For people interested in interop between .NET applications and IBM systems, HIS 2006 is a big deal. In case you missed it, the Microsoft Host Integration Server 2006 July CTP (beta 2) was released to the web, about 2 weeks ago.
People can request access to the bits here.
FYI, CTP means "Community Technology Preview" and is something like a beta, but is intended to be more frequently updated, with less rigorous testing in between updates that a traditional beta. The goal is to iterate more rapidly with customers and users.
Better enablement of SOA is a key goal for HIS 2006. Some examples: the Transaction Integrator piece of HIS allows Windows developers to publish business rules that exist in mainframe CICS and IMS applications as XML Web Services. What this means is, it is now much easier to expose existing mainframe logic to any web service enabled application platform - Java, PHP, .NET or otherwise. If you can invoke a web service, you can now access your CICS and IMS logic. No Mainframe footprint required, and no high license costs for CICS Transaction Server 1.3 with the SOAP for CICS option. And, the new TI Designer runs within Visual Studio 2005, providing a more efficient developer experience.
Another example: TI has been extended to support AS/400 applications by offering an RPG Import Wizard and distributed program call runtime across a TCP/IP network connection.
There are a bunch of new BizTalk adapters, including an adapter for Host Applications (CICS and IMS), an adapter for DB2, an adapter for Host Files, and an adapter for WebSphere MQ. The Microsoft BizTalk Adapter for WebSphere MQ uses the IBM WebSphere MQ Base Client (non-transactional) or WebSphere MQ Transaction Extended Client APIs to communicate with remote MQSeries Queue Managers. This adapter enables BizTalk Server to communicate directly to MQSeries Queue Managers deployed on non-Windows operating systems, without needing to deploy and manage WebSphere MQ Server for Windows, to efficiently exchange messages with line-of-business applications across the enterprise.
Another new feature: TI Host-Initiated Processing (HIP) allows a Windows Server computer to function as a peer to IBM mainframe and AS/400 computers. For example, CICS programmers can call into components, written in .NET and running on Windows Server, just as if they were another CICS transaction program. The .NET logic is written like any other .NET component, and the CICS logic uses familiar programming models (CICS DPL (distributed program link)). HIP allows enterprises to more effectively leverage Windows Server as an application platform within a Mainframe-centric model.
Of course, in addition to the new stuff, there are updates to all the existing features contained in HIS 2004, including updates to:
All in all, tons of new interop stuff. If you register for the beta bits you can try this stuff out now.