Cowboys and Indians

Redmond’s not-so-secret plan to shoo those pesky Apaches away.

Remember back in the dark ages (say, 1992) when Windows was Windows? Whether you were running a client or a server, you bought and installed Windows 3.1. Well, maybe you were one of the six people who actually ran LAN Manager; if so, Auntie figures you’ve moved on to more cutting-edge things, like interfacing your mobile phone with your refrigerator for grocery lists on-the-go.

But back to Windows. Nowadays, of course, each release calls for multiple versions. Take the operating system formerly known as “Whistler,” for example. We’ve already gotten XP Home and XP Pro out of that deal, and now the servers are on the way. I was checking out the specs on the Windows .NET Web site the other day, in between my morning half-caf latte and my afternoon jazzercise. Sure enough, Standard Server, Enterprise Server and Datacenter Server are barreling down the beta-test pipe. But what’s this? Yet another new version! Yes, this time we get to deal with Windows .NET Web Server as well.

So what’s in Windows .NET Web Server? More important, you should ask what’s not in it: no IAS, no Internet Connection Sharing, “partial support” for Active Directory, no removable and remote storage, no Mac connectivity, no RIS, no Terminal Server… The list goes on. It appears that this is .NET Server stripped down to just IIS 6.0, the .NET Framework, and the essential bits to support them. Microsoft is plugging this new version as optimized for Web serving and hosting and “managed with a browser-based interface from a remote workstation.” The Web page for it is full of words like “dependable,” “revolutionary” and “secure.”

With Apache costing $0 and Windows 2000 Server listing at $999, it’s no surprise that many enterprises go with the open-source alternative for their Web hosting.

Sure, Microsoft just decided that we MCSEs can’t figure out for ourselves what parts of the standard server to leave out when we’re setting up a Web site, so they’ve come up with a new edition. And if you believe that, you can skip the rest of the column and just go write Auntie a check for that nice bridge over the East River.

Think back to last September. Ask your Ouija board to tune in the Gartner Group’s John Pescatore. Remember his post-Nimda pronouncement: “Gartner recommends that enterprises hit by both Code Red and Nimda immediately investigate alternatives to IIS, including moving Web applications to Web server software from other vendors, such as iPlanet and Apache.” Then take a look at the latest numbers from Netcraft’s Web Server Survey. Apache continues its own long-term lead of running about twice as many Web servers as IIS, despite everything that the Redmond marketing machine has tried.

Of course, with Apache costing $0 and Windows 2000 Server listing at $999, it’s no surprise that many enterprises go with the open-source alternative for their Web hosting. Along with the usual marketing hoopla at the product launch, expect to see some heavy-duty marketing of Windows .NET Web Server as a “great” or “best-of-breed” Web server. Expect a round of benchmarks proving that Windows .NET Web Server is faster than Apache. Expect sly insinuations that you probably can’t get a date if your Web server doesn’t support Passport authentication and XML Web Services. And above all, expect proof that the Total Cost of Ownership, the dread TCO, is lower for Windows .NET Web Server than for Apache. Heck, they’re practically giving it away! I don’t know what the price will be, but it doesn’t take a crystal ball to know it’ll be a lot less than $999.

So, do you feel served (pardon the pun) by having one more version of Windows to learn about? Or are you doing the serving? As for moi, Fabio is serving dinner. The salmon canapés just showed up, so I’m out of here until next time!

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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