ADVANCED BusinessLink Amplifies Messaging Architecture

In a move to enhance the performance of its high-speed messaging (HSM) technology, ADVANCED BusinessLink has released a new version of its HSM architecture, available as a component of the company's Strategi e-business platform.

This latest version of ADVANCED BusinessLink's HSM technology increases performance and provides additional functionality to Strategi in the form of performance monitoring.

Using the new HSM, ADVANCED BusinessLink reports that transaction times average two milliseconds, whereas the previous HSM architecture allowed interactive response times of 50 milliseconds per transaction. This increased speed is expected to provide a significant boost for Strategi users conducting Internet-based services that connect employees, distributors, suppliers and customers who share data and access applications.

"Strategi with HSM helps turn the AS/400 from the high horsepower device of choice into a world-class means of competing in the e-business environment," says Chris Lategan, president and CEO of ADVANCED BusinessLink (Kirkland, Wash.). "With this turbo-charged version of HSM, we've upped the performance level to outpace anything else available on the market, with far greater scaling than any other Web application environment. As a result, users can now access Web-delivered products and services, such as online catalogs or sales reporting systems, faster and more efficiently than ever before."

Strategi's enhanced performance monitoring capabilities are designed to enable users to track hits to a Web page as well as track each transaction on a page and the time taken to perform the transaction (in milliseconds). The capability to conduct performance monitoring is expected, among other things, to help network administrators monitor visitor patterns.

Scott McBurney, ADVANCED BusinessLink's product manager for Strategi, explains that performance monitoring is "the next step along the path" of high-speed messaging. "Performance monitoring ends up being a pretty big deal, we're finding, in the Web world," he says. "It used to be that you'd have 50 users, and you knew what they were doing because you knew the daily business process. On the Web, the business model's changed a bit. Managing your peak times and figuring what's going on is more important than it used to be."

Performance monitoring is just one of many features ADVANCED BusinessLink plans to make available to its customers via the new HSM architecture, McBurney adds.

Though HSM is not a new feature within Strategi, one industry watcher feels this latest version could be just what the technology needs to garner the recognition it deserves. "It takes a while for people to realize the power of HSM," explains Doug Calvin, president and founder of Calvin Consulting (Charlotte, N.C.). Strategi users tend to pay most attention to the product's emulation capabilities, sometimes to the exclusion of other components, he adds.

One of HSM's primary appeals is that users are never actually on the AS/400, according to Calvin. With HSM, users basically have an HTML-GUI front end on the Internet and little server programs written in the background that actually go out to the AS/400 and use it like a server, bringing back data and loading it into the browser with an HTML front end. "All you need on your desktop is a Java-enabled browser and a connection to the Internet. Period. You don't need anything else for HSM," he says.

On the server side, users need the Strategi software as well as custom-written server programs, which can be written in C, RPG, Cobol, etc., according to Calvin. "Strategi has a very elegant way of setting up so you can identify which server goes with what application," he says. "And you can do multiple applications with the same server program."

The road to HSM is not entirely paved in gold, however. "You really need to know JavaScript and be a real strong AS/400 person because you're writing server programs on the AS/400, and you also have to be pretty strong with HTML," Calvin says, adding that there is a shortage of AS/400 IT professionals with the knowledge of all the programming languages necessary--including JavaScript, RPG, C++, HTML, etc.--to "be affective writing these types of applications."

Still, Calvin points out, "HSM is appropriate anyplace where you want to publish interactive applications that provide real-time information. HSM is as wide and as powerful as the Web lets it be."

One business exploring the possibilities of HSM is A&I Products, a Rock Valley, Iowa-based manufacturer and distributor of tractor and combine parts. In early August, A&I rolled out Strategi with HSM technology at one of its facilities. Prior to this implementation of Strategi, A&I used BusinessLink/REMOTE with HSM.

The primary motivation behind implementing Strategi and HSM together is to provide A&I with the capability to put its entire catalog live on the company's Web site, according to Jerry Wynia, IS manager for A&I. "We're building a drill-down catalog using the high-speed messaging," he adds.

The addition of Strategi and HSM enables A&I to keep its online catalogue up-to-date simply by adding to the data stored on a back-end AS/400e Model 720 running V4R3. "We don't have to make any changes," Wynia says. "We just add another category and it's live and dynamic, and all the parts associated with that category would then be available. The data is entered once, and it is immediately available to our Web site.

"End users will now be able to drill down and to get at specific information quickly, without having to do a lot of paging," Wynia continues. "And it's live data. The plan, once we get this finished, is to start taking this to the next step, and allow our customers to order online. In this way, all of A&I's customers would become Strategi users and we'd have specific locations for them [to visit]."

From there A&I wants to enable customers to track their own orders and obtain shipping information from delivery companies. End users will become more proactive with regard to placing and tracking their orders, reducing the amount of overhead--especially labor--A&I needs to maintain on its end.

The upgrade to the enhanced HSM architecture is free to existing Strategi customers, who are required run OS/400 V3R7 or newer on the server side. On the desktop side, users must run at least Version 4 of either Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator.