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Microsoft Integration Server on Deck

Microsoft is ready to ship Host Integration Server 2004, offering a Windows interface to mainframes and legacy applications.

HIS 2004, the latest in the company's line of server tools, is a set of technologies and tools that let companies working on the Windows Server 2003 platform connect Windows with IBM zSeries mainframes and iSeries servers. It provides integration in five areas, according to Charles Machalani, senior product manager in Microsoft's Business Process and Integration Division: applications, data, messaging, security and network services.

"Customers deploy these applications in obvious ways, such as heterogeneous environments where they want to bring existing assets into the Windows Server environment," he said. "But [they're also used] for such things as ATMs, where they want to take advantage of the Windows platform on the front end to get access in a cost-efficient and manageable way to resources existing in a mainframe."

HIS 2004 options include a Transaction Integrator that lets host-distributed applications participate in .NET and COM+ transactions; a Transaction Integrator (TI) Runtime Server; MSMQ-to-MQSeries Bridge for asynchronous, messaging-based, communication integration between heterogeneous applications; an SNA and TN3270 Server gateway with an IP-DLC link service that connects Systems Network Architecture (SNA) applications across an IP network; and Visual Studio .NET and diagnostics tools.

Tom Casey, product unit manager for Microsoft's Business Process and Integration Division, said the product could help companies do more with less.

"Business decision-makers or project sponsors are asking their employees to solve problems in the most cost-efficient manner," he said. "Being able to manage a heterogeneous computing environment in a consistent manner is important."

At the same time, corporate developers building new applications must also use existing resources when possible, Casey said, and HIS 2004 lets them call legacy applications using the Visual Studio interface.

HIS 2004 provides integration of applications and networks, according to Machalani. "For the most part, AS400s have moved to IP. On the mainframe, a lot of applications still require SNA as way to communicate with these systems," he said. The IP DLC link service lets a company invoke SNA systems and applications over the IP infrastructure.

Once a company has bridged legacy and Windows systems via HIS 2004, Casey said, the legacy data and applications are available for use with Microsoft's collaboration tools, such as BizTalk Server. "I can integrate with the entire Windows Server System stack," he said.

The product also lets Windows developers work with legacy apps via the Visual Studio design tools.

"If I'm a Visual Studio developer, the mainframe world may be foreign to me," Casey said. "HIS 2004 allows developers to normalize the interfaces they work with via a wizard-based environment and the Visual Studio shell."

Support for Microsoft's .NET framework allows developers to expose functions of legacy mainframe applications as Web services within a service-oriented architecture. HIS 2004 also reverses the process, allowing mainframe applications to call applications on the Windows platform.

Casey said Microsoft has around 10,000 integration customers, some of whom might use HIS 2004 as a stopgap during the long migration to a full Windows infrastructure.

Microsoft offers two editions of Host Integration Server 2004. The Standard Edition costs $2,499 and includes core host access services in the form of network, data and security integration technologies. Host Integration Server 2004 Enterprise Edition will cost $9,999, adding application integration capabilities in TI and the message integration. Microsoft plans to ship both versions on September 1.

Microsoft announced the imminent release of the server product at the SHARE user conference, held Tuesday in New York City. The company said it's a significant enhancement to its 10-year-old integration initiative. The release, said Casey, "reflects our mainframe integration customers' input and renews our commitment to the space."