Latest IBM news.New Microsoft server tightens integrationBy John FontanaMicrosoft next month is set to ship the latest version of its integration server that helps users build a bridge between Windows-based distributed applications and IBM mainframe transactions.Host Integration Server (HIS) 2004, the first upgrade of the server in four years, is highlighted by tight integration with Microsoft's .Net programming model. The idea is to give next-generation Windows developers hooks into mainframe and midrange systems such as AS\/400.HIS 2004 is designed to support Windows-based front-end applications that can trigger transactions on the mainframe. In addition, host-initiated applications can retrieve data from the Windows platform using HIS 2004 as a gateway."We want to fool the application so that mainframe data looks like native SQL Server data," says Tim Kelly, director of distributed technologies for Total System Services in Columbus, Ga., one of the world's leading processors of credit card transactions. "HIS allows us to take the results of a [mainframe] transaction and let a Windows application retrieve the data from a table that is populated with the transaction results."Kelly says the company has built a series of Web applications where a customer service representative can click one button to block use of a credit card and another that issues a new card when a customer reports his card missing. Both clicks from within the Windows application initiate a transaction on a back-end mainframe.To help developers build those types of applications, Microsoft has tightened integration with Visual Studio, added new IP routing features, and added single sign-on capabilities that match Windows credentials to those on the mainframe.HIS 2004 lets users integrate host applications, data sources, messaging and security systems. It is a key component of Microsoft's integration strategy, which also includes BizTalk Server, and for the single sign-on component of its identity management road map. HIS 2004 competes with IBM's line of WebSphere extensions for integrating mainframe data with Web-based applications written in Java."It's been some time between versions of HIS, but we think this new version renews our commitment to this space," says Tom Casey, product unit manager in the business process and integration division at Microsoft."There is no end in sight for COBOL applications running on the mainframe, because there is no ROI to port them to a modern platform," says Peter Pawlak, an analyst with research firm Directions on Microsoft.Microsoft is focusing on deeper integration between HIS 2004 and Visual Studio development tools. The highlight is the Transaction Integrator design tool, which runs within the project designer in Visual Studio and lets developers expose Customer Information Control System and Information Management System transactions to Windows as COM+ components, .Net packages or XML-based Web services.Microsoft also has added a feature for tunneling SNA traffic into the mainframe over an IP network. The new IP-DLC Link Service lets PCs connect to z900 mainframes via IP networks.Also new is a managed provider for IBM's DB2 database, which lets DB2 data be published as Web services or integrated into Windows forms, such as those that Microsoft's InfoPath application produce.HIS 2004 also lets Windows servers act as peers to IBM mainframes and AS\/400 computers with the new Host-Initiated Processing feature. The new Enterprise Single Sign-On passes Active Directory authentication credentials to mainframe systems. Microsoft also plans to make an API available so third-party vendors can build password synchronization tools.HIS 2004, which is scheduled to ship Sept. 1, is available in Standard and Enterprise editions. The Standard Edition costs $2,500 and includes the core network, data and security integration technologies. The Enterprise Edition costs $10,000, and adds the Transaction Integrator and a MQSeries and Microsoft Message Queuing bridge.