Microsoft needs to release Windows Server Express

Microsoft urgently needs to release an Express edition of Windows Server.

Microsoft's existing customers want it, and need it. More importantly, Microsoft's new customers and potential new customers want it.

At present there is no free entry-level web server platform available from Microsoft. Yet Microsoft manifestly does need to offer one, if it is to compete on the same terms as alternative platforms such as LAMP -- even if the alternatives are inferior.

Everybody will benefit from a free web server platform from Microsoft -- especially Microsoft themselves. More people will end up using Windows server if there is a free "Express" edition. Developers and hosting companies want it, along with computer science students, start-up companies, hobbyists, script-kiddies, etc. Those who use Windows Server Express will generally also use other Microsoft products, including Visual Studio and SQL Server. Thus, Windows Server Express will bring additional customers to Microsoft and additional users for a wide range of products. A proportion of these extra customers will inevitably later pay, to scale-up or upgrade to fuller editions the software. Once hooked on Microsoft technology, people continue to use Microsoft technology.

All of the currently available editions of Windows 2008 Server cost money -- including Windows Server 2008 SP2 (effectively Windows 7 Server). This is frustrating because Microsoft already offers, free of charge, a comprehensive package of entry-level web development products. Only the server platform is not available for free. In particular, Visual Studio Express, SQL Server Express, and ASP.NET MVC, are the pre-eminent products for web development today. They provide everything needed to develop, deploy and maintain enterprise-quality web sites -- as advanced as anything on the web currently can be -- on an entry-level scale. Using the Web Platform Installer wizard, the entire web platform can be deployed quickly and easily, along with development tools.

So, Microsoft almost does already offer a superior alternative to LAMP, in a complete package encompassing much more than just the platform -- but without the "L". Of course, though inferior, WAMP would also cost nothing on Windows Server Express. To coin a new acronym, what I am calling for could be called "WISP" or "WIS.NET":-

Windows + IIS + SQL Server + Programming language (typically C#)

All we need from Windows Server Express is the basic server platform. We need little more than the brilliant software that powers IIS 7 -- just the core. In theory Windows Server Express wouldn't even need a GUI, because the relevant products all support remote administration.

As we bear witness to the dawn of the Internet age, with the OS wars reaching a crescendo, Windows Server Express is the single most important and obvious weapon missing from Microsoft's strategic arsenal.

06 August 2009

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Tim Acheson (06 Aug 09, 23:14)

Windows 7 was released today. I timed my original post to coincide with this event. I mention this to put the timing of my campaign, lobbying for Windows Server Express, into context.

Tim Acheson (07 Aug 09, 16:21)

After I wrote the original post a contact in Microsoft's TechNet team pointed out that Windows Server 2008 Foundation was intended to be the entry-level Windows server edition. Windows Server Foundation does offer the necessary features including the web server, IIS 7.

Unfortunately, legally/technically the licence is only available as OEM, so you can only obtain it along with the hardware. This obviously misses the point of an entry-level platform, and overlooks fundamental requirements at entry-level.

Even as a TechNet Pro subscriber I can't download Windows Server 2008 Foundation. This is a completely different paradigm compared to Linux/LAMP. Yet platforms like these are in fact what Microsoft is competing with in the marketplace right now. I'm hopeful that the folks at Microsoft will accept this reality and adapt their product range and strategy accordingly.

Tim Acheson (10 Aug 09, 10:50)

TechNet Video: Comparing LAMP to Microsoft Web Platform

  • Windows vs Linux
  • IIS vs Apache
  • SQL Server vs My SQL
  • ASP.NET vs PHP

I thank David Shen (MSFT Moderator) for bringing this comparative analysis of LAMP vs Microsoft's web platform to my attention.

Server 2008 Foundation is licensed for 15 users and has limitations of only 30 connections to shares. Will it actually work as a Web Server platform (or virtual server platform) and provide full, unlimited user functionality for web or virtual server access not requiring the Windows Server CALs? If so, maybe it does "sort of" fill a bit of this blank spot in Microsoft's offerings. A cheaper Windows server OS without need for licensing to use as a web or virtual server platform. (Obviously, the 8 GB RAM limitation is significant here).

Tim Acheson (20 Oct 09, 14:58)

Hi Erle, yes Windows Server 2008 Foundation does provide that level of service as a web server platform. Follow my links above for more details.

It's also worth mentioning the new Azure platform at this point. Azure offers us all a new, very cheap and immensely scalable alternative for hosting our web applications. Also consider other cloud providers, particularl Amazon EC2 which provides extremely good Windows hosting.

Used2could (18 Jun 10, 13:38)

I completely agree. I've a huge windows fan and by profession i'm a .NET developer. To stay on top of the evolving technologies you are forced to constantly do hobby projects. I'm migrating away from windows just for the fact that it's more cost effective to have my hobby machines run a linux distro. It's sad but the truth.

Found your blog via google:"windows server express"

Tim Acheson (19 Jun 10, 08:01)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Used2Could! The free MS Web Platform stuff does everything I need. I just want a free server OS platform. The fact that you searched for Windows Server Express is very insightful -- thanks for mentioning that.

"Make web, not war." ;)

Tim Acheson (20 Jul 10, 12:01)

MS has just launched IIS Express, a new FREE version of their preeminent web server platform! This seems a step in the right direction! :) IIS Express is also one of the products included with of WebMatrix, a superb new toolset for quick-start rapid web developlent.

Tim, I touch on this same subject here in the Silverlight forums, and have linked to your article in a subsequent post

sorry... forgot the link:


I can't seem to find information on making my site available on the internet using IIS Express. Do you know if this is possible?

Dead written subject material, Really enjoyed studying. dfcgcbffeeeaebfd


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