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NT/2000 as your AS/400 shop's Web server

NT/2000 as your AS/400 shop's Web server
By Roger Pence

This is an excerpt of an article of the same title that originally appeared in the July 3 issue of Roger Pence's AS/400 Letter on Windows, Workgroups and the Web. It is provided courtesy of The 400 Group.

IBM's conventional wisdom for an AS/400 Web presence can be summed up in one word: Java. IBM's dogged pursuit of Java would have you believe there are no other Web serving options for your AS/400 but Java.

But before you buy into IBM's party line, think again. Microsoft NT/2000 server makes a great Web serving ally for AS/400 shops. NT/2000 comes with all its Web server components built in -- you won't need to pay for lots of extras. This article takes a look at the realities of using NT/2000 as your AS/400 shop's Web server. Below are a few myths debunked:

Myth #1. Isn't NT unstable and unreliable?

IBM has old Gartner Group numbers it likes to trot out that compare something like 5 hours a year AS/400 downtime to more than 200 hours per year for NT/2000 Server. It's unclear what statistical sampling the Gartner Group used for this survey, but in the real world, I've never encountered an NT/2000 shop that experienced 225 hours a year downtime. To do so would render NT/2000 all but useless.

And many major businesses, including ABC, Barnes and Noble, Burger King, Compaq, Dell, Delta Airlines, eBay, Ford, Gillette, Monster.com, Nasdaq, National Football League and Nordstrom's find that NT/2000 does a great job as their Web server of choice. In NetCraft's most recent survey of 40 most-requested Web sites, nine were running NT/2000 server; none were running OS/400.

A key issue of keeping NT/2000 reliable is to not expect too much out of it. That is, don't expect any single NT/2000 server to perform lots of tasks. For example, if you need both a Web server and an SQL server for database serving, you probably need two NT servers. IBM argues that this drives your total cost of ownership up, but compare the costs of typical NT servers to typical AS/400 servers; the NT servers are thousands of dollars less.

Also, in a production environment, don't let anyone treat your production NT/2000 server as a testbed for beta software and the latest cool shareware. You want a "hardened" server. That is, get the server to a known configuration and leave it alone. With a little care and feeding, NT/2000 can be very reliable.

Myth #2. NT/2000 Server isn't scalable.

Indeed, it's probably true that a single AS/400 is more scalable than a single NT/2000 server. But, again, real-world costs rear their ugly head.

The commodity nature of NT/2000 servers makes them a very affordable solution. Multiple processor NT/2000 servers, with lots of memory and DASD are very inexpensive.

And, as for AS/400 scalability, you must also factor in IBM's Java trajectory. It's a virtual certainty that as Java matures, the only AS/400s that run it appropriately will be those sporting the very latest and fastest processors. Can you afford to replace your AS/400 every 18-24 months to get the appropriate performance from WebSphere Application Server and Java?

Myth #3. Java, hosted on the AS/400, is clearly IBM's recommended Web path and therefore the best route for me.

IBM's path is clearly Java, but that doesn't make it best for everyone. Java and WebSphere Application Server demand high-powered servers and heavy-duty development and configuration skills. So, while Java may be right for shops with several highly qualified Java programmers, for many bread-and-butter AS/400 shops, Java alternatives are very rational.


This was first published in July 2000

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