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Accessing IBM i on Windows and 64-BIT OS Support

By BADAL BURATHOKI posted Thu October 21, 2021 08:01 AM

  

Introduction

IBM i Access for Windows delivers TCP/IP connectivity to users running a variety of Microsoft® Windows® operating systems. It includes 5250 emulations, access to Db2 for i through its Data Transfer and utilizes IBM i NetServer for working with the IBM i Integrated File System and printers. It provides an extensive number of application programming interfaces (APIs) for ODBC, Active X, ADO, OLE DB, and ADO.NET.


End of Support for i Access for Windows

IBM i Access for Windows is out of support effective from April 30, 2019. It will not be refreshed for IBM i release 7.2 or beyond. IBM does not plan to support IBM i Access for Windows on operating systems beyond Windows 8.1.

The replacement product will be IBM i Access Client Solutions (ACS), below are the additional features:

  • This includes 5250 emulations, data transfer, printer output, console support, and many more features supported by IBM i Access for Windows.
  • New interface for running and using SQL for IBM i.
  • Built on a Java™ based platform-independent interface, which runs on most operating systems that support Java including Linux, Mac, and Windows.
  • 5250 display and printer emulation based on IBM's Host-on-Demand and updated significantly to model the expected behaviours of PCOMM.
  • 5250 Session Manager support modelled after IBM Personal Communications Session Manager.
  • ACS and other solutions can work side by side on the same workstation.

Note: Accessing the console must be done using ACS.


How does it affects Customers?

  1. Customers may continue using IBM i Access for Windows but without support from IBM i. Due to this, there will not be extended support, defect fixes, no new features, or security patch release, making the product vulnerable to attackers.
  2. Microsoft Windows-7 support ended in January 2020. With Windows 7 and IBM i Access for Windows going out of support, customers who still plan to use the IBM i Access for Windows will have an important decision to make because it is not supported on Windows 10.
  3. IBM i Access for Windows provides Host Automation APIs like EHLLAPI/PCSAPI/HACL to access the host 3270/5250/VT. Using these APIs, Customers have widely built Visual Basic based 32-bit Automation applications (e.g., MS-Excel). Since 64-bit APIs are not supported in IBM i Access for Windows, Customers cannot build 64-bit Applications by implementing these APIs.
    With no future release of 64-bit IBM i Access-Windows, Customers will not be able to upgrade their existing 32-bit Automation Application to 64-bit.
  1. Customers are recommended to use ACS instead of IBM i Access for Windows. ACS is a java-based Emulation software that is available in 32 and 64-bit flavours. ACS can be deployed in a 32-bit or 64-bit environment. Let us see how this helps Customers re-using their Automation Applications:
    1. 32-bit configuration: Using EHLLAPI Bridge, a customer may continue using 32-bit Automation Applications (e.g., MS-Excel). The 32-bit EHLLAPI-bridge allows users to run existing EHLLAPI applications using a variety of interfaces on ACS applications.
    2. 64-bit configuration: Customers will not be able to use their 32-bit automation applications as the 64-bit EHLLAPI bridge is not available. The 32-bit EHLLAPI-bridge cannot run 32-bit applications on a 64-bit ACS. At present computer hardware/motherboards supports 64-bit configuration for maximum performance and throughput. Compared to 32-bit applications, 64-bit applications can take full advantage of 64-bit architecture. Considering this, most of the organizations are upgrading their core systems to true 64-bit applications.


Do we have any solutions for Customers using Excel/VBA based automation?

For specific cases where the business-critical operations/applications are written in Excel/VB/C++ based programming language using IBM i Access for Windows, the answer is to migrate to IBM Personal Communication (PCOMM) which has a vast presence in IBM i and Mainframe arena. PCOMM shares the same features, interface, look-n-feel, and Automation APIs (32 & 64-bit) for EHLLAPI, HACL libraries (native and Java) supported in various programming languages.


Leverage IBM PCOMM(32/64 bit)

IBM Personal Communications (PCOMM) brings the power of personal networking to your workstation by exploiting networking capabilities to provide a variety of connectivity options supporting local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) environments. Whether it is for host terminal emulation, client/server applications, or connectivity, Personal Communications offers a robust set of communication, networking, and administrative features.

Starting from version 14.0, the 64-bit version of PCOMM will be supported so that PCOMM can run as a native 64-bit application on all supported 64-bit Windows OS. Switching to 64-bit offers various performance advantages, as well as better interoperability/integration with other applications as more and more applications, are being ported to 64-bit.

https://www.ibm.com/support/knowledgecenter/SSEQ5Y_14.0.0/com.ibm.pcomm.doc/books/html/quick_beginnings04.htm

Automation APIs that were previously supported for 32-bit applications (e.g., MS office 32-bit) will now work seamlessly on 64-bit applications to support the same functions in 64-bit PCOMM. For example, a 32-bit automation application written for 32-bit IBM PCOMM will now work seamlessly with very minor changes with PCOMM 64-bit on MS Office 64-bit. The same is true for IBM i Access-Windows, however, minor code changes may be required for the IBM i Access-Windows applications to work on PCOMM 64-bit.


Other major reasons to consider

64-Bit support

a.      A 32-bit app running on a 64-bit architecture & OS cannot match the performance of a 64-bit version in the same environment.

b.      Running 32-Bit Applications in 64-Bit systems adds overhead on processors' performance and memory consumption. Refer to Microsoft's explanation on running 32-Bit Applications, its performance, and memory consumptions considerations.


Latest compiler

PCOMM 64-Bit is built using the latest VS2017 compiler, thus providing an advantage of compiler optimization improving the runtime performance. Refer to Microsoft Blog citing an increase in runtime speed with VS 2017.


Migrating to IBM PCOMM 64-Bit

IBM i Access for Windows and IBM PCOMM are based on the same platform. Due to which:


a.      The look and feel of these Emulators are almost the same.

b.      Underlying communication protocol with the Host is the same.

c.      Both use the same IBM® Standard EHLLAPI/PCSPAI/HLLAPI API binaries to communicate and manage host 3270/5250/VT sessions.

d.      Colour mapping, keyboard, workstation, macro files, etc shares the same extension and format.

e.      PCOMM supports HACL automation libraries which are supported in many programming languages for 5350/3270 sessions.

Note: To migrate to IBM PCOMM, please contact your IBM sales contact/representative/Business Partner with your requirements and they will provide you more information on procuring IBM PCOMM licenses.


Unique features provided in IBM ACS

Below are the additional features of ACS over IBM PCOMM or HOD. ACS can also be used side by side with IBM PCOMM as they are independent of each other. This allows the best features to be leveraged.

Navigator for i

It’s a Web console interface where you can perform the key tasks to administer your IBM i.

Integrated file system

Provides an interface for browsing the integrated file system of IBM i and working with objects in the integrated file system.

Hardware management system

Launches the default web browser using an https protocol to display a hardware management interface for the selected system. Examples of hardware management interfaces are:

·        Advanced System Management Interface (ASMI).

·        Copy Services Manager for i.

·        Db2 Mirror for i.

·        Digital Certificate Manager.

·        DS HMC.

·        Hardware Management Console (HMC).

·        Integrated Virtualization Manager.

·        Spectrum Control.

·        Tape Management.

·        Web (HTTP) Administration for i.

Virtual control panel and console

The virtual control panel allows you to view information about your system which is accessible only from the control panel. The information which can be viewed using VCP includes:

·        Machine type, model, serial number, and partition number.
·        Initial Program Load (IPL) mode: Normal, Manual.
·        IPL type: A, B, C, D.
·        System Reference Codes (SRCs) for the current IPL.
·        State of the VCP connection to the system.

The console support is only available with the ACS based support.

Printer output

The printer output support provides an interface for the user to view, manage and download IBM i spool files with a modern interface.


Run SQL scripts

Run SQL Scripts is an interactive IDE for building, verifying, and running interactive SQL.

Conclusion

Ultimately the choice of continuing IBM i Access-Windows or upgrading to ACS or IBM PCOMM boils down to what features an organization wants to continue with. If your organization works on 32-bit applications, then IBM i Access-Windows will suffice the need. ACS brings in 5250 printers and emulation and Session Manager support, as well as other functions. However, one needs to decide about the Automation Applications which were written for a 32-bit platform. With IBM PCOMM, will be able to leverage the features which Windows 10 brings for 64-bit applications and the fact that 64-bit Automation Applications will work seamlessly. If you are using these emulation-based solutions majorly for building Automation Applications that are written in Excel/VB/C++, then IBM PCOMM is the solution.

References

IBM-i Access for Windows: https://www-01.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?uid=isg3T1026807
IBM i Access – Client Solutions: https://www.ibm.com/support/pages/ibm-i-access-client-solutions
IBM PCOMM: https://www.ibm.com/support/knowledgecenter/SSEQ5Y_14.0.0/welcome.html
Windows 7 Support: https://www.microsoft.com/en-in/microsoft-365/windows/end-of-windows-7-support
Performance and memory consumption under WOW64: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/win32/winprog64/performance-and-memory-consumption
Improvements with Compiler upgrade: https://devblogs.microsoft.com/cppblog/msvc-code-optimizer-improvements-in-visual-studio-2017-versions-15-5-and-15-3/

Contact us

For further information on Automation, Services offerings or Technical details in IBM HACP/HATS please connect with HCL mainframe Lab services.

Badal Burathoki
Senior Technical Architect
Mainframe Lab services

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