Microsoft Tool to Repackage Host Apps Nears Release

New tool lets developers repackage host applications as XML Web services or .NET server components.

Don’t look now, but the long-awaited follow-up to Host Integration Server (HIS), a connectivity suite designed by Microsoft Corp. for mainframe and midrange environments, is expected to ship next month.

Microsoft originally marketed HIS under the name SNA Server, but rebranded that product when it released HIS 2000 four years ago. Since then, the software giant has done just about everything in its power to encourage Host Integration Server to go away—even killing the HIS marketing budget and slashing its development team—but to no avail: HIS keeps selling.

At its Tech Ed 2003 conference last year, Microsoft announced plans to ship an updated version of HIS. “That's a great little product for us. It isn't exactly the most strategic thing on every customer's mind, but tactically it's very important. Customers who have mainframes deployed depend [on this product]," said Paul Flessner, Microsoft senior vice president for Windows Server Systems, in an interview at Microsoft's Tech Ed show last year.

Flessner’s remarks amounted to a mea culpa for the software giant, which for a long time championed its BizTalk Server—a Web services- and XML-friendly integration suite that uses adapters—in place of HIS.

“I thought [HIS revenues would] dip. But they kept going along. We don't market it. I took the development team down to a very small team—from a peak of about 80 people down to about 6. But it's still a very critical product to customers who want it," acknowledged Flessner last year.

Fast-forwarding to the present, the most heavily touted new feature in HIS 2004 is a Transaction Integrator that lets Windows developers use Microsoft’s Visual Studio .NET 2003 IDE to package host applications as XML Web services or .NET server components.

The new version also allows a Windows server to function as a peer to an IBM mainframe or i5 computer in distributed applications. Another new feature is a single sign-on solution for authenticating security credentials between Active Directory and non-Windows systems, including zSeries and i5 systems, along with host applications such as CICS, IMS, DB2, and MQSeries.

Microsoft unveiled new packaging for the technology, which is split into standard and enterprise editions for the first time. List price for the standard edition is $2,500. The enterprise edition will cost $10,000.

ENT editor-in-chief Scott Bekker contributed to this report.

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About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.