AS/400 at the heart of all matters for one firm
Note: With this issue, AS/400 launches a new column,
"Shop Talk." This Column turns the focus towards you,
the people who comprise the AS/400 user base. How does
your enterprise use the AS/400? What would you change
about it? We'll seek out individual AS/400 users for
answers to these and other questions. "Shop Talk will
appear periodically in AS/400 Magazine.
BY JIM UTSLER
Our initial subject, John Myers, operates a software
application firm and an Internet start-up company. Both
businesses run on AS/400.
The nice thing about interviewing people on the street
is that you never know what to expect. The responses
can either be accommodating or downright surly, punctuated
with a hand in the face and a curt, "Leave me the heck
So when we approached our first interviewee, John Myers,
president of Strategic Business Systems Inc. (www.sbsusa.com)
and corporate director of ScoreBook.com Corp. (www.ScoreBook.com),
we weren't sure where the conversation was going to
take us. As it turned out, he was more than willing
to share a moment of his time, offering insight into
not only his own operations, but also into how IBM might
improve the AS/400's marketing position.
Although he's the president of a company that specializes
in AS/400 applications, Myers knows the importance of
having a sound IT environment (his experience with start-up
Internet company ScoreBook.com is proof.) With that
in mind, we asked him to answer our questions not as
the head of an AS/400 solution-provider company, but
as the owner of an AS/400 shop.
His responses, while decidedly pro-AS/400, may surprise
Could you briefly explain what your organization
Strategic Business Systems has two business units and
one affiliated company that are served by a common,
Internet-driven, AS/400-served technology base.
The first business unit is our Motor Vehicle Industry
business unit (www.VehicleSystem.com).
Strategic provides packaged computer systems and services
that support the distribution operations of motor vehicle
The second is our IBM iSeries eServer (AS/400) networking, document management,
and Internet practice. Since 1996, we have viewed the
Internet as a worldwide Communications backbone. The
advent of I/NET's WebServer/400 and Webulator/400 opened
the door for the AS/400 to gain these benefits. Strategic
has provided more than 50 companies with Internet applications,
using the AS/400 as their primary server.
Strategic's AS/400 Internet practice includes prominent
companies such as Panasonic, Mikasa, Goya Foods, and
Merrill Lynch, as well as many of the innovative entrepreneurial
companies that form the core of the AS/400 community.
Our new product, WebSurvey/400 (www.WebSurvey400.com),
was developed based on many of our early experiences
in AS/400 e-business. It allows AS/400-powered Web sites
to gather and route intelligence without any application
programming. The user specifies the data to be collected
on a Web page, and WebSurvey/400 builds the Web page,
processes the responses from the page, and routes the
responses to specified contacts.
ScoreBook.com, our affiliated company, is a worldwide
amateur sports destination. Its goals are to provide
Internet-based sports league and team management tools,
make players' achievements visible, and form a worldwide
With ScoreBook.com, league managers will be able to
run the league from a Web site. This includes communicating
with team managers and players, setting up game schedules,
recording and publishing game results (with box scores,
game highlights, and action photos), keeping player
statistics, and determining team standings and league
Once we have the basics in place, we plan to grow the
ScoreBook.com community in a number of ways. Certainly
sports chat is a starting point. League and sport newsletters
Because an amateur men's baseball league owner is our
partner in ScoreBook.com, the first sports supported
by ScoreBook.com will be the bat and ball sports (baseball,
softball, tee-ball, etc.). Other sports (basketball,
football, soccer, etc.) will follow shortly.
What's the size of your company and its staffing?
All of this work is being done by a company with less
than 30 employees. The technical staff consists of 12
development, two technical-support, and four customer-support
staffers. That's the power of the AS/400.
One of our biggest challenges in the marketplace arises
when we call on a large company that's not aware of
the AS/400's capabilities, and they ask how large our
company is. They don't understand how a company the
size of ours has done everything we have done. They
say that they need a "large firm that can throw armies
of people at their problems." They just don't get the
point that the AS/400 makes ordinary people extraordinary.
Could you give us an overview of your technical environment?
- Two AS/400 Model 170s
- One Novell file server (for file and print sharing)
- One Windows NT file server (for a customer-mandated
help desk application)
|Contrary to all of the press that Web
browsers have received, the Internet is about servers.
We want to have the best Internet server on the market
for ScoreBook.com. We chose the AS/400 to run our Internet-based
business for several fundamental reasons. It's easy
to use, reliable, secure, has Internet servers built
in, and will grow with our business. We want to be able
to focus on our business, and the AS/400 lets us do
What types of application development languages are
- RPG and LANSA for traditional application development
- LANSA for the Web and e-business
- I/NET CommerceServer/400 Web server, OS/400 HTTP
Server, and OS/400 email
- WebSurvey/400 for consumer inquiries
|We've used LANSA for our e-business and
e-commerce applications with great success. LANSA is
a very effective product that has certainly given us
more than we expected. We knew that it was a very competent
tool for both database design and applications generation
in the workstation, Windows client, and Web applications.
What we didn't realize was how easy it is to integrate
LANSA with our existing AS/400 database files and RPG
And as far as ScoreBook.com is concerned, you can't
buy the multilingual, multi-sport, e-business solution
it needs at CompUSA. We were looking for the ability
to quickly create a custom, multilingual Web application
that can grow as we do.
LANSA for the Web was our choice to build the application.
We define the data to the LANSA repository once. Standard
program templates allow us to generate many of our systems
functions without writing a line of code. Also, the
LANSA repository allows us to define all data elements
as multilingual. We can generate our application once
and rely on LANSA to serve Web pages in the needed languages.
How does the AS/400 fit into your organization?
The AS/400 is the heart of our organization. It is our
factory. We are betting our business on the AS/400,
and you can bet we're confident we'll win.
If you had the ability to do so, how would you improve
AS/400's biggest problem is that the general public
doesn't know it exists. IBM supports four families of
clearly differentiated servers (AS/400, S/390- RS/6000,
and Netfinity*). The AS/400 is the least known and most
differentiated of the four in the marketplace.
If you don't know the product details, highly differentiated
products will seem strange and isolated and never be
considered for purchase in the marketplace. If you do
know the details, and the differentiation fits your
needs, then the purchase of the product is intuitive.
In addition to my role with Strategic Business Systems
and ScoreBook.com, I teach business administration topics
at the local community college. I recently asked a class
of upper-level IT majors, "How many of you know what
an IBM iSeries eServer (AS/400) is?" Out of 24 students, only one had
any idea what I was talking about. How can we hire our
next generation of IT professionals if they don't even
know what an AS/400 is?
Spending money to raise the profile of the AS/400 in
the general marketplace would pay immediate returns
to both IBM and its customers. Other than this, it's
a wonderful server, and we look forward to a long and
successful run with the AS/400.
JIM UTSLER is a contributing editor
of AS/400 Magazine. He has written technology-related
articles for a variety of publications, including Business
Week and Byte. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.