Microsoft’s Babylon Enters Beta 1

Microsoft Corp. rechristened SNA Server as Host Integration Server 2000 because the company believed too few users realized that the product no longer had a protocol affinity. Rather than being just an SNA gateway, SNA Server 4.0, as of Service Pack 2 (SP2), can be used in accordance with TCP/IP.

The first beta version of Host Integration Server 2000, code-named Babylon, became available last month. As of press time, 500 beta sites were testing it. Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) expects about 1,000 more to download the software.

Babylon enables access to existing mainframe applications and data. Built on the gateway technology of Microsoft’s SNA Server, Host Integration Server 2000 provides SNA network integration, data integration and application integration technology.

"There are a number of esoteric features in the beta," says Tad Parker, Microsoft’s lead product manager for Host Integration Server.

Features include COM+ support for integrated CICS/IMS transactions and support for Microsoft Message Queue Server 2.0 and IBM's MQSeries 5.1 for messaging-oriented middleware integration.

The providers for DB2 were completely rewritten and optimized for speed. Also, there are new data queues for AS/400 that enable NT applications to communicate with and share information with AS/400 applications.

SNA gateway enhancements include multiple sessions for 3,270 clients and load balancing and hot backup for LU6.2 2PC applications.

On the administrative side, Microsoft added a scriptable SNA gateway, remote MMC-based multiserver administration of all functions, and a direct TCP/IP setup option for data access providers.

Not surprisingly, Babylon was updated to take advantage of features inherent to Windows 2000. The product, for instance, will integrate with some of W2K’s most important features, such as Active Directory, WMI, and COM+.

"Babylon will run on either Windows 2000 or NT 4.0, so we don’t force the upgrade," Parker says.

SNA Server 4.0 also will run on both platforms, but Parker recommends installing SP3, the latest service pack, when using SNA Server 4.0 on Windows 2000.

"Certain features and functions will work fine with earlier versions, but SP3 was the one built for Windows 2000," he says.

That is not to say that SNA Server 4.0 with SP3 can take advantage of Windows 2000 features. Instead, companies with Windows 2000 will need to use Babylon to take advantage of the unique features in W2K.

Microsoft says Babylon is part of its bigger developer strategy. A company press release states that Host Integration Server extends the Windows DNA 2000 platform to embrace host systems and enable customers to choose the technology appropriate for their unique integration needs.

Beta 2, which Parker says will be feature complete, is scheduled for availability this spring, and will be broadly available midyear. Microsoft said it was too early to speculate how many additional sites would test the second beta.

Parker says Microsoft plans to add new features to the product between now and the release of beta 2.

"The biggest category we want to enhance is the replication support for SQL Server 2000," he says. "But we have a dependency on SQL 2000 beta, which goes out this month."