Sterling Commerce Brings Gentran Integration Suite to OS/400
February 24, 2004 Alex Woodie
OS/400 shops searching for enterprise-strength integration software may want to check out the Gentran Integration Suite, which Sterling Commerce recently made available as a native program for the OS/400 and z/OS platforms. A slew of plug-ins gives Java-based GIS Version 3.0 an abundance of capabilities, ranging from business process design and enterprise application integration connectivity to classic electronic data interchange translation and UCCnet compliance. With its older electronic document interchange software in maintenance mode, Sterling is banking on customers upgrading to GIS.
Sterling, a subsidiary of SBC Communications, has been in the electronic document interchange (EDI) and enterprise application integration (EAI) business for years. More than 3,000 OS/400 shops use its Gentran:Server electronic document interchange software, which runs natively on OS/400 and other major platforms.
Three-and-a-half years ago, Sterling started developing a new Java-based integration product that could “wrap” around existing Gentran installations and provide a modularized upgrade path to support the new wave of e-business protocols and services being built around XML. The result, called Gentran Integration Suite, first shipped on Unix in late 2002, and supported Windows soon after.
Like IBM’s WebSphere, it’s a little difficult to grasp Sterling’s Gentran Integration Suite in one sitting. Even Keith Shafer, the company’s vice president of software development, admits that it’s a “huge product,” which is why it’s sold in a modular fashion. But application and data integration is complex stuff, and Sterling has set its sights high with this offering.
At its core, GIS is all about automating business processes, Shafer says. “We built the solution on J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Edition], which allows it to support high volumes,” he says. “Sterling provides services and adapters that can be used to write these automated business processes. Sterling Commerce also ships pre-defined business processes for certain applications.”
GIS users can expect Sterling to add new features as their integration needs change. “We continually add new business processes, wizards, and interfaces,” Shafer says. “What we are trying to do long-term is ship complete solutions out of the box, so customers don’t need to deal with the technical details.”
THE FOUR COMPONENTS OF GIS
There are four component categories for GIS. These include the Integration Broker, EAI Adapters, B2B Adapters, and Web Enablement/Extensions. Here’s a quick rundown on these parts:
One of the biggest drivers of GIS sales on Unix and Windows platforms has been AS2 connectivity, Shafer says. AS2 is a standard that allows organizations to securely send EDI messages via HTTP, thereby allowing users to turn off their expensive value added network (VAN) lines. Sterling also offers a separate UCCnet module that has sold well, Shafer says. Both UCCnet and AS2 have seen rapid adoption in the consumer goods supply chain, due in large part to mandates by retail chains, such as Wal-Mart, for their suppliers to support the new technologies.
“It will be interesting to see how GIS is used by [AS/400] customers,” Shafer says. “IBM has been pushing customers away from the green screen, and you don’t need a green screen with GIS.”
Performance is something that all GIS users, not just OS/400 shops, should take into consideration. Shafer emphasized that GIS is brand new on OS/400, and its performance on this platform hasn’t been fully tested on all configurations. It took a couple of releases to get GIS sizing completely nailed down on the Windows and Unix platforms, and customers should expect the same with OS/400, especially with the changes IBM is making to its sizing methodologies, Shafer says.
GIS 3.1, now in development, will feature an integrated Web application server. With GIS 3.0, customers need to have a Web application server. Sterling will ship GIS 3.1 on April 23. (This can be considered a solid date, as the company has not missed a release date yet, Shafer says.)
GIS 3.0 is available on OS/400. Some GIS capabilities, such as UCCnet connectivity, are also offered as a service, through the hosted model. For OS/400 shops, the base price for GIS starts at $20,000, and adapters cost about $2,000 each. For more information, go to www.sterlingcommerce.com.