Microsoft Does Mainframe Apps

A new program helps connect mainframe apps to Windows apps, but Gartner says it's incomplete,

August 20, 2004

2 Min Read
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Connecting Windows programs to mainframe programs is a real chore, and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) this week said its new Host Integration Server 2004 makes it much easier. Well, sort of.

HIS 2004, shipping in September, is the first update in several years to Redmond's former SNA Server. SNA (Systems Network Architecture) is IBM Corp.'s (NYSE: IBM) 30-year-old mainframe networking protocol.

In the new server, Microsoft's made it easier for mainframe programs to call Windows programs by wrapping the mainframe code inside XML-based Web services and .NET components, themselves built with Visual Studio.NET and with a new tool called Transaction Integrator.

Microsoft officials weren't available to comment but stated in a press release that the new server costs $2,499 for the Standard Edition and $9,999 for the Enterprise Edition, which also gets you the Transaction Integrator and integration with a development tool called the Microsoft Message Queuing (MSMQ) Bridge. [Ed. note: But does it include shipping and handling?]

But there's another side to this story, which is that HIS 2004 is only a small step toward what mainframe/Windows customers really need, Gartner Inc. analyst Dale Vecchio says."They've started to make this a way for Microsoft applications to integrate with mainframe applications in a service-oriented way. It has a ways to go. There are still some things they're missing," Vecchio says.

Primarily, the product doesn't support terminal-based transactions, or "comm-area transactions" in IBM-speak, which applies to about 70 to 80 percent of all IBM mainframe software. In human-speak, that means HIS 2004 only works with mainframe software that uses application calls. Microsoft relies on other companies like Attachmate, ClientSoft, NetManage, and WRQ to fill the huge gap, he explains.

This also means that mainframe users have to really buy into the Microsoft worldview for application development, which is 180 degrees opposite the IBM-endorsed view of using Java-based tools. (Which makes us wonder, wouldn't it easier for Microsoft to just acquire one of those partners instead of marketing an incomplete product today?).

"What HIS 2004 is signaling to us is Microsoft's acceptance of true application integration with a mainframe," says Vecchio.

Evan Koblentz, Senior Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum0

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