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Internet Information Services (IIS) sees big changes in Windows Server 2008

Steven S. Warren, Contributor

Over the years, Internet Information Services (IIS) -- Microsoft's flagship Web server product -- has received a lot of flak for being hacked and compromised. With the release of Windows Server 2008, however, Microsoft had the opportunity to move past those stereotypes and do something really great – and this time, the company came through. In fact, Microsoft and the IIS team went above and beyond what I had expected by completely redesigning and overhauling IIS's core functionality and design.

What's new with IIS?

Microsoft has taken the core functionality of IIS and broken it down into modules. You can take any one of these modules and break them down further by plugging, unplugging or extending them, or even ripping the code out and not using them at all.

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In other words, you can turn any module in IIS on or off whenever you want. For example, if you don't use basic authentication in your websites, you can simply remove the code. Furthermore, if your application does not take advantage of common gateway interfaces (CGI), just remove that specific component.

Now when you deploy a brand new Web server, you can choose what components you want and only run those components. This not only allows you to further secure IIS but it also provides a huge performance boost as IIS will run faster than ever before.

Another area that I am impressed with is ASP.NET integration. Currently, ASP.NET sits on top of IIS and compliments it very well. In version 7.0, IIS and ASP.NET are completely integrated. Included in this integration is the entire .NET framework, ADO.NET and the next version of Microsoft's Web services platform, called Indigo.

Ease of use with IIS

So how does all this help you? Well, administrators now have one configuration point for all components as opposed to two or more, which should make life a lot easier on those using IIS.

Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) is also widely used in IIS 7.0.. Simply put, this allows you to manage IIS from a set of scripts that you create. There is a lot of automation that can be done with IIS 7.0 via WMI, and admins will welcome the new enhancements.

Prior to IIS 7.0, there was no way to delegate rights to developers. To perform routine IIS tasks, you had to either be an administrator on the machine or a developer had to be made a local administrator. This is not the best way to maximize security. Ideally, you want developers to do their jobs without having to elevate their privileges.

IIS 7.0 takes care of this problem, as you don't need to be a machine administrator to perform basics tasks. You have the ability to make specific people website operators on a machine and give them the appropriate tasks to do their job without elevating their privileges.

All of these tasks are now handled by the new IIS web admin tool that replaces the existing MMC snap-in. This tool takes care of all of your admin needs and is where management of IIS 7.0 Web servers primarily take place.

The last feature I'd like to mention is the web.config file. This is where all information that is input into the web admin tool is stored. This file can be edited manually, so administrators who don't want to use the web admin tool can put the web.config file on a file server to be accessed by multiple servers in a cluster. Just remember that this is a very powerful tool, and one change to the web.config file will change every Web server in your infrastructure that is pointed to it.

As an IT decision maker, you should now be able to see the benefits of moving to IIS 7.0. Unfortunately, you cannot take advantage of this functionality without moving to Windows Server 2008, which is where the latest version makes its debut.

I believe this is the biggest release IIS has ever seen. It's been a hit with datacenters as it meets so many different needs: modular components, easy administration, security, delegation and speed.

If Windows Server 2008 has not caught your eye yet, IIS should. Microsoft has produced something intrinsically beautiful. Watch out Apache, IIS is coming for your scalp!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steven S. Warren
, is a freelance writer with a passion for learning. He is the author of The VMware Workstation 5 Handbook and is a Microsoft MVP. When he is not writing, he is spending time with his family and friends. You can also find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

This was first published in June 2009

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