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Small changes go a long way with IIS 7.5

Minor improvements could make a big splash with the latest version of Internet Information Services. Find out what's new for IIS 7.5 with Windows Server 2008 R2.

Internet Information Services (IIS) gets its first point release with Windows Server 2008 R2. The latest version...

-- IIS 7.5 – consists mainly of previously released updates, but it's new pluggable nature reinforces its position as a powerful Web platform.

A history of IIS
Internet information Services 7.0 was released with Windows Server 2008 RTM. This version, which was an upgrade from IIS 6.0, changed the Web server under the covers as well as in its management consoles.

One major enhancement made to IIS 7.0 was the development of a modularized architecture, which enabled support for adding new extensions through its Web Platform Installer. These extensions, designed by Microsoft as along with third parties, intended to expand IIS functionality without major website updates.

In the time between IIS 7.0 and IIS 7.5, a series of extensions were developed by Microsoft and made available on the company's official IIS website.These extensions added new functionality to elements like media serving, deployment and migration, and request handling. When installed to an existing instance of IIS 7.0, their incorporation into existing websites allowed developers to add new capabilities without the time and cost of redevelopment.

IIS 7.5 continues this trend by arriving at what could almost be called a "feature pack" for IIS 7.0. A new installation of IIS 7.5 has many of these add-on extensions baked into the product and minimal completely new features. The result of this incremental approach is that websites developed for the IIS 7.0 platform will very likely function flawlessly with IIS 7.5.

In fact, considering Windows Server R2's other niceties, IIS 7.5 should be a compelling upgrade -- as long as R2's new 64-bit-only restriction isn't a problem for your environment.

Extensions: What's old is new again
There are several noteworthy -- and now-built-in -- extensions in IIS 7.5.

The Windows PowerShell snap-in, which is implemented as a Web administration module, helps administrators using PowerShell manage websites. With this update, essentially every activity that needs to be accomplished with the IIS console can be done through PowerShell.

IIS 7.5 also includes native updates for File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and WebDAV. The updated FTP Service 7.5 is fully integrated with the IIS 7.5 administration consoles and configuration store. In addition, it now supports FTP over SSL, bringing transport security to this otherwise unsecured FTP. UTF8 extended characters and IPv6 addressing are also supported.

Furthermore, virtual host names can now be created for FTP sites. This enables multiple FTP sites to use the same IP address with different virtual host names. Environments with logging requirements will also appreciate the new built-in logging features.

Additionally, organizations that use WebDAV -- like those with SharePoint installations -- will benefit with IIS 7.5 as WebDAV 7.5 now supports HTTP over SSL connections as well as custom authorization. Authoring rules can be set on a per-URL basis, which allows administrators to specify custom security settings by URL. Also, WebDAV configuration is now integrated with IIS Manager.

Another noteworthy extension is Microsoft's URL Rewrite Module, which brings IIS closer to Apache in its support for rewriting URLs. With this module, administrators can configure URL rewriting rules based on HTTP headers -- or other server variables -- to have a more consistent URL structure for complex sites. Microsoft is working on a version 2.0 update to this extension. A  URL Rewrite Module 2.0 release candidate is available on Microsoft's IIS website.

Additional features in IIS 7.5
With Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft broke apart the components that make up the .NET Framework, which enabled .NET to be included in Server Core. Although this addition is still a subset of full .NET functionality for IIS, it does means significantly more websites will correctly function atop Server Core than with its previous version.

Furthermore, .NET's inclusion with Server Core means that Windows PowerShell – along with its IIS-specific components – can now directly run on Server Core instances.

In addition, new support for configuration logging and tracing simplifies auditing IIS. Once enabled, this feature will log up to four types of events to the local event log: Administrative, Operational, Analytic and Debug. Depending on your needs to troubleshoot an IIS instance, enabling one or more of these can be accomplished on an individual basis. Events are stored to the Application and Service | Microsoft | Windows | IIS-Configuration log in the OS.

Finally, a Best Practices Analyzer (BPA) is available with IIS 7.5. The BPA scans website infrastructures and looks for areas that haven't been configured to best practices. Reports on known configuration issues can be created to assist in reconfiguring the server. The BPA for IIS 7.5 is available through the IIS console and Windows PowerShell.

Overall, if you are considering an upgrade to Windows Server 2008 R2, you and your developers will appreciate IIS 7.5's simple upgrade path.

- Introduction
- Remote Desktop Services (RDS)
- Hyper-V
- File Classification Infrastructure (FCI)
- DirectAccess
- BranchCache
- AppLocker
- BitLocker
- Internet Information Services 7.5

Greg Shields, MVP, is a co-founder and IT guru with Concentrated Technology with nearly 15 years of IT architecture and enterprise administration experience. He is an IT trainer and speaker on such IT topics as Microsoft administration, systems management and monitoring, and virtualization. His recent book Windows Server 2008: What's New/What's Changed is available from SAPIEN Press.

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