An AS/400 First: Taking the Lead on Java2

In a move that might surprise some, the AS/400 has become the first server in IBM's family to debut Java2. The announcement comes on the heels of criticism that the AS/400 is taking a back seat in IBM's server strategy. "It's important to let the industry and our customers know that we're very serious with Java on the AS/400 and we intend to be leaders, not laggards," says John Quarantello, IBM's AS/400 Java segment manager.

Generally available at no charge for customers running V4R4, Java2 is unique because it is the first Java Development Kit (JDK) to be designed specifically for servers. In the past, most JDKs had been designed for use on a client. The most prominent feature of Java2 is Java partitioning, which allows users to run multiple Java Virtual Machines on their AS/400s, says Quarantello.

"V4R4 is capable of running multiple JDKs at the same time," he says. "Previously, you could run multiple JDKs, but they had to be from the same release point." AS/400 developers can use Java2 as a testing tool and use an earlier version of JDK to deploy their Java applications. Once the applications have been tested on Java2, users can move them to a live partition.

Another new feature custom made for the AS/400, the Java Transformer, is a direct execution compiler that creates a 64-bit executable program the first time it runs. "It improves Java performance on the AS/400 five-fold," says Quarantello, who also noted that V4R4 has a 30 percent higher Java performance than V4R3. With the compiler, any Java application written on a 32-bit platform will run as a 64-bit application on the AS/400.

Another feature, Java Extension Frameworks for Developers, enables developers to use Enterprise Java Beans (EJBs) to create reusable components for building server applications in Java.

A Just in Time compiler feature improves on the static code compiler capabilities by compiling code faster for greater performance and speed.

Other new features in Java2 include enhanced printer capabilities and a new GUI builder for legacy systems called Swing, which enables developers to add a graphical user interface to green-screen applications. Security has also been moved from the client to the server.

Despite the increasing popularity of Java, Quarantello is well aware that many AS/400 shops will continue to use RPG. "It's going to be an evolution to Java," he says. "We realize RPG will be around for some time."

The fact that the AS/400 is the first server in IBM's family to implement Java2 is important for a number of reasons, says Quarantello. Chief among them is the message that IBM hopes to better communicate the capabilities of the AS/400. "We're trying to get the market to realize we're not an old legacy system," he explains. "Sometimes people don't realize that the AS/400 can be used for things such as an e-business platform. Java2 is very important for the AS/400 because it lets people know we're moving forward."