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Host Integration Server Lives!

DALLAS -- Microsoft Host Integration Server, Microsoft's product for connecting Windows servers to mainframes and other so-called "legacy" systems, has seen its marketing budget killed and its development team slashed, yet the product keeps selling. In fact, Microsoft plans to ship an updated version, Host Integration Server 2004, next year.

As an extension of the mainframe industry, the product's ongoing existence mirrors the fate of the mainframe industry, which is repeatedly declared dead or dying, yet continues to chug reliably along.

"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]," Paul Flessner, Microsoft senior vice president for Windows Server Systems, said in an interview at Microsoft's TechEd show this week.

Host Integration Server, the Windows 2000-generation successor to SNA Server, came out in 2000. Microsoft officials expected sales to dip as the company emphasized XML and BizTalk Server, with all its adapters, as more strategic ways to handle data transfers among heterogeneous systems.

"I thought they'd 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 prouct to customers who want it," Flessner said.

Host Integration Server 2004 went into Beta 1 in March and Beta 2 is expected to come out this fall.

The product is expected to deliver new Windows-initiated capabilities, including a CICS client context, exposing host applications as .NET servers and exposing AS/400 applications as .NET or COM servers. On the host-initiated side, hosts will be able to invoke COM+ and .NET servers through HIS and hosts will listen for calls to CICS, IMS and AS/400 applications.

There is also work going on to support IBM's new mainframe networking stack and a new application integration designer that sits inside Visual Studio.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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