Better .NET interop with IBM CICS, DB2, AS/400, RPG

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.

What's New in HIS 2006

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:

  • the MSMQ-MQSeries Bridge. Apps can put and get messages to MSMQ (included free with Windows) and these messages can be automatically bridged to WebSphere MQ (nee MQSeries), which is an extra cost item from IBM. " Data Providers for DB2 and Host Files - To directly publish vital data stored in IBM DB2, Host Integration Server 2006 offers a Microsoft Managed Provider for DB2 that is based on an improved Microsoft network client for DB2.
  • Enterprise Single Sign-On To secure user access to host applications and data, IT professionals utilize Enterprise Single Sign-On. EntSSO v4 offers intuitive user interface tools for administrations and end users to define and maintain affiliate applications, account mappings, and runtime services. All key features of HIS 2006 and the Host Adapters offer EntSSO as the preferred means of authenticating application and user access to remote systems.
  • Session Integrator - includes "screen-scraping" runtime services and programming interfaces (COM and .NET) allowing enterprise developers to emulate and automate access to LU2 3270-based and LU0 LUA-based host mainframe programs. Customers can now build ATMs or POS devices on modern platforms like Windows XP Embedded, rather than relying on the phased-out IBM OS/2. Also, Session Integrator for 3270 can connect to mainframes via a direct TN3270 over TCP/IP network connection.
  • SNA Gateway and Services The core SNA services (protocol gateway, print and TN offload services, remote NetView management, SNA APIs, SNA client emulators), dating from the original Microsoft SNA Server, have been updated.

All in all, tons of new interop stuff. If you register for the beta bits you can try this stuff out now.

-Dino