BACKGROUND: Minnesota Department of Economic Security administers employment and training programs designed to help Minnesotans achieve economic security. Minnesota Department of Economic Security delivers many of those programs directly to clients through its field/area offices and workforce centers.

PLATFORMS: Minnesota Department of Economic Security's operating system consists of an IBM S/390 mainframe, OS/390 operating system V1.3, DB2 V5, TCP/IP enabled.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Word processing, remote terminals and some groupware and e-mail had been deployed in recent years, creating different islands of information in addition to the data most fundamental to case management ­ that on the IBM OS/390 mainframe. While various approaches were available for managing unstructured data such as documents, none seemed reliable enough for integrating the critical mainframe data to help produce those documents and better enable communications. The sensitivity of this issue was highlighted by the plan to have up to 20 judges using laptops to access the system from remote locations. When the Minnesota Department of Economic Security's DB2 for OS/390 database was upgraded to Version 5 and TCP/IP connectivity established, QMF for Windows became a viable solution. We found the versatility we needed because QMF for Windows provides ad hoc as well as "programmed" access. For example, court staff use the QMF for Windows' point-and-click interface for formulating any needed query, and we use the QMF for Windows' API to automatically merge mainframe data into Microsoft Word documents and custom Visual Basic applications. Using the custom Visual Basic applications, QMF for Windows is relied upon to both access and update DB2 data for multiple needs. In addition, the programming staff uses the QMF for Windows' point-and-click interface for formulating any needed query to help deliver ad hoc information.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: QMF for Windows' link to the mainframe is extremely fast and reliable. Overall, the ability to transparently access and update DB2 for OS/390 data via TCP/IP with QMF for Windows has completed a very significant step forward for Minnesota Department of Economic Security in the execution of its duties. QMF for Windows will also be used to bring Minnesota Department of Economic Security's mainframe data to Internet browsers.

STRENGTHS: QMF for Windows which can be client or server based has a number of strengths including easy installation under TCP/IP architecture, unlimited users per product license and no gateways or middleware to be installed or maintained. It is highly cost-effective, and there is a short learning curve. In addition, QMF for Windows goes directly against the data and greatly leverages the strength of DB2 and the robustness of the IBM S/390.

WEAKNESSES: The interface "paradigm" of QMF for Windows is quite different from that found in a Microsoft Access-only environment, and this takes some getting used to. A larger library of examples of how to use the QMF for Windows' API with other products would be helpful.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The DB2 family of products was designed with similar architectures and compatibility in mind. This compatibility at the architecture level promotes application portability and consistent database designs. QMF for Windows shares DB2's architecture as a native DRDA requester that requires no database gateway, middleware or new purchased/installed software on the S/390. This gives Minnesota Department of Economic Security a powerful integrated way to access mainframe data from a Windows 95 or Windows NT application.

DELIVERABLES: Minnesota Department of Economic Security is currently using the product to access and modify DB2 mainframe data from Visual Basic applications.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Vendor support for QMF for Windows is fantastic. Minnesota Department of Economic Security initially installed the product using CPI-C under NetWare. During this implementation, several technical issues arose, and the support crew for QMF for Windows went above and beyond the call of duty to provide assistance. The real issues were always outside their program product, yet the vendor kept in very close contact with all other parties in an attempt to help provide a solution.

DOCUMENTATION: Both on-line and paper documentation are very high quality. A few more examples of interfacing with other report generators would be helpful.

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