The CommuniGate Swings Open for SMTP Users
by Dan Burger
When IGNITe/400 opened a
public Web site in 1998, the organization's aim was to share information about doing e-
business on the iSeries. Initially the Web site was a facility to provide iSeries users with
an information exchange. As the idea developed, IGNITe/400 began publishing a monthly
To disperse the organization's mailing list to its members, IGNITe/400 used a PC-based
list-management product that interfaced with the group's iSeries SMTP server. Less than
satisfactory experiences with the list-management product and the SMTP server
prompted the organization to seek alternative solutions for its distribution goals.
Bob Cancilla, managing director of IGNITe/400, gave this description of the problems:
"The PC software would hang or crash periodically. We used third-party software to
create an archive of messages sent over the mailing list, and it stopped working when the
PC software was upgraded. We were also incurring tremendous overhead from the IBM
SMTP server. That alone made it extremely difficult to support the mailing list, which at
that time was approximately 450 subscribers. It would have been impossible to have
supported the current monthly newsletter that is sent to 5,324 people."
As the mailing list grew, the staff at IGNITe/400 was constantly repeating information
posted to the list for new members. There was concern about mail-relay protection as
well. Cancilla was also worried about spammers that attempt to use SMTP mail servers
on the Internet as a relay for their unwanted solicitations. This practice not only overloads
a server but also places the unwitting server owner at risk of being labeled a spammer.
Cancilla was not just whistling in the dark. In 1999, IGNITe/400 received a hostile e-mail
from Open Relay Blocking System that threatened to blacklist the user group because its
system allowed mail relay. In its prime, ORBS was a vigilante organization. It scanned
the Internet for SMTP servers that allowed mail relay and threatened to blacklist them.
The watchdog organization, which used to eat spammers for lunch, unfortunately no
longer exists. But as a result of that ORBS warning, IGNITe/400 contacted IBM. The solution IBM provided was a
PTF that allowed SMTP users to block access from a list of IP addresses. To be effective,
IGNITe/400 also had to block all remote mail transmissions. But that was not an option.
IGNITe/400 began to search for a software solution that would adequately address its
concerns. At that time the choices for SMTP and POP servers for the iSeries were IBM's
SMTP or Domino; both had limitations.
A suggestion from one of the IGNITe/400 members was to try CommuniGate Pro
software from Stalker Software. A
quick review of Stalker's Web site identified software for 24 different operating systems;
however, OS/400 was not one of them.
So IGNITe/400 contacted the software manufacturer and offered the use of its machines
for testing and development if Stalker would develop an OS/400 version of its product.
Stalker agreed and ported its software natively to the AS/400 and iSeries. The initial port
was to OS/400 V4R1.
In April 2000, IGNITe/400 downloaded the first iSeries version of CommuniGate Pro,
and, according to Cancilla, the software was up and running in about 10 minutes. The
product was installed on an eServer iSeries Model 270 (2252) with 2 GB memory, 48 GB
RAID 5 DASD, running OS/400 V4R5.
Cancilla says CommuniGate Pro has run error-free for IGNITe/400 since its installation.
"We have not had a single bug," Cancilla says. Several of the product's features have
proved to be valuable assets for IGNITe/400.
Cancilla says the capability to create a searchable archive of the messages and topics that
flow over the IGNITe/400 mailing list has been important to the user group, and the
search engine allows IGNITe/400 to archive and build a knowledge base. He says
IGNITe/400's monthly newsletter, approximately 4K in size, is sent out to more than
5,000 recipients in less than 5 minutes.
CommuniGate Pro's Web-based e-mail interface has also garnered praise from the
organization's members, especially when they are on business trips, operating inside
companies that allow HTML but have restrictive policies regarding connecting to e-mail.
The Web-based management facilities also receive high marks because they allow
members to view current activity and monitor its logs. "This is a tremendous contrast to
the IBM SMTP server, which requires you to find the logs, or it tells you that you didn't
enable logging!" Cancilla says.
IGNITe/400 has upgraded to new releases three times since the group first began using
the product. Features that have been added include a mail relay blocking feature, support
for blacklists, and proprietary authentication of users who are authorized to send
outbound mail via the SMTP server. The administration facility for the product is HTML-
based, as are the help text and documentation.