Is it past time for Microsoft to open IIS?

  • September 23, 2006
  • James Skemp
  • software

There's a reason PHP and Apache are so popular on the Web. It's the same reason that most beginner's, especially those that have no formal training, start with these technologies. In a word, both technologies are not only open source, but free to use. With the right guide, a user can be up and running with Apache and PHP in a couple of hours.

Unfortunately, Microsoft's IIS (Internet Information Services) is something that few home-grown Web users have the honour of using. Instead, they have to wait until they take a formal class, or enter into a profession that allows them access to this technology. For a long time, the same could be said about MySQL/PostgreSQL and Microsoft SQL Server (respectively). But, no longer is that true.

SQL Server 2005 Express Edition is the next version of MSDE and is a free, easy-to-use, lightweight, and embeddable version of SQL Server 2005. Free to download, free to redistribute, free to embed, and easy for new developers to use immediately, SQL Server Express includes powerful features such as SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services, a server-based platform for creating and delivering traditional and interactive reports, and a graphical management tool, SQL Server 2005 Management Studio Express, for easily managing your database. Best of all, as your needs grow, your applications will seamlessly work with the rest of the SQL Server product family. (, 09/23/2006)

Along with Microsoft's recent work on Internet Explorer 7, we can easily see the pressure that various open source initiatives are applying to Microsoft. Long the controlling force in a number of areas, Microsoft has found itself far behind the competition in a number of important areas.

Quite honestly, Internet Explorer 7 (currently a RC) is a vast improvement from Internet Explorer 6 and earlier. In fact, it's close relationship to the Windows operating system, and the ability to be rolled out as a Windows/Microsoft Update, gives IE 7 a number of benefits over the competition (which I consider to be Firefox and Opera, even if Opera has an extremely low market share). Yet, the only reason Microsoft took the initiative to improve IE was because of pressure from Firefox.

A truly interesting talking point is Internet Explorer for Mac. The last version of Internet Explorer for the Mac was 5.5, released way back in 2000. At the end of 2005, support was officially over, and development had stopped way back in June of 2003. Now, Microsoft recommend's Apple's Safari's to Mac users looking for IE for the Mac. (, 09/23/2006)

But, I didn't want to talk about Internet Explorer, I wanted to talk about IIS. As I said before, a home-grown developer doesn't have ready access to IIS or, until recently, SQL Server. Yet, with SQL Server released as an Express Edition, is it only a matter of time until we see an Express Edition of IIS? With .NET becoming the force that it is, as a developer, I hope so.

Looking for the pricing of IIS, we find that we have to purchase Windows Server 2003. Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard Edition is a mere $999, while the Windows Server 2003 Web Edition, 32-bit version is $399. (, 09/23/2006) Unfortunately, those are the lowest prices available.

Looking at another package, we have Adobe's (formally Macromedia's) ColdFusion MX 7 Developer Edition. "ColdFusion MX 7 Developer is a free, fully functional version of ColdFusion for local development of applications that will be deployed on either Standard or Enterprise servers. In addition to localhost, access to applications running on a Developer Edition server is now possible from two client machines, making team development even easier." (, 09/23/2006) As a developer, do I really need more than this?

In addition, ColdFusion MX 6.1 is also available in a Developer's Edition. Want to learn ColdFusion? With a Developer's Edition, you can, for the same cost as learning PHP with Apache and MySQL/PostgreSQL.

Microsoft appears to be on the right track, with SQL Server Express and the development of a better Internet Explorer, but I hope that they continue in the same spirit with IIS. After all, open the door's for developers and they'll grow into more and more of your products ...

Kind reader, what do you think?