Microsoft to Release IIS Express

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If there’s one thing Microsoft does well, it’s providing software options. It sometimes goes a little haywire — Vista’s 57 shutdown choices, for example — but it’s often to our benefit.

If you’re using Microsoft’s IIS web server, you currently have two choices:

1. The full IIS web server
IIS is provided with Windows XP, Vista, 7. It’s a full web server which is almost identical to the system deployed to on production Windows server environments. In some cases, you won’t be able to run more than one domain name or it’ll be limited to a few concurrent users, but those issues shouldn’t affect your day-to-day development requirements.

Unfortunately, each version of Windows offers a different version of IIS. Those running it in a corporate environment also require an administrator account and, according to Microsoft, some companies don’t permit web server installation on developer PCs.

2. ASP.NET development server
Visual Studio offers a built-in development server for testing ASP.NET applications. It’s installed with the IDE, is lightweight, launches instantly, automatically uses a safe local TCP/IP port, and works in non-administrator accounts.

Unfortunately, it’s not a full development server. You can’t change the configuration, alter security settings, or install modules such as URL rewrite.

The Third Man

If you’ve been frustrated by either server, you’ll be pleased to hear Microsoft is releasing a third option: IIS Express. Effectively, it’s a half-way solution which offers the best of the other versions without the issues:

  • it’s a small 10MB download, is lightweight and easy to install
  • it supports ASP.NET and classic ASP (Microsoft hasn’t confirmed PHP, but I suspect it’ll work)
  • it doesn’t require administrator privileges
  • it’s effectively IIS 7, but it works in Windows XP
  • there are no concurrent connection limits
  • it supports most IIS options and modules such as SSL and URL rewrites
  • it can be installed on the same PC as the other two servers without conflicts
  • it can be launched and configured from the command line
  • it integrates with Visual Studio and you won’t need to change existing code
  • it can be configured to enable remote requests
  • you can distribute it with your applications.

The first beta version will be available shortly.

I like the idea, although it will undoubtedly cause some confusion. Interestingly, it’s a viable solution for XP developers who want IIS7 without upgrading their OS. It could even be a good alternative for PHP developers who don’t want the hassle of installing a full web server. We’ll look IIS Express in more detail when the beta version is released.

Would you use IIS Express? Will it help or hinder development?

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  • Wayne B.

    There is a post on Scott Guthrie’s blog pertaining to IIS Express at http://weblogs.asp.net/scottgu/archive/2010/06/28/introducing-iis-express.aspx

  • Kevin

    As nice as it is to have another IIS option, it won’t make me switch from Apache and the Linux environment for all commercial work.

  • http://arapaho.nsuok.edu/~maxwelja ok_hornet

    I work for a local public school system as the web designer and we are XP all the way and I don’t see us upgrading our server OS just for IIS7.
    Having IIS7 would make some things easier on us, so the development of IIS Express would be a wonderful thing, if you are right in saying “it’s effectively IIS 7, but it works in Windows XP”!
    Here’s hoping!

    • Brian Goldfarb [MSFT}

      @Ok_Hornet – you are correct, it is full IIS7 but runs as a process and not a service so it doesn’t need admin rights. It also runs downlevel. It’s predominatnly for development (by default) but can be configured to accept remote connections. You can begin playing with it today by downloading WebMatrix Beta from http://www.microsoft.com/web/webmatrix/

      Hope this helps.

      -Brian Goldfarb (@bgoldy)
      Director, Web & Silverlight
      Microsoft

  • http://www.idude.net iDude

    It’s great to see Microsoft finally correcting a big mistake they made. At one time (years ago) Microsoft provided the “Personal Web Server” along with it’s Frontpage development product. They abandoned this, and they only way for somebody to work with a Microsoft webserver was to purchase Window XP Professional edition. In so many ways, this was a marketing mistake on Microsofts part.

    Microsoft did not make working with ASP accessible to new programmers. However, Apache for windows was accessible to new programmers or anybody. It ran in Windows XP home edition (which is what most people bought at the stores). As a result, more people were able to get started with PHP and Microsoft technologies without being forced to upgrade to Windows XP professional.

    Microsoft made an extremely bad bad bad decision a long time ago without seriously thinking the consequences though. In many ways, Microsoft itself played a key role in Apache, PHP and mySQL gaining the market foot hold it has today.

    It’s a little too early to make comments about IIS Express, I do believe Microsoft has finally realized that it’s past decisions resulted in hindering development, growth, and use of it’s products and technologies. If IIS Express will run on the Home editions of Windows, they have finally come full circle around to getting it right again.

    There are many kids and teenagers growing up in households with Window Home edition. If Microsoft fails to tap into this prospective customer base it’s going to reflect in how things are 10 years from now.

  • Spha

    Yes i would use iis express even though microsoft do their best to limit you or to restrict you from configuring anything on their systems or application that are microsoft supported. I think that iis express compliments microsoft a bit there finaly you dont have to upgrade the entire system in order to enjoy the benefits of new products from microsoft. If this is how they are moving then they might pose competition from a development perspective against open source which is highly unlikely. But having almost 90% of the market share they can skrew up and get away with it easily.