OS/400 Edition
Volume 2, Number 46 -- December 10, 2002

PKZIP OS/400 Now Compresses Spool Files

by Alex Woodie

PK Ware issued a new release of its PKZIP OS/400 compression tool last week that adds capabilities for managing and compressing OS/400 spool files. The company, which acquired the compression tool business from its partner Ascent Solutions International (ASi) last month, says the new capabilities in PKZIP OS/400 5.09 will allow AS/400 and iSeries shops to reclaim DASD while simultaneously meeting legal obligations to retain certain files for auditing purposes.


The PKZIP product line is based on a compression algorithm that was originally developed as a hobby by PKWARE's founder, the late Phil Katz, in the mid 1980s. Katz started his Brown Deer, Wisconsin, company from his mother's kitchen table only after realizing people would actually pay money for what he created, and even then he distributed the software as shareware and relied on the goodness of people to send their checks. (They did). PKWARE soon sold to ASi the rights to port and license the software to new markets, and that's how the PKZIP compression utility was ported to MVS and Unix in the early 1990s, followed by a port to OS/400 in 1995.

Today, thousands of AS/400 and iSeries shops are using PKZIP OS/400, according to PKWARE. Over the years, these companies have requested the capability to compress and decompress their spool files in the same way the product allows them to compress and decompress source files, save files, and others, says Tait Hamiel, product manager with PKWARE. Hamiel recently joined the organization from ASi. "We weren't too sure how to go about it, and what they wanted," he said. "So we went out to sites, talked to customers, to bet a better idea of why they're looking for that capability."

What the company found is that their customers were suffering from two problems. First, they were being required to retain their spool file reports for long periods, ranging from 14 days to seven years, depending on industry regulations pertaining to audits. (The healthcare industry, for example, is very stringent in the handling of documents.) As a result of these requirements, the companies were dedicating large amounts of their AS/400 and iSeries DASD capacity to spool files.

Providing a solution presented an excellent opportunity for PKZIP, which regularly achieves files with compression rates of 90 percent, and sometimes can compress files by a factor of 20. With PKZIP OS/400 5.09, the company has introduced the capability to convert those spool files into plain text or PDF files, and then compress them.

PKZIP OS/400 5.09 got an early test at a cable company division office in Ohio. The IT department there was storing a year's worth of invoices that were occupying about 20 GB of disk space. After converting the spool files to PDF documents and then compressing them with PKZIP OS/400, the firm was able to reduce the size of the spool files by 92 percent, Hamiel says. The company then moved the files to a PC, where they were burned on to a CD-ROM, which allowed them to purge their AS/400's spool.

Hamiel says long-term storage to CDs is becoming increasingly common among his customers. "Instead of keeping the data around for auditing purposes, they can remote it," he says. "If it came time to audit, they can grab the CD, put it in the CD-ROM drive on theAS/400, and have PK UNIZIP restore the files."

While PKWARE acknowledges there are many utilities available on the market designed to convert spool files to ASCI formats such as text, PDF, Microsoft Word, and Excel documents--and some offer compression as well--PKWARE says PKZIP customers will benefit from having an all-in-one solution that they don't have to piece together. PKWARE also says these other utilities typically only compress the files by about 50 percent, whereas customers are pretty much guaranteed a 75 percent compression rate with PKZIP OS/400, and usually at least 90 percent.

PKZIP OS/400 5.09 is the first update to the product since version 5.0 was announced in October 2001. That product featured a new 32-bit code base, enhanced support for the OS/400's Integrated File System, and other improvements. Earlier this year, PKWARE released PKZIP for Windows 5.0, which included support for digital signatures. More security enhancements will be added to the entire PKZIP product line which will incorporate new security technologies as a result of the partnership it recently formed with RSA Security. That product is expected to support standard 128-bit encryption capabilities, and is expected to ship in the first quarter of 2003.

PKZIP for OS/400 5.09 is available now. Pricing for the core PKZIP OS/400 compression product is tier-based and ranges from $595 for P05 machines to $9,500 for the P60 machines. The spool file conversion capability is offered as an optional add-on, which ranges from $386 for the P05 tier to $6,000 for the P60 tier. For more information, go to the company's Web site at

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Last Updated: 12/09/02
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