Integrate Your IBM AS400/iSeries with the Modern World

Oct 31, 2020 Sarthak Thussu

IBM i/AS400 is over three decades old but its popularity remains unchallenged even today. With the system still hosting mission-critical tasks for organizations across verticals, AS400 is anything but obsolete. However as reliable as the system is, IBM System i brings its share of challenges that users have been addressing over the years.

For countless organizations today, AS400 is the core of business operations, but its integration with enterprise solutions and other data sources has remained a perennial concern for users. It is undeniable that the system is one of the most robust enterprise applications around today, but the scope for data integrations & synchronization and the user experience it offers are not up to today’s standards. However, with the digitalization of processes and modern customer demands, seamless integration with external sources is the key to the much-desired digital transformation that businesses seek to stay competitive.

62% of IT leaders opine that integrating legacy systems is the biggest hurdle to multi-cloud success. -VMware/MIT Technology Review, 2017

AS400 Common Integrations

Depending upon the specific need of the user, AS400 systems typically need to be integrated with home-grown and third-party (on-premises or SaaS) applications. Below are the most common business applications that organizations want to integrate with their AS400 system.

  • CRM
  • SharePoint
  • MySQL
  • Office 365
  • Web apps/portals/mobile apps
  • e-Commerce portals

Why is AS400 Interface Development a Challenge?

When AS400 was being developed in the 1980s, it was designed as a standalone solution and integration was not among the priorities. What seems like an obvious flaw in hindsight now was an inconceivable prospect back then. Consequently, today users are striving to connect their AS400 with different applications within the organization but are inevitably facing some genuine concerns.

  • Incompatibility of modern applications/SaaS solutions with AS400, necessitating the use of extensive customization and patchwork for integration.
  • The presence of data silos that have resulted from years of use, making data access and sharing inconvenient for integration.
  • Connecting AS400 with other applications is possible through system modernization or rewriting. But as an overwhelming undertaking, most businesses get discouraged by it.
  • Users are also concerned about integrations between on-premises AS400 and cloud solutions, since it may threaten the integrity of sensitive data.
  • Most users lack the necessary documentation of the overall system architecture, and this causes users to think multiple times before evaluating an integration or exposing the system to another.

AS400 Integration Strategies – The Way Out

Traditional point-to-point legacy system integration methods might not be the right pick when connecting diverse endpoints that span the cloud, mobile, web, and other internal and external systems. Such methods are usually expensive and might even be the cause of a single point of failure in the future. Here are some of the viable cost-efficient alternatives.

Building the AS400 Integration
Since most businesses run on an evolving AS400 ecosystem, there is a constant need to build new integrations at regular intervals. This allows businesses to tailor their AS400 system to their specific needs. But on the flip side, this is a massive undertaking that involves extensive coding changes, longer durations, and of course the resources to maintain the integration in-house.

Using Integration Connectors
There exist special IBM iSeries integration platforms that come with pre-built application connectors that can be used to configure integrations quickly and in a less complicated way. Such connectors usually support thousands of transactions per second and enable data and services from AS400 solutions to be exposed via a reusable API.

Using APIs
This is the most popular way of integration since it offers tangible benefits including low costs and a better user experience over the rest. Application programming interfaces (APIs) are an effective way to upgrade legacy systems without additional capital expenditure. Using APIs, businesses can ensure safe data exchange from their AS400 database to the consuming applications without altering the source itself.

Preparing for a Successful Integration

Evaluate your options
As an AS400/iSeries user, if you opt for IBM i integration, you must be specific about the areas you want to improve and your expectations from the move. Besides calculating the costs and setting a timeline, integration tools and methodologies to be used must also be zeroed in on.

Plan in detail
Once the processes to target have been identified, it must be followed with a meticulous plan that incorporates key factors such as the data types to be extracted and transferred, data backup strategy, the nature of data flow (one-way or two-way), synchronization (one-time or ongoing), etc.

Enlist an Experienced AS400 Integration Specialist
Most organizations on AS400 are short of RPG specialists and hence it is best that a critical task like integration is carried out by seasoned AS400 interface development specialists. A developer with expertise in third-party integration can execute the job in the right and cost-effective way.

We, at Nalashaa, are experts in end-to-end IBM i/AS400 services including migration, modernization, integration, and support. We leverage our years of experience and flexible engagement models to deliver the best experience to our clients. If you are in search of an IBM i integration partner or want to learn more about the business values an integration can deliver, a chat with us could be an insightful session for you to reimage your AS400 system.
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Sarthak Thussu

Sarthak has been addressing various challenges of the Information Technology industry by evaluating their business context for the past many years. He works closely with IBM iSeries enterprises across different industries, helping them grow their business and gain a competitive edge.