16 Apr 2012

Server 8 and the downward slide of IIS

Microsoft Windows Server 8 (BETA) is out then, resplendent with controversial Metro GUI and a raft of new features covering (mostly) enhanced virtualisation and storage. I've worked with MS Server throughout my IT career, and although my core business focus these days is for Linux it's still a feature of the Cirronix support umbrella, and one which although I'm quite happy with is becoming somewhat of a niche request. Say what? I hear you say, Microsoft? A niche product? Surely there must be some mistake? Well.....

There's no doubting MS Server as the tool for the job where corporate networks are concerned, business runs off Active Directory, business desktops run Windows, business documents and email flow via an MS Office/Outlook combo and it's all nice and easy for the point and clickers to administer, however across the public facing internet it's a completely different story with IIS market share slipping considerably in recent years (Fig:1).

Fig:1 - Market Share for Top Servers 1995/2012

So, what's the deal, why is Apache so widely used? Well, people aren't idiots, it isn't a 'web trend'. Apache is much tighter, easier to work with, quicker to develop solutions on, more secure, cheaper, and Microsoft has yet to produce anything to rival it for web delivery, and let's be honest, it's very doubtful that they ever will, simple efficiency and value for money isn't something they're known for.

They've tried, in their own bloated way, to raise the game by offering funky solutions way above what's actually required for webscaling. Take the Web Farm Framework, admittedly a great idea in theory but an administration and operational nightmare in the real world with forums full of confused and desperate tales of failed implementations bemoaning lost days, weeks and months (Here's an alternative solution if you're struggling - http://blog.cirronix.com/2012/03/easy-sync-for-iis7-no-web-farm-required.html)

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, which must be why they (MS) are pushing the Server 8 'core' install for Powershell (CLI) based admin. Quite amusing when you think about it, and especially as it (Powershell) responds to basic Linux commands. Linux server has been doing a sterling job via the CLI for years, so why change platform for a pseudo version which isn't going to do as good a job, costs substantially more, isn't as secure and requires an expansive learning curve to master the hundreds of new 'cmdlets'. There again, it will provide MS with a whole new area of training and certification, which as we all know is a big earner for them.

And what of the Metro GUI? (Fig:2). There's been a fair bit of noise berating inclusion but in all honestly I quite like it, seriously, I really do. It's a move away from that tired old Windows 95-esque look toward something resembling coherent simplification (albeit on the surface), which is long overdue. And in response to why a tablet interface is offered as an option in a server OS, well, you may have heard of the iPad? Not all server admin is done from the desktop these days. Yes, really, can you believe it? No need to be on-site 9-5? Cool, Starbucks it is then.

Fig:2 - The MS Server 8 Metro GUI

That said, SSH is still King, a few funky tiles aren't going to take over the Internet, and nor would I ever recommend Starbucks for anything other than an over priced latte.

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