Several different Web servers are in use today. Many of these servers are single-purpose applications, providing an HTTP interface into peripherals, applications, or appliances.
In the mainstream HTTP server world, two programs reign supreme: The Apache Software Foundation’s HTTP Server (Apache) and Microsoft’s Internet Information Server (IIS).
The Apache Software Foundation is a group that provides support for the Apache community of Open Source projects. Included in those projects is the Foundation’s HTTP Server Project (commonly referred to as Apache). Apache gets its name from the way it was originally developed. Originally, the server was made of several components or “patches,” making it “a patchy server.”
Apache was one of the earliest developed Web servers and still undergoes continual development and improvement. Bug and security fixes take only days to find and correct, making Apache the most stable and secure Web server available.
Another advantage of rapid development and releases is the robust feature set. New Internet technologies can be deployed in Apache much more quickly than in other Web servers. Apache continues to implement its features with distinct pieces, or modules. Utilizing a modular approach to feature implementation enables Apache to be deployed with only the amount of overhead necessary for the features you want. It also facilitates third parties developing their own modules to support their own technologies.
Apache supports almost all Internet Web technologies, including proprietary solutions such as Microsoft’s FrontPage extensions. Apache supports all manner of HTTP protocols, scripting, authentication, and platform integration.
Tip:Visit the Apache module Web site (http://modules.apache.org) for information on the modules included with Apache and the registered third-party modules.Apache is available for many platforms, including Windows, UNIX, and Linux. It is estimated that more than 70% of Web servers on the Internet are Apache servers.
Microsoft’s Internet Information Server is Microsoft’s answer to serving HTTP content. Developed in early 1995, IIS was designed to provide HTTP deployed content on Microsoft NT servers. Although standard Web deployed documents (HTML, and so on) were part of the IIS design, the server was created to integrate more fully into Microsoft’s server products—deploying a litany of Microsoft technology.
IIS continues to evolve with each release of Microsoft’s server platforms. A handful of new capabilities are included in the newest IIS versions, including the ability to act as sophisticated media servers, but the underlying structure is still HTTP deliverable content.
Note:Microsoft technologies offer a double-edged sword to the Internet. The Web owes a lot to Microsoft’s development of both server and client technologies. However, some of the technologies come in proprietary packages unavailable to non-Microsoft platforms. For example, Active Server Pages (ASP) redefined interactivity on the Web, providing a near-Windows-like graphical user experience. However, ASP technology is only available on Microsoft server platforms.
Because IIS runs on Windows, controlling the server is accomplished through the use of standard Windows components and management consoles. However, as of this writing, IIS is still only available on Microsoft server platforms (NT/2000 Server/2003 Server).
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