queue managers, which the AS/400 was not capable of previously; large message support, growing from 4 MB to 100 MB; larger queues, whereas previously the queue size limit on the AS/400 was 320 MB, it is now 2 GB; dynamic workload distribution, a way of clustering queue managers across a network of, for example, AS/400s; improved Java classes, which facilitate the development of e-business solutions; and threaded programming support.

These enhancements enable greater flexibility and scalability, according to Everard, adding that integration of business systems addresses the more effective management of a company's supply chain. "To provide an effective supply chain, users really want to have it automated all the way through, and as tightly integrated as possible, so you avoid a lot of manual steps," he says. "There's a way here of doing that by bringing your supplier, who's actually outside your enterprise, into it with MQSeries on the AS/400."

Also as part of IBM's MQSeries announcements, the company introduced Integrator 1.1 for the AS/400, to be delivered during the fourth quarter of this year. Integrator 1.1 includes some significant performance and usability enhancements, despite the lack of certain features available with Integrator 2.0 for AIX and Windows NT, announced simultaneously with the AS/400 version.

The XML component of the Integrator 2.0 announcement does not at this time apply to the AS/400, however the Integrator as a message broker works in a hub-and-spoke architecture, according to Everard. "If you have applications written to MQSeries on the AS/400, and you used Java via API somewhere else, you could still communicate with that application," he says. "But you can't use JMS [Java Messaging Services] on the AS/400 at this time."

Mann adds, "With the enhancements to the AS/400 version of MQSeries, IBM is improving performance and scalability and some basic function relief. The Integrator is a good thing to have, but I'm guessing that a company that has a lot of AS/400s probably would get an Integrator on another platform, where they would get earlier releases of the product."

Overall, the enhancements to the MQSeries family bring with them the promise of supporting heterogeneous connectivity between platforms and guaranteeing delivery of messages between applications, according to Bill Reedy, VP of transaction systems for IBM software solutions.

These application interoperability characteristics make MQSeries a good fit in the rapidly expanding enterprise application integration (EAI) market. "EAI is the response to the competitive dynamics of the world we live in," Reedy says. "It's a new phenomenon devised to accommodate industries that are forcing change on their IT departments. EAI is important because external market demands drive IT to reuse applications in new ways. New applications must be integrated with existing applications to gain competitive advantage."

With this latest version of MQSeries, IBM is extending its messaging capabilities to provide support for the standards while maintaining the capacity to provide guaranteed message delivery, according to Reedy. IBM continues to enable the automation of legacy application integration with "the new world of XML-based definitions of messages and has extended the whole efficiency into a family of products that not only does messaging, but integration and business process management," he adds.