IIS7. Product or Platform

IIS has always had an identity crisis. Is it a platform for hosting and building web applications, or is it a web server product?

Well, for the first time in IIS product history (that I am aware of, anyways...), IIS is treated more like a product with a competitive purpose instead of just being the ho-hum infrastructure that everything runs on and everyone depends on, yet no one maintains nor invests in.

Why do I say this?

Well, for one thing, we are actually planning on doing integration with Visual Studio to provide proper wizards and code project templates to allow developers to easily and correctly write modules to extend IIS funnctionality. This includes native code (ISAPI, Global Modules, and Handlers) as well as managed code (Managed Modules and Handlers). Hopefully, this preemptive action avoids debacles like the MFC ISAPI Template as well as establish IIS as a legitimate target for developers to enrich web server functionality.

Wait, it gets better. Not only will you get Visual Studio integration to easily start a project and code templates to help write the extensibilities modules, we will also provide WiX templates to allow you to quickly compile your extensibility modules and configuration into a MSI package and then deploy it to other machines.

Oh, and another random thought... maybe I will join an Open Source project on Source Forge to provide a MSI CustomAction to configure IIS7 for use with WiX. I think lots of people would benefit from that. I have been consulting with Rob and several other WiX contributors on the existing CustomAction for IIS for a while now... 😉

These are clearly NOT things that a pure-platform play would consider...

Want more visible evidence of IIS acting more like a product? How about putting the crosshairs on Apache? Those of you who attended TechEd 2005 in Orlando probably saw the Penguin in crosshairs T-shirt...

Dare I say it... ONE of the reasons why Apache has a 70% (hmm... it is well under 70% now and progressively dropping every month, according to Netcraft... interesting... no comment 😉 ) market share in host names is due to lack of competition. Microsoft simply has not focused on producing a web server product but rather a platform to support all its other server products.

With IIS6, Microsoft has a web server squarely able to compete (we still have to make up for years of Apache module investments, but there are only a few big ticket items there and most users should be satisfied - like URL Rewriter, Request Forwarder, Virtual Websites, and CustomAuth. It is an embarassingly small lead if you think about it. You see, it is not that we cannot do it; it is that we were never directed / mandated to do it.

Well, all I can say is that it will be interesting to see how this competitive landscape shapes up in the next couple of years as IIS6 gears up and IIS7 gets released.


Comments (13)

  1. Maurits says:

    Steadily dropping every month?

    Apr: -5.98

    Mar: +0.69

    Feb: +0.90

    Jan: -2.86

    Dec: -1.01

    Nov: +1.09

    Oct: +0.74

    Sep: -0.31

    Doesn’t look like a steady drop to me.  Four out of the last eight months, Apache has gained market share.

    I don’t know that Netcraft is a good measure though… it places huge emphasis on "parked" domains, which have little real value.  So if any domain host switches web server software, Netcraft sees a huge paradigm shift where none really exists.

  2. David.Wang says:

    Maurits – Don’t worry, we have the numbers; it’s being watched. We know when sites are converted one way or another.

    Not that we particularly care for these numbers based on the same reasons you stated, nor do I think that it counts all the relevant sites (Intranet sites, Blog sites, etc), but unfortunately, people seem to like their methodolgy absent competition…


  3. rasx says:

    David: "the ho-hum infrastructure that everything runs on and everyone depends on, yet no one maintains nor invests in…"

    When David writes about "everyone" I assume that he means the dudes at Microsoft driking from jewel encrusted goblets. Since IIS has no open-source-like heritage how can anyone but other Microsoft employees "maintain" or "invest" in IIS.

    The only way I can invest in IIS is by buying Microsoft stock. I only have 200 shares since the stock split. Any ohter suggestions?

  4. David.Wang says:

    rasx – Extensibility and ability to "invest" in a product has no correlation with whether it is Open-Source nor its heritage.

    Both IIS and Apache can be fully extended via plugin modules.

    It happens that Apache’s module authors tend to be Open Source, while all the IIS module authors chose to not be Open Source. I suspect a difference comes from differing audience (corp IT vs individuals) and lack of community.

    Clearly, the web server’s heritage nor Open/Closed Source has NO relevance as to its extensibility. It is just a difference in focus.

    It is just that IIS has never focused on building a community to support and share its extensibility. As a result, people think IIS as less capable than it actually is.

    Well, that is clearly going to change.


  5. Maurits says:

    > IIS has never focused on building a community to support and share its extensibility … that is … going to change


    Is a sandbox of ISAPIs in the works?  That would be very nice.

  6. David.Wang says:

    Maurits – IIS6 already provides sandboxing with Application Pools that isolate application code (including ISAPI) into different processes and user identity. It is the best that you can do with native code.


  7. Ryan says:

    What is the roll out plan for IIS7 going to be?  Will it be like previous versions where it comes baked into the OS install, or will it be more like a product where you can upgrade your current version to the new version with out having to upgrade the OS as well?

  8. David.Wang says:

    Ryan – You should know by now that I cannot comment on that. What is already publicly available regarding IIS7 roll out plan is what you know.


  9. BRIAN says:

    Sounds to me like you will once again be reinventing a wheel.  And then intergrating it with other products so that it will no longer even work as wheel for the rest of the world who may need it.

    Why not just help the rest of the world with a product that exists that everyone can work on like Apache.

    Apache has no competition with IIS, huh you can not compete with free software. Apache is for the real people.  So You are gearing up to compete against hundreds of developers with a closed source webserver integrated in a closed source development enviroment, sound very embraceable.

    I am wondering once again what is the point. I guess if you are a programmer and can only use visual studio and prefer drag and drop from actually typing  then you have perhaps an advantage,I have been extending IIS just fine with scripts and dll for years with out any problems?

    So what is the great invention? Oh yeah another plugin in Visual Studio, wow what magic.

    I like that microsoft answer David has for Maurits usuage stats

     "Don’t worry, we have the numbers; it’s being watched."

    Another one of the magic statements that have everything except reality and the facts backing it up.

    The fact that it is 2006 and a web server as a product is just being spoken about shows actually how far behind the times Microsoft is.  

    Once they implement all of the functionality of apache in IIS, like the rewriting etc you have described.  Apache will already be miles ahead with new, better functionality, and stability since it is being maintained and developed in the Now. And it is not integrated in Visual Studio.

  10. David.Wang says:

    BRIAN – I am not interested in an Open/Closed Source debate.

    I will only say that there are serious flaws with both models and they need  each other for the Software industry to thrive. The fact that Microsoft adopts the kernels of Open Source strategy shows that it is willing to change, improve, and innovate. I hope that Open Source will likewise shed its arrogance and realize its flaws and improve. For everyone’s benefit.

    For example, you are quick to assume that “closed source” cannot be good enough to compete against “open source”, or that IIS extensibility will be closed source. It is this closed-minded arrogance that leads to one’s downfall, open or closed source.

    Given your argument, software companies should all go Open Source, but I see no such correlation. Ultimately, quality of software has nothing to do with open/closed source, and users do not care about open/closed source nor whether software is priced for $0 or $1000.


  11. David Wang says:

    Ok… getting the IIS Diagnostics Toolkit a la carte MSIs released is really becoming a full blown soap…

  12. jvierra says:

    David, All

    It is geat that IIS is getting more attention.  It deserves it as it has, in my experience, always been a good product on the Windows platform.

    Two suggestions:

    1.  Start the "Open Source" agenda by using and building tools for IIS 6.  Some leadership from an internals person could get this off the ground quickly due to the large number of production IIS servers and the availability of NET 2.0 on IIS 6.

    2.  Don’t focus too much on Apache.  The strength of Microsoft products has always been, in my opinion, that Microsoft engineers have taken a fresh look at the problems and addressed them in newer and, most of the time, more complete ways.

    The Apache effort has opened some new ground.  IIS should ensure that the engine (base product) can support whatever extensibility that may be needed.  Product features could then be quickly and easily added by Microsoft or anyone.

    Do what you do best and concentrate of the technical aspects of the platform.  Make IIS the best technology for designing solutions of all types and everything else will follow.

    Apache has moved ahead probably due to it’s initial simplicity.  It will probably always be there.  This, in fact, may be a good thing.  A good stiff bit of competition is good for both products which is good for all of us.

  13. Nick says:

    How do we migrate iis6 applications on XP to IIS7 App’s on Vista?

    Having a hell of a time!

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