Microsoft Bringing IIS 8.5 Improvements in Windows Server 2012 R2

Microsoft's Internet Information Services 8.5 Web server will be arriving soon and bringing a few new improvements.

IIS 8.5 will be released with the Windows Server 2012 R2 product on Oct. 18, which is the "general availability" product date. With IIS 8.5, the IIS team continued its focus on scalability and manageability improvements. The aim has been to improve support for organizations with a large number of Web sites to manage.

Scalability Improvements
IIS 8.5 has two scalability improvements. One of them, called "dynamic site activation," is designed to reduce the startup times and memory use of Web sites for organizations that have a lot of sites. The Dynamic Site Activation feature, by default, only activates sites when they are requested for the first time if an organization has 100 sites or more. If there are less than 100 sites, then all of the sites are activated at startup by default.

Erez Ben-Ari, a program manager for IIS at Microsoft, explained in a July blog post that past IIS releases work by creating queues and bindings in the process of activating sites, which can take up system memory resources. In contrast, IIS 8.5 creates one queue "and will create specific queues for specific sites only when a request actually arrives for it" for organizations that have 100 or more sites. The end result of this redesign is faster Web site startups along with reduced memory consumption, Microsoft claims.

The second scalability improvement in IIS 8.5 is called "idle worker process page-out." It's designed to reduce the memory resource demands of organizations with a lot of Web sites that aren't busy all of the time. IIS typically terminates the worker process of a Web site if it hasn't been used for 20 minutes or so. However, IIS 8.5 introduces the ability to suspend those worker processes instead of terminating them, according to Microsoft's description of the new IIS 8.5 features.

"The idea is that instead of a process termination upon time-out, the process remains alive, but suspended and consuming little resources," explained Ben-Ari, in a June blog post about the Idle Worker Process Page-out. "Then, if the site is being requested, it wakes up from suspension almost instantly."

Manageability Improvements
IIS 8.5 has three new manageability improvements. First, Microsoft added logging enhancements for monitoring HTTP requests in IIS 8.5. The logging enhancements use a new Windows Server 2012 R2 service called "W3C Logging Service," according to a July blog post by Ben-Ari. Organization can now customize the logging to store request headers, response headers and server variables. The customization can be used to get information such as the IP addresses of connecting clients when the network has a load balancer, for example, Ben-Ari explained.

The second manageability improvement in IIS 8.5 concerns support for Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) in the logging process, which can be used to better monitor IIS in real time and debug Web applications. With ETW support in IIS 8.5 turned on, events are shown "immediately," according to Ben-Ari. In contrast, text-file logging can take about 30 seconds to flush to the log, he explained in a July blog post. It's also possible to use Microsoft's recently released Message Analyzer tool to capture events in real time, he added.

A third management improvement is an option to automatically rebind renewed certificates for Web sites. Expiring site certificates need to be tracked by IT pros, but their renewals require an extra step in which the certificate gets rebound to the site. Microsoft previously added a "certificate services lifecycle notifications" capability in Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, and that capability can be used to log and track expiring certificates. However, what's new in IIS 8.5 for Windows Server 2012 R2 is the ability to use that notification tracking capability to "automatically re-bind a certificate that has been renewed," according to September blog post description by Ben-Ari. IT pros can set up this capability using the Task Scheduler and simply automate the certificate renewal process, he noted.

Most of the new changes in IIS 8.5 were driven by Microsoft's private-public cloud focus, according to the IIS team. IIS 8.5 underlies Microsoft's new Windows Azure Pack for hosted and private clouds, as well as Windows Azure Web Sites in the public cloud, according to an explanation by Wade Hilmo, principal development lead for Microsoft's IIS project, during Microsoft's TechEd Europe event in June. In recent years, the IIS team has been focusing its development resources more toward fitting IIS into those cloud-based scenarios, he explained. Microsoft typically ships IIS with Windows about every 12 to 18 months, he said.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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