Server Core supports IIS7 in the Windows Server 2008 June CTP-Does it make sense?

Michael PietroforteMVP By Michael Pietroforte - Mon, July 2, 2007 - 6 comments google+ icon

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor of 4sysops. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) with more than 30 years of experience in system administration.

Microsoft released the June CTP for Windows Server 2008. Almost 1000 bugs have been fixed. Most notable is that Server Core includes IIS7 now. I’ve been blogging about it when MS announced that they are going to support IIS7 on Server Core. I want to take this opportunity to correct my earlier assessment regarding this move. I have serious doubts now that it makes much sense.

My first thought was that it is really a great idea to run IIS7 on Server Core. The Web server is certainly the most endangered system. So if you run it on a server system with a reduced attack surface it should significantly decrease the risk of getting hacked.

However, a commentator on my blog post remarked that you can’t use ASP.NET on Server Core since .NET is not supported at all on this special edition of Windows Server 2008. The question now is, what is the use of a Web server without a web application framework?

The strange thing is that Microsoft made this move due to customer demand. Does this mean that there are many companies using a Web server without an application framework? Or does it just mean that those people who wanted IIS7 support in Server Core were just not aware of the fact that Server Core doesn’t support .NET?

I would go for the latter. I think someone who contacts Microsoft in the hope that they change something in a future product, doesn’t have static HTML pages on his Web server, right? Maybe I am just missing something here. However, I think it is quite probable that Microsoft will offer .NET support for Server Core soon. It seems the .NET team is already working on it.

I am quite sure, though, that we won’t use IIS7 on Server Core, anyway. Actually, we have just one IIS6 left where we host a self-developed ASP.NET application. We moved with the rest of our Web applications to Apache under Linux some years ago. I can’t imagine changing this in the near future.

In my view, Microsoft made web application development too complicated with ASP.NET. Even though, I worked through a whole C# book, it would cost me quite some time to change something in our own ASP.NET application. However, I always find it quite easy to make changes in PHP apps, although I have never learned this language. The fact that programming in PHP is so easy is one of the reasons why there are so many great Open Source content management systems available. Why should I spend thousands of Euros for a commercial CMS running on a Windows box if I can have a better system for free under Linux?

So reduced attack surface or not, Microsoft’s Web server probably won’t have a future in my department, even though we are mostly a Windows shop.

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6 Comments- Leave a Reply

  1. Lukas Beeler says:

    Agreed – IIS 7 on Server Core without .NET seems to pretty sparse.

    But if .NET is going to be available on Server Core, this offers several new possibilites: PowerShell, and Exchange 2007.

    Server Core + Exchange 2007 Edge Role seems like a good idea for a DMZ machine.

  2. Bill Staples says:

    With the introduction of fastCGI in IIS7, PHP runs great on IIS7, including server core. Check it out sometime. The download is free – what do you have to lose? :)

  3. Michael Pietroforte Michael says:

    Lukas, you’re certainly right. I really wonder why MS didn’t think of this in the first place. In the Linux world the admin decides which features are necessary to run a server. If you don’t need a GUI or a web application framework, then you don’t have to install it. Server Core is a move in the right direction, but MS still needs some time to catch up with Linux in this field.

    Bill, I think it doesn’t make much sense to run PHP apps on a Windows machine, in my view. Usually they were developed in a LAMP environment. Every time something doesn’t work properly, you wonder if Windows is the reason.

  4. [...] 4sysops — Server Core supports IIS7 in the Windows Server 2008 June CTP-Does it make sense? Microsoft made web application development too complicated with ASP.NET (tags: asp) [...]

  5. Bill Staples says:

    Actually, PHP provides a great abstraction layer for applications and with IIS7 fastCGI runs just as fast and reliably on Windows as it does on Linux/Apache. In my experience most apps built on Linux/apache runs without changes on Windows/IIS7.

    But for sake of argument, let’s agree that it doesn’t make sense to move applications build on LAMP to Windows/Server core. The issue becomes a chicken and egg problem. Regardless of which came first, the point is that developers can now build applications on Windows/IIS7 using PHP and MySQL and deploy them on the same platform as well. My bet is there are more PHP developers out there using Windows as a development environment than there are developers running Linux on their workstation. Do you run Windows on your PC?

  6. Michael Pietroforte Michael says:

    Bill, I use Windows, of course, but I am not a PHP developer ;-) I think most professional PHP apps were developed for LAMP environments. Did you ever post a question about a popular CMS in a user forum and get a question like this as reply: “Do you run it under Windows or Linux?? In theory it shouldn’t matter, but praxis shows that it makes a difference. It is like with HTML and different web browsers.

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