Do you remember the tale of the Windows Server 2008 “Lone Server”? Maybe it was read to you as a bedtime story as a change from “Mommy, Why Is There a Server in the House?” There he was, this poor Windows Server 2003 server, all alone in a server farm of Windows Server 2008 machines. Out-of-date. Out-of-style. Out-of-touch with the needs of modern Web server administrators.

Well let’s hope the Windows Server 2008 computers didn’t laugh too heartily at his fate, because they’re about to suffer the same. Recently, in a typically convoluted Web 2.0 fashion, I Twittered an Ars Technica article describing how Netcraft noticed that many requests to were being handled by a server reporting as “Microsoft-IIS/7.5”. IIS 7.5 is the Web server in Windows Server 2008 R2, now available in Beta, that builds on all the good stuff in IIS 7.0 (that’s right: more reliable, more control, more secure, more choice), and integrates IIS Extensions such as FTP, WebDAV and the IIS Administration Pack. And of course, Windows Server 2008 R2 also provides full ASP.NET support on Server Core installations, and includes a new Web Administration module and IIS cmdlets for Windows PowerShell 2.0.

So what are the details of the implementation? Well, although many requests are being served by IIS 7.5, we have not updated the entire server farm.  For example, in one cluster of servers we have left a single “Lone Server” running Windows Server 2008 to act as a control and provide side-by-side comparisons (and at weekends to go prop up a bar with Windows Server 2003 where they drown their sorrows together). There are still also full clusters running on Windows Server 2008 so that we can do a cluster-to-cluster comparisons and provide a greater degree of failover, although it is our plan to have completely migrated to Windows Server 2008 R2 well before RTM.

From a hardware perspective, many of the HP servers on which is hosted require no updates or reconfiguration, and we expect that customers with supported Windows Server 2008 hardware should find the same. However, we do have some older servers that we are replacing as part of a normal refresh cycle, so we are also looking to move more of the site to newer SAN-attached servers in the coming months.

Beta releases are usually about making sure features are functional, and with Windows Server 2008 R2 Beta, we are feature-complete. This means that our push to RC and RTM is about ensuring quality and improving performance. With that said, we are already seeing some positive indications regarding performance on the new servers thanks to some tweaks we’ve made in request processing and CPU utilization, but it’s too early to share any further details on that just yet. We are already running a sizeable chunk of on the newer version of Hyper-V that ships in Windows Server 2008 R2, and we even have some of our Web servers running on Server Core installations, but again, we’ll need further analysis and testing before we can get more specific on the reliability and performance improvements you should expect to see from those enhancements.

Are you evaluating IIS 7.5 or thinking of migrating some or part of an existing site to it? Let us know!

David Lowe.