IIS 5.0 in the Enterprise: A Long Way to Go

Microsoft Corp. enjoys widespread use of its Internet Information Server 4.0 Web server throughout the Fortune 500, but Windows 2000/Internet Information Services 5.0 deployments are relatively rare.

An ENT study of the Web servers running the brochure or corporate identity Web sites of the Fortune 500 found that Windows NT 4.0 and IIS 4.0 were deployed in 41 percent of the sites (see this story).

Of those 208 IIS sites, five were running Windows 2000 and IIS 5.0. Those Windows 2000/IIS 5.0 sites are Microsoft (Fortune Rank 84), Dell Computer Corp. (56), IBP (125), Nordstrom (320), and Barnes and Noble (443).

It is early in the product’s lifecycle: Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) released Windows 2000 four months ago, and industry observers predict a slow adoption curve for the operating system. An analysis of adoption rates, however, is warranted, given Microsoft’s tremendous marketing push to demonstrate the value and momentum of its new platform as a Web server.

Microsoft regularly promotes Windows 2000 as a more stable and robust Web server, and the company claimed more than 20,000 Web sites were running Windows 2000 at the Feb. 17 operating system launch and that 40,000 more sites had adopted Windows 2000 Servers in subsequent months.

Relatively few of those deployments extend to the largest corporations. The five deployments top the three Fortune 500 sites running IIS 3.0, but it trails SGI’s IRIX version of Unix, which is in use at seven Fortune 500 companies. New versions of all the top Web servers are slow to trickle into the Fortune 500. IPlanet’s latest, Netscape-Enterprise 4.0 and 4.1 show up four times and two times, respectively, in Fortune 500 environments. The most recent version of Apache, 1.3.12, has four converts in the Fortune 500.

At Dell, the decision to move from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows 2000 boiled down to stability, according to John Zoglin, director of online technology at Dell.

"The combination has been more stable and easier to support than previous versions," Zoglin says. "We found that, as with any kind of capability, that after a certain amount of run time you’d start to have memory leakage, and the CPU utilization would go up somewhat. As we monitor that, that really hasn’t been the case anymore."

Occasional preventative reboots have also become unnecessary, Zoglin says.

But a Microsoft booster at a Fortune 500 company running Windows NT 4.0 and IIS 4.0, demonstrates the challenges Microsoft faces in converting even the faithful to Windows 2000-based Web servers.

Jon Foster is director of technology architectures at Cardinal Health (Fortune Rank 59), which has a drug wholesale business that involves taking prescription and over-the-counter orders from hospitals, pharmaceutical chains, and retail stores and shipping the drugs overnight from its 24 warehouses. Cardinal Health runs its internal warehouse order processing and delivery systems on Windows NT 4.0 with IIS 4.0 and SQL Server 6.5 and COM/DCOM. Web-enabling those vertical systems was a snap because of reusable code, Foster says.

Sticking with an entirely Microsoft architecture has led to a stable environment, Foster says, and that is the source of his reluctance to immediately migrate the environment to Windows 2000.

"At this point, it’s stable. I average maybe four hours downtime nationwide. That’s across 30 servers that are in use, 7x24, that run all 24 warehouses and our central systems," Foster says.

"Sometime this year we will be switching [to Windows 2000]. All of those servers will migrate," Foster says. "I want to use some of those newer technologies that are available, but I haven’t got that compelling reason yet to migrate."

Dell Computer’s environment also shows that even companies that have moved aggressively to Windows 2000/IIS 5.0 will keep major parts of their existing Web infrastructures around for awhile.

"[Windows 2000] is on the front door there. All of our static content is on Windows 2000, and none of our application layer is," Zoglin says. The application layer will remain on Windows NT 4.0/IIS 4.0 until the next major internal rewrite. "While we’d like to be on Windows 2000, and we believe there are some benefits, it’s just a matter of managing the portfolio of efforts," he says. "In any one session [at Dell.com], customers are going to hit both environments almost every single time."

ENT checks of Web servers run by other large Microsoft Windows 2000 reference customers showed that such mixed environments are commonplace. A few examples of high-profile customers and the non-Windows 2000/IIS 5.0 platforms their Web sites were running include: Adidas, Netscape-Enterprise 3.6; the main Fila site, IIS 4.0; General Motors, Netscape-Enterprise 3.6; Forbes, IIS 4.0; and Marthastewart.com, IIS 4.0.