Going Global with WebSphere

Mark Buchner

Now that Year 2000 conversions are slowly completing, it's time to start planning for e-commerce solutions. It's becoming increasingly obvious that commerce over the Internet is emerging as the hottest new wave in business IT. With the new security features available, it's clear that the Internet is safe, and so your customers are flocking to the Internet. Will they find your company?

The AS/400, and its tight integration with Java, makes it obvious what platform and language to use. In order to develop an e-commerce solution, you'll need to embrace all of the Java technologies available so that you can access all of the AS/400 resources. WebSphere provides the elements you'll need to include business logic into your e-commerce solution.

IBM's WebSphere is a Java-based application server. It's a software plug-in that can aid in the processing of Java bytecode, and is intended for transaction-intensive applications that access the AS/400 and its resources. WebSphere provides better performance for Java-based processing and is based on Sun's JavaSoft Toolkit. It's shipped with OS/400 as a part of IBM HTTP Server and available as a non-chargeable product from IBM.

WebSphere works together with your HTTP server to process the Java application. Your HTTP server still processes the transfer of the data to and from the server, but when it comes to the Java component, WebSphere takes over. With the help of a Web development tool, like Visual Age for Java, you develop your program by implementing your business logic, which accesses your AS/400 resources.

When a user submits information to the HTTP server, the server identifies it as a Java application using the mapping statements. The HTTP Server then passes the request to WebSphere for more processing. WebSphere passes it along to the servlet manager so that it can get the bytecode from the AS/400. Once the servlet manager has the bytecode, the bytecode is sent to the JVM (Java Virtual Machine) for execution.

WebSphere accesses AS/400 resources in the Java applications using connectors. These connectors can access most AS/400 resources including databases, legacy applications, and mail and groupware applications. Once the JVM has completed processing, the results take the reverse trek back to the HTTP Server to return the information to the browser.

WebSphere allows you to incorporate many different Java technologies on your AS/400. JavaBeans can be incorporated to allow for the reuse of Java code in the way of reusable components. Enterprise JavaBeans can be used to extend your transaction-based processing, in the form of reusable components. These components can be accessed in a Java application by setting the properties and executing the methods. A product like WebSphere Studio can help in the development in JavaBeans.

WebSphere can incorporate Java servlets into your e-commerce solution. Java servlets are to the server what Applets are to the browser. Servlets are a way to write business logic using Java, and deploy them via thin clients. Applets extend the functionality of the Web browser to add additional functionality such as graphics, or JDBC access to the AS/400. Servlets allow you to extend the capabilities of the Web server by providing additional functionality. Servlets also allow you to take advantage of Java's memory management and a set of APIs that allow access to AS/400 resources. Java servlets can only be created on OS/400 V4R3 or higher and requires JSDK (Java Servlet Development Kit) 2.0.

Using Java and WebSphere on the AS/400 has many benefits that make transforming your old programs to Java imaginable. One of the biggest benefits of using Java is its cross-platform capability. This allows you to create a Java application on one platform and move the code to another, such as the AS/400, without the need for a re-compile.

If it's ported to the AS/400, it will run in 32-bit mode, which almost seems like a waste of time for such a powerful system. But don't worry, the AS/400 has the ability to compile the Java code into 64-bit RISC instruction, which is something only the AS/400 can do. Once in 64-bit RISC instructions, it will then be passed to the JVM (Java Virtual Machine). On the AS/400, the JVM is below the MI (Machine Interface) layer and is embedded in the SLIC (System Licensed Internal Code). The result is an extremely fast execution of Java programs, since there's no additional JVM needed for processing.

Browser compatibility is a concern for companies developing Internet applications. When you consider some application languages, there is a dependency on a specific browser. This poses a problem when developing any application, since you do not know what browser your visitors are using3/4not so with Java. It's not dependent on any browser and does not impose any restrictions when using a specific one.

Establishing yourself on the Internet as an e-commerce presence not only increases your profile; it also makes it easier to conduct business on a global scale. The AS/400, combined with the IBM HTTP server and WebSphere, make developing e-commerce solutions easier. The AS/400's tight integration with Java positions it as the premier platform for your e-commerce needs.

To use WebSphere on the AS/400, you'll need the Java Development Kit 1.1.4, as well as IBM HTTP Server and WebSphere. WebSphere is available for the AS/400, Windows NT Server, Solaris and AIX.