The newsgroups can be an excellent source of information, especially when someone replying to a question goes far beyond where they could have finished. Take the following question posted today on microsoft.public.hiserver.general:

Dave wrote: "I am just returning to the HIS world after being out of it for 5 or so years. It seems over that period of time MS has blurred the line between HIS and Biztalk or am I missing something? On that same note, where or what is the best way to learn the "enterprise" view of each server?"

to which an ex-Microsoftee (Andrew McLaren) responded at length:

Hi Dave, Yes, Microsoft's product strategy here is both confused and confusing (I no longer work for Microsoft, so now I'm fairly free to say this publicly :-)

Viewed from the technical perspective, Host Integration Server and BizTalk Server remain two separate products. They have no interdependencies: you can install full HIS on a machine without needing any any BizTalk components at all. You can also install BTS on a machine without needing any HIS bits. Apart from BizTalk's "BizTalk Adapters for Host Systems" feature (aka "BAHS"), HIS and BizTalk do not share any management tools, common data stores, APIs etc. They are separate products.

Viewed from the Sales and Purchasing perspective, there is only ONE product: BizTalk Integration Server. Generally, you cannot buy a stand-alone copy of HIS; you must buy BizTalk Server. The BizTalk Server media contains a full, standalone copy of HIS, with its own Setup program, etc. If you only want HIS, you buy a copy of BizTalk, install HIS from the BizTalk media, using the HIS Setup program, and then throw the rest of the stuff on the DVD away. Or you can also install and use the BizTalk bits, if that's what you want.

A full copy of HIS is included with every edition of BizTalk Server. So if you only want an HIS Licence and not the the BizTalk bits, you can buy (for example) a copy of BizTalk Server Branch Edition, and install HIS from that. A BTS Branch Edition Licence is cheaper than the old stand-alone HIS Enterprise Edition Licence, so this actually works out to be a money-saving bargain - possibly the one good thing to come from all the confusion.

The vast majority of HIS servers out there are running stand-alone, with no BizTalk involvement; BizTalk is a fine product, but HIS has been around much longer and covers a much wider range of scenarios. So BizTalk is not always required.

If you have a scenario where you do want to actually use HIS and BizTalk together, as part of the same solution - for example, reading and writing data from BizTalk to CICS or DB2, etc - then you can also use the BizTalk Adaptors for Host Systems. These are installed *as part* of BizTalk Server, from the BizTalk setup program; and they neatly integrate the BizTalk bits with the HIS bits. You could get almost the same result by installing HIS and BizTalk separately onto the same machine; but BAHS adds the necessary glue to make it work straight out of the box (which is actually pretty cool, if that's what you want).

There's some more detailed info on licensing and products features, here:

http://www.microsoft.com/biztalk/en/us/host-integration.aspx

There are also links to further technical info and training on the same page.

Well, I hope that this has helped to explain the current situation, and not make it even more confusing! :-)

If you have follow-up questions, or other technical questions about HIS, just reply back to this group.

Regards
Andrew McLaren

I think it is a well-written overview of how the two products are being marketed and Andrew kindly let me reprint it. Best of luck in the outside world, Andrew.

For more information, there is a license document available for download:

How to License Microsoft BizTalk Host Integration Technologies