Windows Server 2008 : Understanding Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.5

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Organizations and web administrators must fully understand IIS 7.5 before installing, upgrading, or creating sites with the product. Specifically, they should be familiar with the new improvements, the new look and feel of the management tools and user interface, and be comfortable with the new working panes associated with administration. The next few sections examine these areas of interest.

Improvements in Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.5

Several key enhancements and structural changes have been made to the new IIS 7.5 web and application platform. These enhancements are designed not only to build upon the latest version of .NET, but also to increase overall reliability, performance, security, and administration. Some of the major IIS 7.5 improvements that IT professionals, web hosters, and developers will take pleasure in having include the following:

  • Modular-based installation— Unlike previous versions, IIS 7.5 is no longer monolithic. The installation process offers more than 40 different features/components. Although some of these features are installed by default, they can be selectively removed and others can be independently installed to produce a customized IIS 7.5. Ultimately, the system is made more secure and easier to manage as you only install and manage the features you need.

  • Improved management tools— Microsoft has completely rewritten the Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager toolset, including the user interface. The new user interface can manage both IIS and ASP.NET settings from one utility, increasing administrators’ productivity through centralized management. IIS 7.5 also introduces a new command-line tool called appcmd.exe to help automate common IIS 7.5 management tasks and configuration changes, which does away with all the administration scripts as you knew them in IIS 6.0. Finally, IIS 7.5 is tightly integrated with Windows PowerShell, meaning greater productivity can be achieved by scripting management and administration tasks.

  • Diagnostics and troubleshooting— IIS 7.5 introduces enhancements to IIS logs, automatic failures, and error codes to reduce overall IIS downtime. By providing detailed error messages and trace events, troubleshooting has become a whole lot easier in IIS 7.5. For example, the IIS logs are much more detailed and include more status codes to help troubleshoot, diagnose, and repair an error much more efficiently and effectively. In addition, the Runtime Status and Control API (RSCA) further improves IIS 7.5 troubleshooting abilities as it provides detailed runtime diagnostics about the server. It can also be used to examine and manage other things, including, but not limited to, sites and .NET application domains.

  • A contemporary FTP server that supports SSL— A much-desired and requested feature was to have a secure FTP solution for streamlined content publishing based on today’s industry standards. The FTP server component has been completely rewritten and now not only supports Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for enhanced security, but also includes virtual hostname support and user isolation. This FTP server will support UTF8, IPv6, COM, and .NET extensibility, and .NET membership integration with SQL Server and other repositories. The FTP component is an out-of-band offering; however, it is fully integrated into IIS 7.5. Unlike IIS 7.0, which needed to be downloaded and installed as an out-of-band offering from Microsoft, IIS 7.5 is fully integrated and included with Windows Server 2008 R2.

  • Delegated and remote administration— A new role-based administration concept has been introduced into IIS 7.5 to maximize administration efficiently and securely. Administrators can log on to the same IIS management console and manage only their particular site. In addition, administrators, along with a few other designated people, can remotely manage IIS over the web using HTTP/SSL.

  • Improved server farm support— Now, it is possible to share both the .config and applicationHost.config files on a central Universal Naming Convention (UNC) share. This improves server farm support when running more than one node in a Network Load Balancing (NLB) cluster as all nodes can access the same .config file, which means management of server farms is much easier. In addition, the configuration settings are stored within the .config files; therefore, they can be easily copied from one server to another without the need for replication programs, which tend to be error prone.

  • Enhanced developer experience— The all-new server application programming interface (API) allows tight ASP.NET integration utilizing the latest .NET Framework. Hands down, developers are provided with the best experience and extensibility ever with this version of IIS. Classic ASP and other commercial frameworks are still supported.

  • Best Practices Analyzer (BPA)— By leveraging BPA via Windows Server 2008 R2’s Server Manager and/or Windows PowerShell, it is now possible to scan the IIS 7.5 Web Server role to ensure that there aren’t any best-practice compliance or configuration violations.

  • .NET on Server Core— The .NET Framework is an installation option now available on Server Core. This means that the full use of PowerShell cmdlets can be leveraged because ASP.NET applications on IIS installations can be enabled by administrators on Server Core. In addition, this also allows for greater support for remote management tasks. The versions of the .NET Framework include 2.0, 3.0, 3.51, and 4.0.

  • Windows PowerShell Provider— Common IIS administrative tasks can be automated via the Windows PowerShell Provider for IIS. A collection of task-oriented cmdlets provides an easier way to manage websites, applications, and servers.

Understanding the New IIS Manager Tools

The centerpiece of IIS 7.5 is the new Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager user interface. The user interface is used to manage IIS and ASP.NET, health and diagnostics, and security. It is, however, the Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager snap-in tool that reigns supreme as it contains the majority of the features and tools that are necessary for configuring and managing various functions of IIS 7.5.

IIS is configured through the IIS Manager snap-in, which can be accessed by selecting Start, Administration Tools, and Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager. Because understanding the console is a must to comprehend how to administer IIS and where to conduct the task, the next sections examine the layout of the new user interface.

Exploring the IIS Manager Administration Panes

Each area within the IIS Manager console is referenced by a descriptive word, as shown in Figure 1. For example, the descriptive words associated with the areas or panes such as the Connections pane make it easier to identify the location of the IIS features. The following is a list of the panes included in the IIS Manager console and their respective functions:

  • The Connections pane— The Connections pane is located on the left side of the console and displays the IIS console tree, which is also known as the node tree. Web administrators can conduct the following tasks from within this pane:

    • View the Start Page

    • Connect to a server, site, or application

    • Manage server settings

    • Configure IIS, application pools, FTP, and websites

  • Central Details pane— Also known as the “workspace,” this large pane is located in the center of the IIS 7.5 management console. This pane displays the configuration options for each IIS feature installed. Each feature is represented by a new icon and replaces the legacy property sheets and tabs that most administrators in the industry were not too fond of in the past. The feature icons can be grouped by category or area; otherwise, grouping can be turned off.

  • Actions pane— The Actions pane is located on the right side of the console and displays common actions, including wizards associated with each task. This pane also typically contains multiple tabs for the different options available based on the node chosen.

Figure 1. Examining Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager.

Examining the IIS Manager Administration Nodes in the Connections Pane

Many web services components need to be configured to optimize IIS for security, functionality, and redundancy. The IIS snap-in is the interface used to administer IIS services. In the left pane of the snap-in, as shown in Figure 2, you will see folders or nodes similar to the following:

  • Start Page— The Start Page is the first item within the Connections pane and is ultimately a digital dashboard for IIS. It provides users with a wealth of information by displaying IIS newsfeeds and links to online resources. In addition, the Start Page includes recent connection information and connection tasks.

  • IIS Server— The main place to administer and manage server properties and features is the server node. After being selected, the IIS feature icons are displayed in the central pane. An administrator must double-click a feature to configure property settings specific to that feature. Examples of feature icons include Feature Delegation, Logging, and Machine Key.

  • Application Pools— Application pools are actually sections of physical memory dedicated to the applications running within a pool. Application pools segment applications from the rest of the memory resources used by other IIS services. This promotes higher reliability and security, but it also requires more memory to be configured on the web server. The application pool elements can be sorted based on Name, Status, .NET Framework Version, Managed Pipeline Mode, Identify, and Applications.

  • Web Sites— This folder contains all the websites being hosted on the web server. The Default Web Site is created during the installation of IIS 7.5.

  • FTP Sites— This folder contains all the FTP sites being hosted on the web server. Note that FTP services are not installed by default.

Figure 2. Examining the IIS 7.5 Connections pane.


An Internet Information Services (7.5) Manager can be started by typing "start inetmgr" at the command prompt.

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