IBM Enhances iSeries Access Family with Lots of Goodies
June 23, 2004 Joe Hertvik
IBM‘s iSeries Access Family (5722-XW1), which has had scores of name changes and expansions throughout the years, is one of IBM’s oldest and most widely used licensed products. It contains features that allow users to access OS/400 data and resources from a wide variety of platforms.
Even though IBM packages iSeries Access as a single licensed product, it’s more accurate to think of it as a complete product line that contains the following individual packages to answer OS/400 and i5/OS remote access needs.
iSeries Access for Windows is IBM’s Windows-based client solution for iSeries and i5 access. It includes a 5250 emulator; allows data transfers between DB2 UDB files; has ODBC and OLE drivers; contains iSeries Navigator GUI for accessing and administering the server; and has a number of middleware features for accessing server resources from Windows client applications.
iSeries Access for Web provides browser-based access to iSeries and i5 servers. With Access for Web, clients can use a common Web browser to run batch commands; access OS/400 databases, printers, printer output, and messages; run a 5250 interface, and access the Integrated File System.
WebSphere Host Access Transformation Server Limited Edition dynamically transforms 5250 screens into HTML through a point-and-click Web interface, delivering screens as HTML data streams to a user’s Web browser client.
iSeries Access for Linux allows Linux clients to establish 5250 sessions to an OS/400-based server. It also provides Linux-based ODBC drivers for accessing DB2 UDB files from a Linux client. Access for Linux is not explicitly delivered with the iSeries Access Family 5722-XW1 product, but can be downloaded from IBM’s iSeries Access for Linux Web site or through the new downloadable file feature in iSeries Access for Web.
iSeries Access for Wireless supports OS/400 administration and application development for OS/400 machines through wireless devices, such as Internet-enabled phones and PDAs. Access for Wireless is a separate licensed program (5722-XP1) that has been automatically delivered with OS/400 V5R2, and users are not required to purchase the iSeries Access Family (5722-XW1) in order to use it. Although it’s not included with iSeries Access, parts of the program operate in conjunction with iSeries Navigator, which is delivered with iSeries Access for Windows. So Access for Wireless is a companion add-on product for the iSeries Family.
With the advent of i5/OS V5R3, IBM has once again modified its iSeries Access Family of products to add the following new features.
ISERIES ACCESS FOR WINDOWS V5R3
With V5R3, IBM is adding a new Microsoft .NET data provider named IBM.Data.DB2.iSeries, which will allow Windows applications to use the .NET framework to access DB2 UDB files. This should definitely be a hot feature and one that better positions OS/400 access in a Windows environment.
The Data Transfer function has added new Unicode enablement as well a new text file type. It also now provides support for larger decimal precision, BINARY and VARBINARY SQL data types, as well as support for UTF-8 and UTF-16 data support in DB2 database tables. Data Transfer V5R3 also includes new Microsoft Excel compatibility features, such as support for standard date and time cells in Excel and an option to allow numeric-to-character translation when uploading Excel data to the server. It also adds a most recently used request list and last directory features to the function’s Excel add-in.
The PC5250 emulator that comes with iSeries Access for Windows is probably the product’s most popular feature. With V5R3, the emulator is upgraded to Version 5.7 and IBM has added accessibility enhancements to the operator information area (OIA), the pop-up keypad, and color mapping. Another interesting new feature is support for visual indication of sounds, which has practical application both for accessibility needs and in high-noise environments such as terminals located in noisy factories. IBM is also including basic ASCII print PDF and PDT support, bidirectional support for the Arabic Lam and Alef characters, USB Japanese 106 keyboard support, and enhanced mouse marking.
ODBC has also been enhanced for UTF-8 and UTF-16 support. It also includes increased precision for decimal numbers and enhanced Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS) support.
OLE DB (Object Linking and Embedding) support is getting a major makeover as IBM introduces two new OLE DB drivers in addition to its existing IBMDA400 data provider. The iSeries Access for Windows V5R3 includes a new SQL-only provider, called IBMDASQL, which provides SQL commitment control, runs in a Microsoft Transaction Server environment, and provides custom blocking, data compression, and SQL package support. There’s also a record-level access-only provider, called IBMDARLA, which provides support for forward-only cursors and blocked reads. All three OLE DB providers now support BINARY and VARBINARY data types, database larger decimal precision support, and UTF-8 and UTF-16 data.
The Incoming Remote Command feature includes a new “/loadprof” option that allows commands to access Windows user-specific registry values and environment variable settings while the command is running. This option can be specified on the “incoming remote command” tab of the “iSeries Access for Windows properties” screen.
Finally, IBM is still shipping the iSeries Access for Windows family software on the “iSeries Setup and Operations” CD that comes with the V5R3 upgrade, and it is also adding to that CD the SSL component that is included with the iSeries Client Encryption (5722-CE3) licensed program. This move is intended to help administrators to more easily distribute SSL support to remote PCs.
ISERIES ACCESS FOR WEB
With V5R3, iSeries Access for Web is supported on the Mozilla browser as well as on the Internet Explorer and Netscape browsers.
The big news with the new V5R3 software is that the 5250 emulator, database, command, file, print, and single sign-on functions now have portlet versions that integrate with WebSphere Portal Express and WebSphere Portal Express Plus for Multiplatforms Version 5.02. And some of these functions can also be used as IFrame portlets.
The new 5250 emulator also includes preferences and policy functions that can be customized for users by iSeries administrators, and active 5250 sessions can now be shared with other users and groups.
The product also includes new “PDF printer” and “PDF printer output” tabs for automatically converting iSeries AFPDS or SCS printer output when a spool file is sent to a printer output device.
Another new iSeries Access for Web feature is the Extract Server Data function, which allows users to retrieve information about iSeries server objects and to store that information in a database table. Object information can be retrieved for directory entries, messages, software fixes, software products, system pools, and user profiles.
The SQL Database wizard has been updated so that it can build requests that prompt for conditional values when the request is run. The Copy Data to Table and Run SQL functions will also support the Microsoft Excel XML format, which was introduced in Excel 2002.
For file handling, files created with the new iSeries Access for Windows Data Transfer file format can now be imported into iSeries Access for Web. In addition, the Files function that is used for working with IFS data has been modified to display directory contents in the current browser window and the name, size, type, and modified column headers can now be sorted. A new Download functional category is also available for file distribution, and downloadable files can be stored on your iSeries server and made available through iSeries Access for Web. The new iSeries Access for Linux product is provided as a downloadable file under iSeries Access for Web.
The MyFolder function has been enhanced with two new features: “copy” allows users to copy folder items to another user’s personal folder, and “copy to file” allows users to copy the contents of a folder item to an IFS file. “MyFolder” policies can control the maximum amount of disk space or the maximum number of items that a user can store in a personal folder. When one of those maximums is reached, notifications can now be sent to a Lotus Sametime user or to a preconfigured e-mail address.
Speaking of Sametime, a new message function has been added to Access for Web, which can send break messages either to an iSeries workstation or as a Lotus Sametime announcement.
For configuration, the “customize” function has new policies to restrict user access to functional categories, which bypasses the need to individually deny each of several functions to a user. And the “customize” interface now contains options for viewing all current user or group profile settings in a report view. This report view can also be used to generate a printer-friendly link for hard-copy output.
HATS LE VERSION 5
The latest version of WebSphere Host Access Transformation Services Limited Edition, Version 5, allows users to connect to other iSeries servers from a single page and to easily create new templates based on default templates. In addition, the default rendering of 5250 components (such as function keys and subfiles) into HTML “widgets” (such as buttons and links) has been rewritten to provide more accurate rendering of a larger number of host screens and to provide faster performance.
The new HATS LE version supports all national languages and code pages at runtime, and supports Unicode characters, which can be displayed and used as input. In addition, the administration functions have been translated into a number of languages, including English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Brazilian, simplified and traditional Chinese, Spanish, and Turkish. Browser support for HATS LE has been expanded to include several versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator, as well as Mozilla 1.2.1, Opera 5.0, Konqueror 3.1, and Safari 1.0.
ISERIES ACCESS FOR LINUX
iSeries Access for Linux is not included with the iSeries Access Family product (5722-XW1) but can be downloaded from the iSeries Access for Linux Web site. It can also be downloaded from an iSeries Access for Web V5R3 installation, which now includes a download function to allow users to install iSeries Access for Linux on a desktop.
iSeries Access for Linux runs natively in three different Linux environment: on Linux systems running on Intel processors, on PowerPC machines, or in an iSeries server Linux partition. The product contains a 5250 emulator as well as an ODBC driver and several utilities.
The iSeries Access for Linux 5250 emulator and ODBC driver contain many of the same features as their counterparts in the iSeries Access for Windows software. In addition, the Linux product allows multiple users to use the 5250 emulator code in a three-tiered environment by using the product’s “ibm5250 – STAND_ALONE” command line option.
Access for Linux includes many utilities that got their start in the iSeries Access for Windows product, including CWBTRC, for tracing functions; CWBCOPR, for changing the advanced communications settings of the product; CWBNLTBL, for downloading conversion tables; CWBPING, for checking iSeries Access for Linux connections; and RMTCMD and RMTODBC, for running a single iSeries CL command or a group of commands from the Linux desktop.
GETTING THE REFRESH IN OS/400 V5R2 and I5/OS V5R3
The new iSeries Access Family V5R3 licensed product (5722-XW1) will be available with i5/OS V5R3 installations. OS/400 V5R2 customers who have software subscription can also acquire and use the product by ordering the 5722-XW1 refresh, which includes the following packages: iSeries Access for Windows, iSeries Access for Web (which also includes iSeries Access for Linux as a downloadable feature), HATS LE Version 5, and iSeries Client Encryption, 128-bit (5722-CE3).