Microsoft Releases Host Integration Server 2004

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Microsoft has just begun shipping its Host Integration Server (HIS) 2004 product. Companies that have Windows applications have reason to be excited. HIS 2004 provides a Microsoft-supported means of integrating IBM host applications, data, messaging, and security with the new solutions being developed on the Microsoft Windows Server platform. This includes support for XML Web services, the Visual Studio .NET 2003 integrated development environment (IDE), and the Microsoft .NET Framework. The cost of the Standard Edition is just under $2,500 per server processor, while the Enterprise Edition is just under $10,000 per processor.

Microsoft offers several good reasons to upgrade your Windows Servers platform to include HIS 2004. Here are the highlights:

Application Integration

Microsoft has re-engineered its COM Transaction Integrator for CICS and IMS and renamed it Transaction Integrator (TI). TI has been extended to offer support for the .NET Framework and Visual Studio .NET 2003. TI allows Windows developers to use the Windows-Initiated Processing (WIP) technology to transform existing line-of-business processes into XML Web Services or .NET server components.

The TI project type includes multiple views (host, COM, .NET) as well as import/export wizards for COBOL and RPG host source code. In addition to WIP, TI offers a new approach to integrating Windows applications across the network. Called Host-Initiated Processing (HIP), it enables developers to produce bi-directional and asynchronous enterprise integration solutions without using IBM MQSeries.

Network Consolidation

HIS 2004's core network integration software has also been extended. Its IP-DLC Link Service enables HIS to participate in IBM's Enterprise Extender environment. As a result, IT can deploy HIS 2004 in a branch office, in a central location, or even within the data center, directly connected to the mainframe across efficient Gigabyte Ethernet infrastructures.

Microsoft says that this IP-DLC Link Service will let organizations with SNA-enabled WANs reap significant cost savings. Organizations can retire expensive channel-attached 374x terminals, move toward a single physical media (Gigabyte Ethernet) within the mainframe data center, and replace expensive and complex Data-Link Switching (DLSw) routers, while simplifying their overall network infrastructure. While IP-DLC Link Service may not impact i5/iSeries customers directly, this can be a big benefit in larger organizations.

Host Data Access

HIS 2004 also provides an industry-standard ODBC Driver for DB2, Component Object Model (COM) OLE DB Providers for DB2 and host file systems (mainframe and AS/400), and a .NET Framework-enabled Managed Provider for DB2.

Microsoft says that it has also improved the DB2 network protocol client (DRDA AR) over which the ODBC, OLE DB, and Managed Provider communicate with remote DB2 database servers. It says this will enable these data providers to offer expanded functionality, including two-phase commit for DB2 Distributed Transactions over TCP/IP and connection pooling when using Enterprise SSO.

TN3270 Host Access

Microsoft has also enhanced the TN3270 Service, providing a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport-Level Services (TLS) support. IT administrators should be able to increase the overall security of their IP corporate networks when accessing mainframe terminal and printer resources, including authentication of access to mainframe sessions and encryption of host data between TN3270 clients and the TN3270 server.

Security Integration

Microsoft has also included Enterprise Single Sign-On (SSO) for efficiently mapping accounts across the Windows Active Directory service and IBM systems or applications. This included 1:1 and Group: 1 associations.

Also, using a secure ticketing mechanism, HIS 2004 technologies such as the application and data integration features will call into Enterprise SSO to obtain foreign credentials. Microsoft says, "The Enterprise SSO infrastructure completely replaces the previously available Host Security Integration feature set, allowing for more efficient and secure management of foreign credentials, SSO, and Password Synchronization."

Secure Product Configuration and Deployment

The server also provides new administration and runtime components that are "secure by default" when installed. The new Configuration Wizard and Secure Deployment Guide assist administrators in exposing and unlocking the portions of the product appropriate for their domains.

Asynchronous Messaging

Microsoft is also providing MSMQ-to-MQSeries Bridge so that administrators can rapidly link applications that use inter-platform message queuing. It says that MSMQ-to-MQSeries Bridge provides improvements of up to 20% in message transport and delivery times for multi-computer scenarios, integrated setup, encryption, and support for MSMQ 2.0 and MQSeries 5.1.

Network Administration

Microsoft says that it has also improved the centralized SNA diagnostics tool, allowing administrators to test and troubleshoot network connections and resources. The re-engineered management console "snap-in" for administering HIS computers offers better usability through refined wizards and dialogs.

Long Beta Cycle Delivers Long-Awaited Services

HIS 2004 marks the first new release of the server in four years, and a lot of technology has gone under the bridge since its last release. In the previous version, Visual Studio development tools and support for .NET were lacking from the HIS, which, with the 2004 release, is finally on the same ground as other members of the Microsoft server family. Part of the delay was Microsoft's long beta cycle, which put the HIS through some rigorous real-world testing. The added features are welcomed, and Host Integration Server 2004 refreshes a product that will get solid use from the i5 and mainframe communities.

Thomas M. Stockwell is Editor in Chief of MC Press Online, LP.

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