RealTime IT News

Microsoft Betas Crossover to Legacy Software

Looking to enhance its presence in the data center, Microsoft has unwrapped the latest version of its server software that links past systems with current and future ones.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant released the beta version of its Host Integration Server (HIS) 2004. The release marks the first new-product testing since the February 2000 beta of Host Integration Server 2000.

The new version adds support for XML, Microsoft's .NET Framework and Visual Studio .NET development tools. With a full release scheduled for mid-2004, Microsoft is banking on selling the new version to customers that are comfortable with its Windows Server 2003 platform and who want to now begin linking new servers with legacy IBM mainframe and midrange systems.

Building on the success of Microsoft SNA Server 4.0 and Host Integration Server 2000, HIS 2004, Microsoft E-Business Servers general manager David Kiker said the Windows approach has a leg up in that it supports a services-oriented architecture approach to the problem.

"With Host Integration Server 2004, we are reducing the complexity of our customers' infrastructure, enabling greater interoperability, and providing them with a standards-based solution to link information from mainframe and midrange computers to partners and customers through XML Web services," Kiker said in a statement. "This is another way our e-business customers can achieve value from their IT systems."

Designed to fit in the top layer of the server hardware stack, Microsoft's HIS 2004 adds in an IP-DLC link service, a feature set developed jointly by Microsoft and U.K-based Data Connection. The technology allows for a connection for Systems Network Architecture applications across a routable Internet protocol (IP) network by supporting the industry-popular HPR/IP (high-performance routing over IP). Microsoft said customers choosing this rout can more efficiently link back to mainframes running OS/390 and z/OS.

"This update would bring Host Integration Server more on par with other Server System products and Microsoft desktop software," said Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox. "For example, one of Microsoft's goals for Office 2003 is to have businesses use the product as a front end to back end data. Businesses would take advantage of Office's XML capabilities. A product like Host Integration Server would make it easier for older systems to plug into an existing Windows network Web services infrastructure, exposing data to Office, or any other product supporting XML." (Jupiter Research and this publication are owned by the same parent company.)

Likewise through its .NET Framework and Visual Studio .NET, Microsoft included a new Transaction Integrator (TI) that links Windows-based computers to IBM mainframe and IBM midrange AS/400 line-of-business applications. The new TI Designer lets developers wrap existing applications like a Customer Information Control System (CICS) or Information Management System (IMS) and breaks them down into .NET client components. In addition, the Designer lets a Windows-based server function as a "peer" to IBM mainframe and AS/400 computers.

But if the servers can talk to each other, can they speak to legacy data? Microsoft said HIS 2004 whips up the older data sources using Open Database Connectivity or ODBC , Component Object Model-based OLE DB, or .NET Framework-enabled Data Providers for DB2, as well as an OLE DB Provider for AS/400 and mainframe file systems. The kicker, said Microsoft, is that HIS 2004 offers a two-phase commit distributed transactions over TCP/IP to DB2 running on most popular computing platforms, plus an intuitive new data access tool allowing administrators and developers to easily create and manage connections to DB2 and host file systems.

To ease security concerns, Microsoft said it revamped the support for secure sockets layer (SSL) and transport layer security (TLS) to will help improve network security for customers accessing mainframe terminal and printer resources via the HIS 2004 TN3270 service.

Customers are sure to keep their eyes on not only the advanced features but also the price tag. Whereas HIS 2002 costs $2,500 per CPU, Microsoft said it is too early to put a number on the 2004 version.