The Four Hundred
OS/400 Edition
Volume 11, Number 11 -- March 18, 2002

IBM Readies Beta One of iSeries Access for Web Middleware

by Joe Hertvik

IBM will launch the first beta of its iSeries Access for Web middleware program in a few weeks. The goal of this first beta is to provide IAW compatibility with WebSphere Application Server 4.0 for iSeries, but beta one also contains other new browser-based features for improved PDF viewing of OS/400 spool files, OS/400 command processing, file transfer, and e-mail capabilities. A second beta is scheduled for June or July, which is just before OS/400 V5R2 is expected.

iSeries Access for Web provides server-side software for accessing a browser-based view of iSeries V4R5 and V5R1 resources and information. Its capabilities include DB2 database access through built-in SQL requests; Integrated File System download and view capabilities; OS/400 printer and printer output queue display and management; as well as standard HTTP and HTTPS interfaces. IAW ships as a standard feature of IBM's V5R1 Client Access Family product (5722-XW1), along with the WebSphere Host Publisher 3.5 software.

The primary purpose of IAW beta one is to make it compatible with WebSphere 4.0 for iSeries (the current IAW production level software supports WebSphere 3.5). Beta one will also run under Apache's Jakarta Tomcat server on iSeries (OS/400 Tomcat), but IBM warns that the documentation for running beta one under OS/400 Tomcat is still in process (that is, there won't be a lot of installation instructions or information for a while). This isn't surprising considering WebSphere is IBM's strategic direction for Web application serving. Rumors are also circulating that IBM will drop OS/400 Tomcat support over the next few years after it releases its new, low-cost WebSphere Application Server Entry Edition software, but there is no definite word about this possibility yet (although it's worth noting that OS/400 is the only IBM eServer platform that supports Tomcat, which doesn't bode well for OS/400 Tomcat's long-term survival). WebSphere Host Publisher will not be included in the beta download.

But IAW beta one isn't just a WebSphere 4.0 play. IBM is adding a number of other features to the software:

  • New printer features for downloading OS/400 spool files as PDFs that can be displayed using Adobe Acrobat. IBM is offering two ways to generate spool file PDFs for iSeries Access for Web users. Customers can either purchase IBM's licensed InfoPrint Server for iSeries product or they can install the open-source iText software for generating PDF files on the fly (instructions for downloading and installing iText in your OS/400 environment will be included in the beta's README file). But there's a catch. The licensed InfoPrint Server program provides more of a "true" PDF generation facility, where customers can take advantage of useful PDF features such as search. IBM's iText implementation will only transform spool file output into a PDF format as embedded images, which are suitable for printing or viewing only. So if you have IBM's licensed product, you will get more capability from the beta.
  • Personal folders where the results of iSeries Access for Web actions can be stored. This allows users to kick off long-running IAW download features, such as an SQL DB2 database query or a PDF download, and have the results stored in a personal folder for later retrieval. Users can also specify that IAW results be stored in other users' personal folders so output can redirected to a different destination.
  • E-mail notification when someone adds an item to a user's personal folder, and the ability to e-mail IAW results, such as PDF files, to a user.
  • Improved database-to-Web delivery formats, including using PDF and XML as output formats for OS/400 queries.
  • Expansion of iSeries Access for Web's batch command facility. The current production IAW supports batch command execution, but the beta adds the ability to save, retrieve, and execute commands at a later date. Customers will also be able to search for commands by command name (complete with wildcards) or by command description. IBM compares these search functions to those available from Google or Yahoo.
  • Improved Integration File System support for copying, renaming, and deleting files, and creating and deleting directories. And since IAW is browser-based software that can use the HTTPS secure protocol, IAW can also be used as something of an FTP substitute that performs client verification.
  • According to IBM, iSeries Access for Web beta one is technically done but needs to clear Big Blue's administrative and legal review before it will be offered at the Client Access Downloads Web site. The second IAW beta is scheduled for a June or July release, and may even be released as a final Client Access Family component around that time, because OS/400 V5R2 and the V5R2 Client Access products are expected to also be announced at the end of July and released either then or soon thereafter. Because of this, we may also soon see other Client Access betas appear for Client Access Express for Windows V5R2 as well as a new beta for WebSphere Host Publisher. We'll let you know when this program and other Client Access family betas are available for download.

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