What's the Point of Microsoft Host Integration Server? Still Wondering....

Charles Fitzgerald (sort of) and James Governor both replied to my original question: "Is there a good use for Microsoft Host Integration Server 2006?" Thank you both. I appreciate the dialog.

I mostly agree with James, although I already noted his reservations in my original comments about the financials. I think we both agree that, while there are software costs, two things are true: Microsoft will offer a "special deal" if pressed, and the software costs are largely irrelevant to the huge other costs organizations would face with this sort of architecture, not to mention the QoS problems.

I found Charles's reply both fascinating and non-responsive. I don't have space to pick it all apart, and any omission on my part in responding to one of Charles's points in no way suggests I agree. So let's cherry pick together....

I am most amused at the idea of mainframe guys arguing cost.

I'm an architect. Any competent enterprise architect must be familiar with mainframe technology and its business implications. Yesterday I recommended a database that installs on handheld devices. Does that make me a handheld guy?

I am even more amused by a leader of the world's largest software company, founded and managed by the world's richest individual, arguing cost.

One fundamental reason for [Microsoft] HIS is because it is always preferable to run an instruction off the mainframe as opposed to on it, given a choice....

How does a product that connects to the mainframe, demanding it perform certain units of work, move instructions off the mainframe?  MS HIS may not have a purpose as it is, but it really doesn't have a purpose without a mainframe doing something.  And if it's "always preferable," why are so many businesses doing exactly the opposite? For example, take a look at Gartner report G00138213 (March, 2006) which studied database spending and deployment trends. Here's the OS ranking for customers' RDBMS deployment target plans according to the survey: Linux (including mainframe Linux), z/OS, UNIX, Windows, Other.

Whatever their rationale, customers seem to prefer HIS. The last time I checked about 60% of mainframe installations have an instance of HIS or precursor running.

I have no way of verifying that claim. But I'm suggesting, in 2007, 59.9% of them may not need it -- or at least they have architecturally superior, lower cost options.

You made an assertion that IBM "continues to jack prices." Did you even check Gartner, Enterprise Systems Journal, or several other available expert references before you wrote that? Please share with us what Microsoft's price trends have been in the past few years. If you could point me to the price reductions for Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office, I'd appreciate it.

However, to echo James's central point, I'd be willing to applaud even a modest software price increase if customers received value from their investments. Software costs are only part of the financial picture. What really upsets me is Microsoft's abusive licensing terms, and you didn't respond to that complaint. Why does Microsoft dictate that customers cannot use MS HIS client components to connect directly to the mainframe, even if they pay full list price for Microsoft software? That's obscene. Enterprises should not tolerate license terms that force a particular architectural pattern. I'd genuinely appreciate your efforts to eliminate that license restriction in a price-neutral or better way.

To put this in perspective, we’ve just been through the biggest computing buildout ever in the last decade with the Web, and the mainframe is nowhere to be seen.

If you're referring to public Internet-facing HTTP stacks or static Web content serving, indeed, mainframes are not typically found in those roles. (No reason why they cannot, and some are.) If you're talking about everything else that happens in back of the stacks (credit card authorizations, banking transactions, airline reservations and ticketing, package tracking, insurance claims processing, tax filing, etc., etc.) then your assertion is ridiculous on its face.

I'm still wondering what the answer to my original question is.

by Timothy Sipples April 12, 2007 in Economics


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