Internet Information Server's Attachment to Windows

For better or for worse, Microsoft Corp. has always made the integration of its Web server platforms and its Windows NT operating systems a top priority. With the introduction of Windows 2000 and its integrated Web server platform Internet Information Server (IIS) 5.0, Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) upped the ante, tying the performance and scalability of IIS 5.0 directly to the enhancements included in Windows 2000.

IIS 1.0 debuted in late 1995, and was bundled as part of Microsoft’s BackOffice Server 2.0 the following April. At the time, IIS could lay claim to some measure of cross-platform support: It ran natively -- under Windows NT 3.51 -- on both the Intel and the Alpha microprocessors, as well as on Silicon Graphics Inc.’s (www.sgi.com) MIPS microprocessor and IBM Corp.’s (www.ibm.com) PowerPC.

In November 1996, Microsoft started shipping IIS 2.0 with every copy of its new Windows NT 4.0 Server operating system. Shortly thereafter, Redmond made IIS 3.0 available as a free download. The 4.0 version was released in November 1997 as part of the Windows NT 4.0 Option Pack, and was also distributed free-of-charge.

Although the run from IIS 1.0 to IIS 4.0 took less than two years, IIS 5.0 itself was nearly two years in the making. When it did appear -- as a fully integrated component of the Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Advanced Server operating systems -- it lacked the support for heterogeneous microprocessor architectures that had distinguished its predecessors.

Competitors Apache and iPlanet Web Server still offer broad cross-platform support, but IIS 5.0 runs only on Windows 2000 Server or Windows 2000 Advanced Server. Moreover, in the aftermath of Compaq Computer Corp.’s decision to discontinue support for Windows 2000 development on its Alpha microprocessor, Windows 2000 and IIS 5.0 now run exclusively on microprocessors from Intel Corp. (www.intel.com).

Microsoft says IIS 5.0 is the most stable Web server platform it has produced, acknowledging that a measure of IIS 5.0’s stability and scalability enhancements stem from its tight integration with the Windows 2000 operating system. The company is seeking to leverage Windows 2000 and IIS 5.0, and position both as ideal platforms for e-commerce and for application service providers (ASP).

That said, enterprises can leverage IIS 5.0 in tandem with Windows 2000 Advanced Server’s TCP/IP load-balancing and Microsoft Cluster Services (MSCS) to enhance both scalability and availability. TCP/IP load-balancing lets administrators distribute a workload among a number of different IIS servers, while MSCS provides failover services in the event of a system crash. Microsoft officials hope TCP/IP load-balancing and MSCS’ failover services prove to be attractive technologies to both e-commerce outfits and to ASPs.

IIS 5.0 provides additional support for Windows-centric technologies such as Web folders and Microsoft’s FrontPage Server extensions. Web Folders let users on Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 2000 client machines access folders on a WebDAV-compliant server as if the contents of such folders resided locally on their own machines.

IIS 5.0’s FrontPage Server extensions support lets administrators use Microsoft's FrontPage authoring and management features to administer Web site environments by means of a graphical interface. Most importantly, Microsoft officials say, FrontPage eases the problem of distributed Web page authoring, and lets authorized users create, edit, or post Web pages to IIS from remote locations.

Like its competitors, IIS 5.0 offers support for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and for the HTTP 1.1 standard. However, Microsoft officials say IIS’s support for host headers can allow organizations to host multiple Web sites on a single machine running either Windows 2000 Server or Windows 2000 Advanced Server -- while using only one IP address.

IIS 5.0 supports HTTP compression, which Microsoft says allows faster transmission of pages between an IIS 5.0 Web server and compression-enabled clients. Like its predecessors, IIS includes an integrated FTP server, which supports the FTP Restart extensions to the FTP protocol. FTP Restart lets users resume downloads in the event of an interruption.

Graphics: Breakdown of Web servers and operating systems among the Fortune 500.