he Internet has become much more than logos and brochures on a web page. The business world has spent the last year with a "Gone Fishing" sign hung from the Internet group within their IS departments. MIS professionals were unsure of why Internet, Extranet and Intranet technology is important for them. For businesses and organizations throughout North America and the world, the Internet is finally open for business! Organizations have finally grasped the vast opportunities available to seek better collaboration, communication and commerce with customers, vendors, employees, and the world. E-Business is HERE!
From a user's perspective, simplicity is the rule for this still relatively new world of E-Business. Users "surf" from link to link around the world with the easy-to use interface of a web browser. Users want information including inventory data, personnel information, order-entry applications, order-status, and other business applications to be accessible from anywhere and formatted in a similar manner. From the MIS perspective, this is a complicated task. It is much more complex than users will ever understand to provide valuable, cohesive information coming from different hardware platforms, operating systems, and software packages. E-Business means that everyone and everything on the network, whether local or worldwide, can access and distribute information, applications, and services.
AS/400 simplifies this process by providing the hardware, operating system and application software on a single platform that is ideal for E-Business. The hardware is now centered on the advanced PowerPC RISC chip. The additional Input/Output Processors (IOPs) off-load some systems work of networking and communications. The OS/400 operating system provides built-in object level security, network protocols, database management, enablers for applications (APIs), systems management, and Internet connectivity. There are also over 25,000 native AS/400 applications in use around the world providing E-Business enablement without any code changes. In simple terms, AS/400 supplies all the tools that let the users access the applications and data they need as well as the tools that let the MIS groups manage these projects.
For the same reasons the AS/400 has been key to over 400,000 installations worldwide: It is the most scalable, most fundamentally secure, most manageable, and one of the most open systems available in the marketplace. It has the most business applications - over 25,000 - that can be web enabled with no application changes. And AS/400 provides a rich set of tools for developing, or redeveloping, web-based applications.
Security is extremely important for E-Business on the Internet. AS/400's integrated OS/400 security is extremely difficult to circumvent compared to security offerings on other systems that are add-on packages. The AS/400 object based architecture makes it technically difficult to create and propagate a virus. A file can't pretend to be a program, nor can a program modify another program. Additionally, OS/400 requires you to use system provided interfaces to access objects. You can't access an object directly by its address in the system or manipulate the pointer for one object to make it point to another object.
The E-Business solutions provided by IBM Business Partner, I/NET Inc. add even further to the security of the base AS/400 environment. Commerce Server/400 provides a full 128-bit encryption through Secure Sockets Layer. I/NET's products also provide host and IP filtering along with user authentication to complete the security requirements for any E-Business application on AS/400.
Reliability has been proven through thousands of satisfied customers. The AS/400 is sometimes referred to as "The Energizer Bunny" of computer systems. The combination of hardware engineering, operating system refinement, and database integration provides a system that just doesn't go down. In the 24x7 world of E-Business, the AS/400 is the best choice for reliability.
Scalability is available through AS/400 by supporting from single users to thousands without the need for any software changes. Most other platforms require changes to software to increase (or decrease) traffic. It also provides the full 64-bit processing power with a full 64-bit integrated operating system.
Take advantage of the existing applications and data that resides on the AS/400. Exploit the vital information that already exists in some format on the AS/400. E-Business techniques allow you to extend the reach of your AS/400 applications to allow access to vital corporate applications like order-entry, inventory, and order-status to your employees in the field. You can deliver existing applications to these users with minimal, or zero modifications. Deliver new classes of applications such as product sales and technical information, email, and sales aids to internal employees, distributors, or vendors.
Provide key customers access to bypass the more traditional forms of communication (phone, FAX). Your customers can access general product information, or you can offer them access to existing order-entry, order status inquiry, or new applications providing details on contract terms, discount structures, or contract points.
You can also reach the 40 million users of the Internet to market, take orders for, accept payment, and commit delivery of your products. All this is done with complete security using Internet standards for encryption accompanied with the traditional AS/400 object level security.
Reduce the costs of delivering customer service, Help desks, intermediary agencies, etc. These services are a high cost for any organization. By providing customers with on-line accessibility to vital information, including order inquiry, inventory, product catalogs, special pricing, new product information, known production problems or frequently asked questions, you can provide them important information faster, cheaper and easier. You can provide your customers with up-to-the-minute status on their orders, accept help desk questions, send answers, or software fixes via the Internet, provide customer account status, receive and process orders, or accept returns. By providing all of these easy to access mechanisms to your customers you will provide higher levels of customer service - and thereby customer loyalty by providing a consistent and always available, up to date service. Your organization has the ability to grow your business volumes without increasing overheads - more customers can be serviced with the same staff, sales materials are developed once and are effectively free to distribute.
The AS/400 is the strongest player for E-Business. Take advantage of your existing platform and your proprietary data. Your competitors are already on-board. I/NET's E-Business solutions are being utilized in brokerage houses, educational institutions, utilities, manufacturing, financial services and banking, communications, state and local governments, non-profit organizations, healthcare, wholesale distribution, and computer related services.
Charlie Harter is Managing Director for International Marketing Strategies (IMS), the worldwide distributor of AS/400 Internet solutions including I/NET, VPE, and COAST software. With representation in over 44 countries, IMS provides distribution of Internet, Intranet, Extranet and Groupware solutions to the IBM AS/400 distribution channel around the world.
[Charlie spoke at the TUG Meeting of Members at 5:00PM Wednesday, September 17th, 1997.]