Very shortly, Microsoft plans to take the wraps off of the next generation of SNA Server (code-named Babylon), the company's network interoperability product. The current working name of the product is The Microsoft Enterprise Interop Server. SNA Server is a relatively unheralded product in the BackOffice suite that gets Microsoft in the door at large accounts that require legacy access. Microsoft first unveiled Babylon at the last Microsoft TechEd conference in Dallas, Texas. According to Paul Maritz, group vice president of Microsoft's developer group, the idea behind Babylon is that "It \[Babylon\] will be able to translate any protocol into any \[other\] protocol." Babylon builds on recent work that Microsoft has done with SQL Server and Microsoft Message Queue Server (MSMQ), to add more than 25 enhancements to a project that is reported to be 600,000 lines of code or more. The scope of the effort indicates that Microsoft is taking heterogeneous networking very seriously. The new version of SNA will give systems architects bidirectional communications with mainframe systems and midrange AS/400 and UNIX systems based on the Windows Distributed interNetworking Applications (DNA) architecture and Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) components using the COM Transaction Integrator (COMTI) and OLE DB. Bidirectional communications means that not only can Windows-based applications access legacy system data, but legacy applications can access data on Windows-based computers. The new version of SNA Server is rumored to connect to BizTalk Server and therefore let SNA Server participate in XML e-commerce transactions. In essence, SNA Server expands its role from data access into a full-fledged middleware package. Initial reaction to Babylon by some industry analysts is mixed. Some analysts have said that the product is just a collection of features that are currently available. However, others expect that having all these components in SNA Server will make life easier for third-party developers who will leverage these features and build additional products on top of this platform. Rob Enderle of Giga Group said, "When Microsoft is well-connected to the mainframe, it builds a hell of a migration platform. This is a stealth wolf; you won't see it coming. The mainframe is slowly going away." Other analysts commented on the need for Microsoft to provide a product such as Babylon if the company's efforts in the area of knowledge management are to bear any fruit. Access to a wide range of data sources is a key requirement for success in that area. Microsoft plans to ship Babylon 90 days after releasing Windows 2000 (Win2K), probably around February 2000--the same timeframe as Win2K Datacenter edition. Microsoft has not announced packaging and pricing for Babylon. The company will post information about SNA Server and the new features in Babylon in the near future. You will also be able to find white papers describing this technology. To visit Microsoft's SNA Server Web site, go to http://www.microsoft.com/sna/. The following table lists some of the major new features in Babylon.
|Software Developer Kit (SDK)||Early versions of SNA Server support IBM mainframe access. The SDK lets non-IBM mainframe vendors and desktop or server application ISVs write applications that use SNA Server.|
|Terminal Orientation Application Support||A COMTI method that lets you combine multiple 3270 screens into one object.|
|Host-Initiated Transaction||A feature that lets a host-based program use COM and COM+ components.|
|Distributed Relational Database Architecture (DRDA)||These services let AS/400 and mainframes access SQL Server data.|
|Replication Server||This feature lets you replicate transactions, snapshots, and merge data from DB2 and Oracle to SQL Server.|