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-- by Joseph Panettieri
Microsoft trying to cash in on mainframes? You bet. The software giant is facing off against Novell and IBM in the lucrative market for mainframe connectivity software.
Microsoft has finally shipped SNA Server 3.0, its long-anticipated upgrade for linking Windows NT Server networks to IBM's resilient mainframes and popular AS/400 systems. SNA Server 3.0 supports up to 5,000 users and 15,000 host sessions, single sign-on to legacy systems, SNA printer services and RSA's RC4 data-encryption standard. It is also compatible with Attachmate Corp.'s Extra for SNA Server 6.2 ($195 per user). Pricing for SNA Server 3.0 was undisclosed at press time.
Microsoft claims SNA Server shipments are doubling annually, but the competition isn't rolling over. IBM and Novell, for instance, have teamed to deliver NetWare for SAA 2.2, priced at $70 to $250 per user (the larger the network, the lower the price per user). NetWare for SAA 2.2 boasts tight integration with Novell Directory Services (NDS), TN3270 to SNA 3270 protocol translation, and enhanced links to AS/400s and Big Blue's new OS/400 Version 3 Release 1 operating system.
While NetWare for SAA still outsells SNA Server, according to research firm International Data Corp., Microsoft's SNA team no longer views Novell as its primary competitor. "We stack up better and better against NetWare for SAA," said Vesa Suomalainen, general manager of Microsoft's SNA Server product unit. "The new competition is IBM."
Indeed, IBM is hedging its mainframe connectivity bets by porting its Communications Server package (already available for AIX UNIX and OS/2) to Windows NT, meaning that it will now compete head-to-head with SNA Server on Microsoft's own operating system turf. At press time, CommServer for NT was expected to ship in the first half of this year.
The winners in this competition are likely to be network administrators. They'll have more solutions to choose from for linking NT and NetWare networks to mainframes.