iSeries Access for Linux Gives Users Choice
March 8, 2005 Alex Woodie
Listen up iSeries users who are looking to break Windows grip on their desktops. iSeries Access for Linux, which IBM introduced last spring as part of the eServer i5 and i5/OS announcements, enables users to open 5250 sessions and access DB2/400 from a Linux client. Two weeks ago, IBM quietly rolled out a new release of this product.
For years, IBM supported its Client Access and iSeries Access family of products on just two PC operating systems: Microsoft Windows, and whatever’s left of OS/2. Third-party providers offered more options with their emulators, like Mac OS and Linux. But if you wanted to go all Blue (as most OS/400 shops do with emulation), you were pretty much stuck with Windows.
That’s no longer the case. While Linux-based PCs and workstations are still vastly outnumbered by their Windows brethren in terms of installed base, Linux’s push into the data center has opened up other options for iSeries users, namely iSeries Access for Linux, which is not even a year old yet.
iSeries Access for Linux provides access to DB2/400 using an ODBC driver, and provides an emulator for establishing a 5250 session with an iSeries server. It supports both Linux on Intel and Linux on Power, which means users can run it on an X86-based Linux PC, or from a Linux partition on an iSeries server running 64-bit Power processors.
OS/400 shops have more freedom to build the applications they want with iSeries Access for Linux. The ODBC component makes it easy to integrate DB2/400 data with OpenOffice applications, such as the Linux-based OpenOffice word processor and spreadsheet.
The iSeries Access for Linux ODBC is also handy, IBM says, for feeding data to Web applications written in the open-source PHP scripting language. Other possibilities IBM recommends include using the open-source iSQL-Viewer application for interactive SQL requests, or using the “cwbrunsql” command for running batch SQL scripts.
Users aren’t getting some marginal 5250 emulator with iSeries Access for Linux. In fact, the package delivers the same functionality as a standard 5250 terminal, and even sports some of the more advanced features found in PC5250, IBM says. 5250 functions in iSeries Access for Linux includes: support for 99 concurrent sessions; customizable menu bar pull-downs; macros; hot-spot support; 80- and 132-column support; auto-logon and auto-disconnect capabilities; and printer support.
In case you were wondering, there are iSeries shops replacing their Windows workstations with Linux machines. One of the first is Midland Medical, a medical supply company out of Lincoln, Nebraska. Midland switched some of its workstations from Windows to Linux as part of a larger redevelopment effort that involves developing in Java using mrc-Productivity Series development tools, according to a case study on mrc’s Web site.
“All of our mrc Web applications are Java servlets, which are completely portable; we can run them on anything. It’s just a matter of choice, now everything is up to us, not dictated to us by a vendor,” says Ben Dinger, the company’s IT manager. “Thanks to some of the apps we have ported to mrc, and IBM’s new iSeries Access for Linux, we have been able to move user workstations to Linux. In fact, our entire warehouse is now running SuSE Linux. That’s our shipping and receiving departments, and the warehouse manager’s workstation.”
IBM recently unveiled a new release of iSeries Access for Linux, version 1.8, on its Web site. iSeries Access for Linux is available as a free download to OS/400 shops with a current iSeries Access license. For more information and downloads, visit www-1.ibm.com/servers/eserver/iseries/access/linux.
Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected since its original publication. The ODBC driver is not used to establish a 5250 connection with an iSeries server. IT Jungle regrets the error. [Correction made 3/08/05]