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Digex: IIS 6.0 Delivers the Goods

IIS 6.0 isn’t in final form yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s not in use. In fact, one of the largest managed hosting companies in the world has been using it for two years now—and not just on a test network.

Digex Inc., headquartered in Laurel, Maryland, is a close partner of Microsoft and has been using IIS 6.0 since January 2001. Digex has been using it on some production machines, including their main Web site, www.digex.com, since the beta 3 version was released about 10 months ago. That’s confidence in a product.

Digex hosts its customers' sites on a number of platforms, including Unix and Linux. But it’s primarily a Windows shop, running Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows .NET Server 2003. In all, Digex is running IIS 6.0 on “about 15 different, supported production servers,” according to Dwayne Cox, a senior engineer with Digex. It’s also being used “extensively in testing,” he added. Currently, Digex is using hardware-based load balancing and managing the servers manually.

And what do they think of IIS 6.0? “It’s working fantastic,” said Senior Engineer Dan Kahler. “Prior to moving to IIS 6, we had regular service tickets” relating to problems with its use of IIS 5.0. Since the switch, “Our reliability has been outstanding,” he said.

In the nearly one year that it’s been on the production servers, there have been 0 -- as in zero -- unscheduled outages.

That doesn’t mean Digex was having constant problems with IIS 5.0. “IIS 5 is pretty stable, but as a managed systems provider, it’s important to show customers we can keep our own stuff stable before they’ll trust us with their own systems,” Kahler explained, hence the necessity of having the most reliable servers possible.

Reliability is one of two main claims on which Microsoft has hung its hat in relation to IIS 6.0. The other is security. On that front, Digex has also been pleased.

“It’s very secure,” said Kahler. It’s so secure, in fact, that even experienced system administrators have a significant learning curve with the product. It seems that there have been a number of problems related to Web server access, “because [admins] are not familiar with the features yet. We have to tell admins to open things up; usually that’s where the problem is,” Kahler said.

Although IIS 6.0 works well for Digex, it still has its shortcomings. Chief among them is the lack of management tools. Many of Digex’s Web sites are still hosted on IIS 5.0, and Application Center 2000 serves as the management server. IIS 6.0 must be hosted on a .NET server and can’t use Application Center.

“We need features that allow us to manage more boxes,” Cox said. “We’re managing around 2,300 IIS servers, and quite a few are identical Web servers. It would be ideal to configure those [similar IIS 6.0 Web servers] through a common interface. Having a single integrated interface to configure IIS and the .NET Framework would help a lot.”

Even though IIS 6.0 can’t be run on any operating system older than .NET, it does have an IIS 5.0 compatibility mode that allows older applications to run on it. Digex said it will soon upgrade all its internal company servers to IIS 6.0 and isn’t hesitating to do so. Said Kahler: “Outside of Microsoft, you won’t find anybody more comfortable with the features [than Digex], especially the reliability of IIS 6.0.”

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.

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