Feature

IIS gains users after rising to the challenge of improving security

Web server still widely used following Gartner warnings

What is it?

Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) is a web server that is distributed with Windows Server 2003. The Netcraft survey, which covers almost 65 million websites around the world, gives Apache a 70% share of the web server market and climbing, with Microsoft at 20% and declining.

However, the actual number of users of Microsoft's IIS is growing rapidly. This is due to its share of the 7.83 million new internet sites which appeared in the first six months of the year, a number "approaching the torrid growth rate of 2000, when the web added 16.1 million sites", Netcraft said.

IIS survived analyst firm Gartner's 2001 advice to drop it and switch to an alternative because of its security vulnerability, which arose both because hackers made it a high-profile target, and because of genuine flaws. Late in 2004, Gartner announced that IIS was no longer the problem in web server security. "Microsoft has significantly improved it," it said.

Microsoft denied the severity of the problems at the time, but it now says, "IIS 6.0 is far more secure than IIS 4x or IIS 5x." Other benefits Microsoft claims for IIS 6.0 include "less planned and unplanned system downtime, increased website and application availability, lower system administration costs, and server consolidation (reduced staffing and hardware costs)".

Where did it originate?

IIS 1.0 was released with NT 3.5.1.

What is it for?

IIS provides a platform for applications built with ASP.net, and the .net Framework in general. Features in IIS 6.0 include a plain text XML configuration file that can be modified without having to stop the server, and command-line scripting, which increases the number of servers an administrator can manage.

What makes it special?

Microsoft thoroughly overhauled IIS to produce version 6.0, adding a "fault-tolerant" architecture, which keeps applications apart so that problems are isolated instead of bringing other applications and the server down. These "application pools" are also easier to manage and administer. Sites that fail too often are disabled automatically.

Windows 2003 and IIS 6.0 together represent an "integrated application hosting environment". The ASP.net and .net Framework request-processing architecture is integrated with IIS 6.0.

How difficult is it to master?

Beginners will need at least five days of instructor-led training. Two-day updates to IIS 6.0 are sufficient for experienced IIS staff and other web server staff.

Microsoft has made IIS easier to manage and troubleshoot, with the goal of reducing the number of skilled staff needed. Administrators can use the Windows Server 2003 command line for many management tasks, including managing multiple local or remote computers. IIS 6.0 provides full support for Windows Management Instrumentation.

Where is it used?

Despite losing ground to Apache, a May 2005 survey by IIS tools developer Port80 Software found that IIS still has a stronghold among Fortune 1000 users.

What systems does it run on?

IIS 6.0 can be installed on XP and other versions of Windows.

What's coming up?

IIS 7.0, due with the Windows Longhorn operating system, is undergoing security testing. It will be much more integrated with ASP.net.

Training

IIS training is available from Microsoft and its partners. Earlier IIS certification now needs updating.

Rates of pay

IIS support and administration roles are paid between £20,000 and £35,000. Windows Server specialists can expect more. ASP.net and IIS developers earn about £25,000.

 


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This was first published in June 2005

 

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