White Papers

06-28-2011

How to Execute AS 400 Applications in the Cloud

A Methodology for AS/400 Cloud Computing

This paper is a discussion of how to execute AS 400 applications in the Cloud. The approach behind this paper is to explain how to execute AS/400 DB2 400 applications in a Cloud environment without having to rewrite the code or buy expensive IBM upgrades to existing hardware.

Overview

Software companies and end users developed on the IBM AS 400 platform because it offered a number of advantages – database capabilities at the machine level, stability, wide acceptance and excellent support from IBM. Today, we see a major push by end-users and ISV’s to extend applications by providing Cloud access.

Rewriting business critical applications in order to achieve Cloud-based execution of applications is neither practical nor justifiable. An approach is needed which enables applications to adapt to rapid business and technology changes. Many companies wish to deploy their AS/400 applications to the Cloud. Users wish to access their applications from tablets or smart phones and don’t wish to have local software on their devices. This access most be provided using a sophisticated Graphical User Interface (GUI) that is intuitive and not menu-driven. This paper will explain how these objectives can be achieved.

This white paper will discuss how to deploy AS/400 RPG or COBOL applications to the Cloud. Additionally, these newly cloud-enabled applications will have a similar look to Apple iPad applications or Microsoft Outlook-based applications. The plan outlined here will not require programming or code changes.  

AS/400 applications whether they are written in RPG or COBOL use a data stream named 5250. In this paper we outline how to use toolsets from Infinite, namely Infinite Cloud to quickly deploy AS/400 host-based applications to the cloud and to provide very fast access via tablets (iPad) or smartphones (iPhone). When these applications are deployed to the Cloud from their AS 400 hosts they will automatically become graphical via several templates that will provide an iPad or Outlook look and feel to them. 

The code can reside on the AS/400 as it did before and requires no additional hardware or a version upgrade (IE:  i OS version 5 to i OS version 6). Infinite Cloud is designed to take existing AS/400 applications and deploy them to the Cloud graphically without having to change hardware or make code changes at all.

The Infinite cloud family is Eclipse-based and can be accessed from .NET, Java, Android, or Apple-based devices. It is designed to provide high through-put with platform flexibility.

In order to accomplish the goals discussed earlier in this paper, the AS 400 code that is to be Cloud deployed can exist as it does today on its existing IBM AS/400, iSeries, System i or simply i. It can also be deployed using migration tools from Infinite.

Infinite has developed a family of products named Infinite Cloud. As part of this product family, there are several products that provide for the deployment of AS/400 applications to the Cloud, make them graphical, and integrate them with other applications like SAP, Siebel or Outlook. This is a 64-bit environment.
  
This approach uses what you already have – proven AS/400 code and resources – and allows you to execute functionally-rich applications to the cloud, graphically. 
 
Using infinite Cloud end-users can combine all the ‘competitive edge’ benefits of the Cloud with the power and stability of their RPG or COBOL applications.  Since the underlying code is the original, the skills required to maintain the core logic remain the same.  In fact, this process maintains source code integrity and simply allows it to be distributed via the Cloud

For AS/400 ISV’s infinite i provides a way to access thousands of new sales prospects, without taking years to rewrite applications.  ISV’s can maintain the same source code and continue development on the IBM i OS (if they desire) and can deploy those programs via the Cloud as a service or can provide private cloud access to their existing clients on their hardware.

To illustrate what infinite Cloud can do we will look at how infinite Cloud deals with deploying an AS/400 application to execute via the Cloud.

The Challenge

Presented with the challenge of deploying an AS/400 application to the Cloud, the problem that first comes to mind is that of the proprietary nature of the data stream; how to find a way of deploying AS/400 screens in 5250 to ASCII devices without changing the protocol. Of course, there are terminal emulation products, but they are slow, don’t provide an adequate GUI and can’t integrate with other applications. The second matter that comes up is how to create a 21st century look and feel for green screen applications. Green screen applications are sequential, menu-driven and text based. The standard AS/400 screen display green characters against a black background. The users must enter menu commands through a series of screens in order to utilize the applications.
 
Today, Cloud-based applications using a Windows or IPAD UI see a graphical and very intuitive interface that will take users wherever they wish to go in the system without having to follow a proscribed menu script. Previous iterations of GUI products for AS/400 applications have largely ignored the menu driven nature of these screens. They made them a different color and allowed certain fields to use mouse clicks instead of keyboard entries and they probably deployed them via browser. In the 21st century, that just isn’t enough.

Infinite Cloud deploys AS/400 applications to industry standard middleware like JBoss, WebSphere or WebLogic and they are then fully accessible via browser. It then uses standardized templates to display graphical screens that don’t require customization (but can still be customized) and automatically provide a more intuitive workflow by recognizing menus and streamlining them.
In this paper we examine the significant changes to green screen non-cloud applications:
Cloud Deployment
Middle Tier integration
Graphical User Interface

And other service functions, to see how infinite Cloud enhances standard AS/400 screen architecture.
We will then look at the process by which an AS/400 application is deployed to the Cloud.
 
1. Cloud Deployment

Infinite Cloud is developed on a communication layer that deploys the AS/400 data stream (5250) to an asynchronous ASCII stream and then launches the stream using open source middleware like Red Hat’s JBoss or proprietary middleware like Oracle Fusion or IBM WebSphere. The otherwise host-based applications are now Cloud launched and browser accessible. There are many programs that provide single threaded access to host-based applications but they are generally slow and expensive. Infinite Cloud is 64-bit, multi-threaded and very fast. Infinite Cloud is easy to deploy and provides lightning fast browser access to AS/400 applications. It can be used in green screen for access only or with GUI tools that are built into the product. 

2. Middle Tier Integration 

Infinite Cloud deploys and launches from open source middleware like Red Hat JBoss. Since it is written in Eclipse and launches on JBoss it can easily plug in to other Eclipse-based or JBoss based applications or modules. It can also plug into such industry standards as SAP Net Weaver, IBM WebSphere or nearly any other Cloud-based application or service. This means that interfaces and integration don’t require writing code. Merely integrating an existing plug in can provide real time access to third party services or applications. This opens AS/400 applications to a world of accessible information without having to write new interfaces or creating new API’s.

3. Graphical User Interface

AS/400 GUI products have usually meant difficult and expensive implementations to create screens that were slow, buggy and not so nice to look at. They also generally followed the old menu-driven workflow of the underlying green screens. Infinite Cloud provides very fast Microsoft or Apple-like screens that don’t require a lot of customization and can automatically change menu driven screens into cloud-based intuitive workflow. The graphical looks of the existing green screens are produced by a very sophisticated dynamic read of the AS/400 data stream. A series of out-of-the-box templates read and deploy screens very quickly.

The new screens are designed to incorporate elements from MS Outlook and Google. And appear like native Cloud-based screens that are native browser developed.

Conclusion

AS/400 screens can now be easily and inexpensively deployed in the Cloud like applications that are natively browser-based. They can be graphical and can be integrated with other cloud-based systems without coding. This capability provides 21st century access and deployment for AS/400 applications, but it also makes them more attractive and the workflow more functional.

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