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  The Four Hundred

Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan       Managing Editor: Shannon Pastore
Contributing Editors: Joe Hertvik
Alex Woodie
Shannon O'Donnell

    Symtrax

    In the November 19, 2001,  Issue:

    JDE to Support WorldSoftware Indefinitely

    by Timothy Prickett Morgan

    Three cheers for RPG! Last week, J.D. Edwards & Company, still the largest application provider for the OS/400 platform, yielded to customer demands and extended the life of the RPG-based WorldSoftware suite indefinitely. The fate of the WorldSoftware suite, which was officially replaced by JDE's OneWorld suite for OS/400, Unix, and Windows servers in 1997, has been the subject of much debate in recent years.

    WorldSoftware is widely regarded as one of the best ERP applications, not only in the OS/400 market, but in the midrange at large. But because it uses the RPG language and the 5250 green-screen terminal protocol at the heart of OS/400, it is not exactly perceived as being cool, like OneWorld, which is written in C++ and Java by a high-level code generator for various platforms. Moreover, WorldSoftware has been installed, and, more importantly, highly tuned for AS/400 and iSeries servers by some 4,000 customers around the world. While these OS/400 shops want all the benefits of e-business, collaborative commerce, and ERP extensions like customer relationship management and supply chain management, the one thing they generally do not want to do is upgrade to OneWorld. This has caused much consternation at JDE, which was obviously planning on not only taking its OneWorld code base into the Unix and Windows world but also selling thousands of customers on OS/400 platforms upgrades from WorldSoftware to OneWorld.

    For years, JDE had a strategy of enhancing OneWorld with lots of new features and leaving WorldSoftware largely untouched. This, as you might imagine, rankled JDE's loyal OS/400 customers. While plenty of customers have upgraded to OneWorld from WorldSoftware, OS/400 shops are conservative and rightfully stingy when it comes to applications. If they are going to go through an upgrade, they want to get a lot out of it. For many customers, the relatively untuned nature of OneWorld compared with the highly tuned WorldSoftware suite made such an upgrade unattractive. (The performance differences between WorldSoftware and OneWorld are a byproduct of using a cross-platform, computer-aided software engineering tool to create the OneWorld applications from high-level application frameworks, rather than RPG code that has two decades of tuning.) So they stayed put.

    In the spring of 2000, with support for WorldSoftware set to expire in February 2002 (just after tax season and the leap year), JDE brought in key customers to help it decide the fate of WorldSoftware. The rapid decline of ERP sales in the wake of the Y2K transition had forced JDE to reexamine some of its assumptions about what its customers wanted and where they were going. In late June, after listening to its customers, JDE formed the WorldSoftware Organization, a new unit of the company, to bring a lot of the functionality and extensions that were woven into the OneWorld suite back into WorldSoftware. Before this, JDE had only a handful of programmers working on WorldSoftware, but it put 50 programmers on staff to start building interfaces into popular ERP add-ons, including those from JDE and other vendors. The company also said at that time that it would extend the life of the WorldSoftware suite until February 28, 2005.

    Last week, Dave Siebert, group vice president of the WorldSoftware Organization, sent out a letter to WorldSoftware customers and business partners that said WorldSoftware support would be extended indefinitely, and that JDE would not set an end date for support of the product but rather would reevaluate the provisioning of WorldSoftware support on a periodic basis. This will make WorldSoftware customers happy, or at least happier than they were.

    Siebert told the WorldSoftware community that the announcement means that customers moving to OneWorld can do so because they want to upgrade, not because they think JDE is going to yank support for WorldSoftware. (JDE has always allowed customers to mix and match WorldSoftware and OneWorld modules on the same servers, so an upgrade can be done piecemeal rather than in a big bang.) He also said the reprieve given to WorldSoftware means customers can expect more enhancements and extensions to the product in the coming years, as opposed to simple maintenance updates and integration with selected applications like JDE's own Active Planning or Collaborative Customer Relationship Management solution, as well as those from third parties.

     

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    HP Sunsets Its Proprietary e3000 Server Line

    by Timothy Prickett Morgan

    In a shocking but not unexpected move, Hewlett-Packard last week killed off the HP 3000 proprietary midrange server line. The HP 3000 server line, which was launched in 1972 and is now known as the e3000, is almost as old as the IBM System/3X-AS/400-iSeries family of midrange servers and has an equally staunch and loyal following, particularly among manufacturers who use the machines for bookkeeping as well as for shop floor controllers. While the death of the HP 3000 line and its proprietary MPE/ix operating system should be cause for concern for OpenVMS customers over at Compaq, which is set to merge with HP early next year unless a proxy battle over the fate of the merger erupts, HP's sunsetting of the HP 3000 platform does not necessarily portend a similar fate for the venerable OS/400 platform. While the three big proprietary minicomputer lines from IBM, HP, and Digital (eaten by Compaq in 1998) do have much in common, they have very different customer bases and, more importantly, different prospects for the future.

    The HP 3000 line was what got HP into the computer business back in the early 1970s. The machine and its MPE operating system are highly regarded as being stable and reliable. The strength of the HP 3000 business, where the company built up an installed base of about 60,000 machines by the late 1980s, is what gave HP the conviction and the means to create its own RISC processors and its own variant of the Unix operating system to compete against the then-fledgling company called Stanford University Network Microsystems, now known merely as Sun Microsystems. In the early 1990s, to help reduce its hardware development costs, HP moved its proprietary MPE operating system to the PA-RISC servers it created to run HP-UX, its Unix variant. Both Digital and IBM have since followed suit and done the same thing with their own proprietary operating systems. Although their RISC-based servers were designed to support proprietary and Unix environments (albeit not concurrently) from the get-go. And, in truth, IBM has ported AIX to the 64-bit PowerPC AS/400 platform, more than the other way around. As I have said before, the AS/400 Division, in creating the only working 64-bit PowerPC processors, saved IBM's cookies and has allowed Big Blue to come back in the Unix server market in a way that would not have been possible with the 32-bit processor designs that IBM's Austin RS/6000 labs put out. (Depending on Motorola to develop the 64-bit PowerPC 630 processor was, in retrospect, not a smart move.)

    Having ported MPE from the proprietary HP 3000 processors to run on its 32-bit, and then 64-bit, PA-RISC chips, HP could continue to sell machines to existing customers who were loathe to port their applications to Unix or Windows servers. (Sound familiar?) While I am certain that keeping MPE alive on the PA-RISC platform does not cost HP much these days, HP is in a bind financially, and it is sunsetting the HP 3000 line in an effort to boost revenues of its Unix and Windows server lines while reducing costs. If it kills the HP 3000, that's one less operating system to have to support and enhance. If it kills the HP 3000, that's potentially a few billion dollars in Unix and Windows server sales over the next five years, when support for MPE will be dropped.

    The real problem is that HP is in the midst of moving from the PA-RISC chip over to Intel's 64-bit Itanium processors. Back in 1996, when HP signed on as a design partner for the Itanium chips, it had no intention of selling servers using its own PA-RISC processors beyond 1999 or 2000. The current high-end Superdome and midrange N-class, entry A-class, and L-class HP 9000 Unix servers were designed to support the Itanium processors. But Intel bollixed up the design, the chip was late and underperformed, and that has forced HP to extend the life of the PA-RISC line. Intel seems to be working the kinks out with the McKinley and Madison generations of the Itanium processor, and HP is confident that it will soon be using these chips to support Unix, Windows, and Linux platforms on a unified server platform.

    Hardware development is not the issue that forced HP to kill off the HP 3000 line. Software developed by HP, as well as third-party systems programs and applications is what this is all about. HP has spent the last three years porting HP-UX to Itanium, and has laid off the 150 engineers who did most of that work and, significantly, who could have made possible a port of MPE to the Itanium chip. It is hard to say what it would cost HP to move MPE to the Itanium processors, but it seems clear from HP's decision to kill that port, which was already underway, that it would not be a profitable move. Some HP developers who work on MPE have suggested that the company make the operating system an open source program so users and key HP developers can continue to support and enhance it on HP or other iron, but this seems unlikely. HP wants to steer HP 3000 customers, and steer them hard, to HP-UX, Windows, or Linux solutions running on its future Itanium server line.

    Most significantly, sources at HP say that the ecosystem surrounding the HP 3000 and its MPE environment has degraded severely. Whereas IBM has sold close to 1 million System/3x-AS/400-iSeries boxes and has some 250,000 unique customers today, the HP 3000 base was probably never much larger than 100,000 to 200,000 machines and probably only had several tens of thousands of unique customers. Loyal HP 3000 users blame HP for killing off the 3000 sales force, for insufficient marketing, and for not keeping the platform up with the times. Because of neglect, the HP 3000 installed base has been declining in the past few years. As it now stands, HP will only sell new HP 3000 processors using PA-8600 and PA-8700 processors through November 2003. Customers with HP 3000 servers with modern 64-bit PA-RISC processors will be given the tools to install HP-UX on their machines, which HP is making available for free.

    So what does this have to do with the OS/400 platform? Plenty. But the prognosis for OS/400 is a lot better than it ever was for MPE and a lot better than it will be for OpenVMS once HP and Compaq merge. For one thing, OS/400 and related database and systems programs bring in for IBM several hundred million dollars a year in revenue--my best guess is somewhere between $300 million and $400 million, depending on the year and the upgrade cycle. This software is extremely profitable, with somewhere around 85 percent gross margins.

    Moreover, HP did not give MPE an HP-UX runtime environment or native Linux support within partitions. IBM has added the PASE AIX runtime and Linux in partitions to OS/400 servers, which means that AIX and Linux applications that would have never been ported to OS/400 can now run natively on the AS/400 and iSeries platforms. This technology difference--which is by no means above the technical capabilities of HP, which has several different kinds of logical partitions available on the HP 9000 platform- -has been crucial to the long-term economic survival of the OS/400 platform. Now, instead of having to port Unix or Linux applications natively to OS/400 using its compilers, IBM can simply take a program written for AIX or Linux and drop it into one of those environments on an iSeries server. Moreover, customers can run application servers for popular programs on the Integrated xSeries Server, which supports Windows NT and Windows 2000. OS/400 shops will continue to have options (which arguably are less attractive than actual native OS/400 support) because of IBM's inclusive yet controlling attitude to non-OS/400 operating systems on the AS/400 and iSeries platform. The real crime is that HP didn't see that it could have taken care of those MPE customers if it thought a little more outside of the box. Thankfully for OS/400 shops, the OS/400 community both inside and outside of IBM's Rochester iSeries development labs and its Somers marketing organization have been able to keep Big Blue moving ahead without giving up on the platform.

    That said, the true measure of IBM's loyalty to the OS/400 platform will be annual sales and profits, just as it was for HP. The NUMA-Q line has been quietly killed off inside IBM, for instance, and no one even knows or cares except for a few big customers like Boeing that rely on those machines. So long as IBM can sell $3 billion or so in iSeries servers a year and a few hundred million dollars in OS/400 operating systems, the iSeries will be here to stay. There's probably quite a bit of wiggle room in those numbers, too. My best guess is that OS/400 only takes about $50 to $60 million a year to develop, and that IBM could sell only $2 billion a year in iSeries servers and give OS/400 away and still have a moderately profitable business. Only Buell Duncan, general manager of the MidMarket Server division, and his bosses know exactly where the break-even point is with the iSeries line, however, and you can bet that they will try to stay well above that point.

     

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    Vision Solutions Announces Enterprise Edition

    by Timothy Prickett Morgan

    Vision Solutions, the Irvine, California, maker of high availability clustering software for OS/400 servers and data transformation software for all the popular midrange platforms on the market, will this week take the wraps off a new Enterprise Edition of its Vision Suite of clustering programs for OS/400. The Enterprise Edition, according to sources at the company, is another step in the direction Vision is moving in to bring HA application clustering to Unix environments and possibly to Windows and Linux environments as well.

    The main new feature that turns the normal Vision Suite into the Enterprise Edition is a graphical configuration tool that runs on Windows, Linux, or Unix workstations and can be used to control clusters that range in size from two to hundreds of iSeries and AS/400 servers. The Command Center for Vision Suite, as the graphical management tool is called, resembles the Operations Navigator features of OS/400 and is designed to replace the cluster management green screens that users of prior generations of Vision Suite used to configure and administer OS/400 servers in their high availability clusters. This Command Center relies on Java-based server jobs that run on the OS/400 servers and a Java-based client that runs on the command workstation, connected by XML protocols over a standard TCP/IP link. As Vision rolls out support for non-OS/400 platforms, it will be able to use a cookie-cutter approach to linking these platforms into the Command Center because it is using Java, XML, and TCP/IP as the core underlying technology behind the management and presentation layer of Vision Suite. All of these technologies are supported more or less equally on OS/400, Windows, Linux, and Unix. Sources at Vision Solutions say that they expect to deliver HA clustering for Unix environments-- with IBM's AIX and Sun Microsystems' Solaris being the obvious first two that anyone would support out of the chute--sometime next year. Vision has its eye on the Windows and Linux clustering space as well, but its exact intentions here are unknown. HA clustering for Windows is something Windows could really use, based on the relatively low reliability of that operating system.

    The Enterprise Edition of Vision Suite, available at the same price as the regular Vision Suite, also includes installation wizards to make it easier to setup iSeries clusters. Furthermore, the Enterprise Edition includes support for reorg-while-active (which means updating and reorganizing databases and indexes while transactions are still processing), as well as support for several new features in OS/400 V5R1. Specifically, the Enterprise Edition of Vision Suite supports the journaling of OS/400 data areas and data queues, which is possible because IBM tweaked OS/400 to capture more information about data areas and data queues than prior releases of OS/400. The Enterprise Edition also supports what is called journal minimal data, which is also new with V5R1, according to Vision. This allows companies to set up mirroring so only portions of an OS/400 object that change are mirrored. For large files, this can result in a substantial performance boost. However, Vision wants to point out that it is not necessarily recommending that customers do this, since journaling changes could make those files less available than full mirroring. The Enterprise Edition also includes support for full byte-stream file transfers in OS/400's Integrated File System, which can speed up mirroring for Domino, WebSphere, and other objects stored in the IFS. IBM added full byte-stream support to OS/400 with V4R5.

    Vision Suite Enterprise Edition has been in beta testing since May and will be generally available by the end of this year.

    In addition to announcing the Enterprise Edition of Vision Suite, Vision Solutions will this week announce it has initiated a Cluster Advantage Program, a special consulting service available through Vision Solutions and its resellers and partners that has the goal of improving the already high availability of applications for customers using Vision Suite to the Holy Grail of continuous availability. The Cluster Advantage Program gives Vision Suite customers more advanced graphical tools to manage their clusters, 150 to 200 hours of professional services (good for assessment and implementation of the HA solution), and training in how to use and manage an OS/400 cluster. A few companies have been early users of the Cluster Advantage Program, which is available worldwide immediately.

     

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    New Tooling Available for WebSphere Bumblebee

    by Shannon O'Donnell

    In the November 12 edition of this newsletter (see "WebSphere Bumblebee Not Ready for Prime Time"), I discussed IBM's recent announcement of eServer iSeries Powered by WebSphere, which we call the WebSphere Bumblebee. This new system is basically an iSeries box that has been preloaded and configured with WebSphere Application Server 4.0, which itself is based on the Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) standard. Also included on this new box is a set of WebSphere development tools.

    In that article, I focused on the fact that the WebSphere development tools IBM included with the new server were not iSeries-specific, and that the output from the current WebSphere Development Studio tools would not work with WebSphere Application Server 4.0 and its J2EE environment. Therefore, rolling out the new system without providing iSeries-centric development tools seemed to me like IBM was putting the cart before the horse.

    Since that article was published, I have learned that IBM had rolled out a service pack for WebSphere Development Studio (5722-WDS) that will enable many of its WebSphere- dependent components to work with WebSphere Application Server 4.0. In fact, this new service pack, Service Pack 4, was made available for download November 14 on the IBM Web site.

    SP4 allows the current WebFacing Tool, WebSphere Studio 3.5, and VisualAge for Java 3.5 to work with WebSphere Application Server 4.0. The service pack adds several new features to these tools, allowing them to export their output in a form that can be understood by the new server. The new Export Wizard packages the JSPs, Beans, and other components from your WebSphere Studio 3.5 and VisualAge for Java 3.5 projects so that they will follow the conventions used by WebSphere Application Server 4.0's new file structure. In addition, the output from this new wizard takes advantage of WebSphere Application Server 4.0's ability to process Web Archive (WAR) files. WAR files are used to package a J2EE project so that it can be distributed and installed on any J2EE- compliant system with little or no work on the part of the person who installs it. In fact, WAR files are a superset of Java Archive (JAR) files, used to compress applications. WAR files also contain configuration information that tells application servers how to configure and install this Web application.

    SP4 allows you to create projects using the WebFacing Tool, WebSphere Studio 3.5, and VisualAge for Java 3.5, and then install and run those projects on the new server running WebSphere Application Server 4.0. And, perhaps, equally important: The projects you create and package in a WAR file can be used by other Web application servers on any server, such as Tomcat on iSeries, which is also now available.

    This is welcome news, as it means IBM now allows you to use your products (with the new service pack installed) to create applications for the new box. What developers working on this new system won't be able to do yet, however, is use the 3.5 development tools to take advantage of the J2EE-specific features for developing Enterprise JavaBeans. To do that, developers need to obtain the recently released WebSphere Studio Application Developer (WSAD), which supports EJBs. For more information on this new product, point your browser to www.redbooks.ibm.com/redpapers/pdfs/redp0414.pdf.

    Also not yet available for use with WebSphere Studio Application Developer (but available for WebSphere Application Server 4.0 via the existing WebSphere Development Tools and the latest service pack) are the components that make versions 3.5 of VisualAge for Java and WebSphere Studio so iSeries-friendly: Enterprise Toolkit/400 (ET/400) and Affinity/400. ET/400 is a plug-in for VAJ 3.5 that provides developers with iSeries-specific components, such as AS/400 System Values or AS/400 program calls. Affinity/400 is a plug-in for WebSphere Studio 3.5 that allows your Web- based project developers access to DSPF-like pallet parts for rapidly creating AS/400-like entry fields, subfiles, and so on. IBM is rewriting these tools to take advantage of J2EE, and they will be included with the next release of WebSphere Development Tools. In fact, early versions of these tools should be available in beta as soon as the first quarter of 2002.

    The current WebSphere Development Tools now available for iSeries will be shipped with the new dedicated server. In addition, Service Pack 4 will be shipped with the new server. So there is considerable iSeries tooling available on the new dedicated WebSphere system. However, while that tooling works fine for WebSphere Application Server 3.5, as well as for non-EJB functionality within Websphere Server Version 4.0, that tooling does not allow you to exploit the new functionality available with Version 4.0.

    What's still missing for a complete WebSphere development package with this new box and its preloaded WebSphere Application Server 4.0--and what I feel is a critical piece of the puzzle for traditional iSeries developers--are the AS/400-friendly tools for ET/400 and Affinity/400. While you can use the existing versions of these tools with Version 4.0 and the new service pack installed, you still donít have a completely integrated package that has been designed from the ground up specifically for WebSphere Application Server 4.0ís unique environment. These tools are coming but won't be available when the first eServer iSeries Powered by WebSphere box rolls off the line. However, with the advent of the new service pack released last week, this is only an inconvenience for those customers who wish to exploit the EJB-specific functionality of WebSphere Application Server 4.0.

    So what should you do? Should you continue to use WebSphere Application Server 3.5 and its tools, and wait until everything is in place for the new dedicated WebSphere Bumblebee server? Or should you go ahead and use the new WebSphere Bumblebee with its Version 4.0 J2EE-based server? That answer really depends on your business needs. There's no argument that the ET/400 and Affinity/400 tools are extremely useful, and having them ready to exploit the J2EE benefits of WebSphere Application Server 4.0 at the outset would have been nice. But the lack of J2EE-ready ET/400 and Affinity/400 tools shouldn't be a major problem for the majority of shops, since most iSeries shops are not yet using EJB. The lack of these tools will only be felt by shops working with WebSphere Application Server 4.0 and wanting the convenience of such tools. As for the shops using WebSphere and not EJB, these tools are now once again enabled to output to WebSphere Application Server 4.0, via the new service pack.

    Here's something else to think about that might make a difference for you: If you've ever had the "pleasure" of attempting to install and configure WebSphere Application Server, you know that it can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks, depending upon the state of your system (i.e., PTF level and previous products installed). In fact, by comparison, using the actual development tools themselves is hundreds of times easier than installing and configuring WebSphere Application Server. So there is a tremendous appeal in buying a system that has it preloaded and preconfigured for you. You could save dozens of man hours right off the bat by going this route. Add to this the fact that, with the latest service pack, you will have tools that can generate output that can be used by WebSphere Application Server 4.0, and you're off to a running start on learning and using WebSphere.

    IBM's Toronto laboratory should be given kudos for the work it has put into getting the service pack ready so quickly. I still feel IBMís marketing group should have waited until it actually had the tools available before announcing the new system, but that arguably premature announcement has been more than offset by the Herculean efforts of a dedicated and talented group of developers in Toronto who managed to roll out a fix in record time.

     

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    Inventive Designers Tweaks EverGreen/400

    by Shannon O'Donnell

    Inventive Designers, the Belgian software developer best known for its OfficeVision/400 replacement product, DTM/400, has announced a new release of EverGreen/400. EverGreen/400 is an industry-leading 5250 email product for the iSeries. Expanding on the already powerful array of email functions, this new version of EverGreen/400 comes with usability enhancements that reflect support for rapidly changing Internet standards, thus maintaining competitive, state-of-the-art technologies for iSeries shops worldwide.

    EverGreen/400 V2R1 supports the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) for 5250 iSeries users and their administrators. LDAP is an Internet standard that allows a connection to any standard Internet or intranet address book on another server. This provides immediate access to the email addresses of customers, colleagues, and vendors.

    Additional address book enhancements include the following:

    * Multiple personal address books per user

    * Import/export addresses to and from DB2/400 files

    * Import/export addresses to and from CSV files

    * Export address to vCard (.vcf)

    For those shops using AnyMail/400 as their Internet email server, this new version of EverGreen/400 now supports automated replies and forwarding and has improved security. In fact, users can now configure their email to automatically respond to incoming messages with an "out of office" message, or they can have those messages forwarded to another email address.

    Other enhancements include the following:

    * Expanded subfolders--to enable detailed organization of inbox, sent mail, and archives

    * Message templates--to design your own company forms, such as invoices and purchase orders

    * Default directory for attachments--to limit or enhance user access to specific files only

    * Display of HTML text and attachments

    Those interested in purchasing the new version of EverGreen/400 will be happy to note that pricing for this product has not changed from the original release. iSeries users can source this new technology through their local IBM Business Partner or directly from IBM. Current users and maintenance subscribers of EverGreen/400 can obtain free upgrades to the V2R1 release by contacting Inventive Designers directly. The new release will be available January 15, 2002. For information visit Inventive Designers' Web site.

    We also wanted to remind the OS/400 community that Inventive Designers several months ago launched a Web site dedicated to Linux on iSeries. The site provides hands- on information for the iSeries industry concerning the Linux operating system. In fact, Inventive Designers will soon offer a portfolio of iSeries-based Linux services and training courses. The site focuses on providing clear explanations of the various business, application, and configuration issues that iSeries users may have. Visitors can post questions or browse through the online FAQ when they have questions or concerns about Linux on iSeries. There's even an online forum where you can participate in live discussions with your peers in the industry concerning Linux.

    To visit the new Web site, go to www.iserieslinux.com.

     

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    IBM Announces WebSphere MQ Integrator 2.1

    by Joe Hertvik

    IBM recently announced that its new WebSphere MQ Integrator V2.1 software will be generally available on December 14. Formerly known as MQSeries Integrator, this new offering will run on IBM pSeries and RS/6000 machines; on Sun Microsystems Sparc servers; on Hewlett-Packard HP 9000 servers; on IBM xSeries and other Intel-based systems; and on IBM iSeries machines, through Windows NT/2000 running on the Integrated xSeries Server (IxS). One of the first MQSeries products to be renamed under the WebSphere moniker, MQ Integrator V2.1 rides on top of MQSeries V5.2 on these platforms, and a full license for MQSeries is included with the software.

    WebSphere MQ Integrator manages MQSeries queues for cross-application communication. Rather than having applications communicating directly with one another through MQSeries messages--which can lead to a spaghetti-like architecture for message passing--MQ Integrator serves as a stand-alone server that gathers, parses, and transforms messages from various MQSeries servers, and then routes the transformed messages to their target MQSeries message queues. The intent with MQ Integrator is to simplify and better control MQSeries message passing and transformation and to provide additional capabilities, such as the following:

    * Parsing and transforming message content fields from one format to another

    * Integration with popular databases--including DB2 V7.1 and V6.1 (through an ODBC driver); Oracle 8i; Microsoft SQL Server V6.5, V7.0, and 2000; and Sybase Adaptive Server V12--in order to augment messages and to warehouse data

    * Enhanced XML support for message formats

    * Field content processing, including performing calculations and checking content validity

    * Visual administration and debugging tools (Windows NT/2000-only client function)

    * Constructing message flows between MQSeries installations

    * Product extension through plug-in node support

    * Intelligent message routing

    * Message distribution using a dynamic publish/subscribe mechanism

    IBM designed WebSphere MQ Integrator to make it easier to define, create, and deploy an MQSeries infrastructure that services applications on several different platforms using MQSeries queues. The runtime message environment runs on any of the supported platforms, but the MQ Integrator Control Center, which contains the GUI for setting up the infrastructure, only runs on a Windows NT/2000 machine. It should also be noted that even though the name of the package is WebSphere MQ Integrator, you do not need to be using the WebSphere Application Server to run WebSphere MQ Integrator. The WebSphere moniker is included because IBM is rebranding all of its MQSeries products to WebSphere MQ.

    For iSeries customers, it's odd that IBM chose to deliver WebSphere MQ Integrator on IxS rather than as a native OS/400 program. In case you're not familiar with IxS, it's a Pentium III server on an iSeries expansion card that--after it's plugged in and configured on your iSeries box--can host a Windows NT or 2000 server inside your iSeries box. This iSeries-based Windows server can be somewhat controlled through green-screen commands and iSeries Operations Navigator, and it can also share resources with OS/400, including hard drive space, tape drives, and the installation CD ROM. According to IBM, the MQ Integrator IxS delivery decision was made by IBM's Software Group. But it makes sense for IBM to reduce the number of WebSphere MQ Integrator code bases IBM it has to maintain and to deliver this functionality to iSeries shops in the quickest time frame possible. Let me explain.

    IBM had four possible implementation scenarios for an iSeries MQ Integrator product. First, it could have delivered MQ Integrator as a native iSeries product, but that would have required a separate code base and extra resources to create and maintain it. A second option would have been to deliver MQ Integrator in an iSeries Linux partition. IBM already is experimenting with MQSeries Integrator V2.0.2 Technology Preview for Linux, an unfinished product designed for Red Hat Linux 6.2 in an Intel 32-bit environment (available for download from IBM's Web site). Like the first option, a Linux port would have taken additional time and resources to shake out the remaining bugs and to create a PowerPC version of the preview. The third option was to recompile and port the upcoming WebSphere MQ Integrator for AIX V2.1 to the Portable Application Solutions Environment (PASE), which allows customers to run AIX applications inside OS/400. IBM sources say that this option was looked at extensively, but the AIX version wouldn't run correctly in PASE, and it, too, would have needed to be rebuilt and recompiled for OS/400 use. The fourth and final option, then, was to support running WebSphere MQ Integrator on an IxS-based Windows NT or 2000 file and print server, which is what IBM chose to do.

    By using the IxS as an iSeries delivery mechanism for WebSphere MQ Integrator, IBM leveraged its existing code base and rolled the product out quicker to iSeries customers than if it had used one of the other delivery methods. While it wouldn't be desirable to use the Windows version of cross-platform software for every product, the IxS version works for the MQ Integrator on iSeries because the product functions as a stand-alone server and provides an ancillary function for MQSeries and WebSphere that isn't needed to meet core processing requirements. Most significantly, the IxS, at $2,800 for a uniprocessor, is a lot less expensive than acquiring iSeries and AS/400 processing capacity. This is particularly important if WebSphere MQ Integrator is a resource hog.

    My guess is that IBM may pull this trick in the future with other software products, as it would allow Big Blue to leverage existing development efforts to bring cross-platform iSeries products out at approximately the same time as on the other major platforms. The fact that iSeries now has three co-processing environments (IxS, iSeries Linux partitions, and PASE), in addition to native OS/400, allows Big Blue to consolidate its software development efforts by deploying other versions of IBM software inside OS/400, with few changes to the base code. The iSeries' openness could work for it in bringing new applications on board, but it may also work against it by minimizing the uniqueness of the platform. In the future, you may find yourself maintaining more applications in all of OS/400's processing environments.

    WebSphere MQ Integrator pricing is based on capacity units determined by the number of processors in each server; with uniprocessor machines counting for two capacity units; 2-way SMP machines and two-processor RISC boxes at four units; 3-8 processor boxes counting as 8 units; 9-23 processors costing 16 units; and 24 or more processors counting as 30 units. MQ Integrator pricing was not available at press time but--for iSeries customers--Integrated xSeries Server for iSeries hardware currently features a single 850 MHz Pentium III processor, so the cost for running MQ Integrator on an IxS server on your iSeries or AS/400 would fall into the two-capacity-unit range.

    For more information on WebSphere MQ Integrator, see IBM's Web site on the product.

     

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