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When Microsoft releases Windows Vista in 2007 (with Longhorn Server hopefully following shortly thereafter), a lot of new technologies are going to be brought to the developer table. I'm sure that you've heard all about Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows Communication Foundation, Windows Workflow Foundation, and Windows CardSpace (formerly InfoCard), which are packaged into the .NET Framework 3.0 (formerly WinFX) that will ship with Windows Vista. I'm excited about all of these things, but what I'm really looking forward to is Internet Information Services 7 (http://www.iis.net).

You may be wondering what's so special about Internet Information Services 7 (IIS7). After all, that stuff is for IT Administrators to worry about, right? It is true that IIS7 offers many new features for IT Administrators, but it offers a ton of features tailored for the ASP.NET developer, as well. In fact, my column is not big enough to cover it all. I'm going to do my best, though, to hit the high notes of what I feel you should know about.

At its very core, IIS7 has been divided into more than 40 distinct functional modules. Some examples are authentication, caching, static file handling, and directory browsing. That means your Web server only has to have installed on it the modules you'll be using. That reduces its attack surface, as well as increases server performance, as unneeded modules are no longer loaded into memory, nor do they need to be part of the request pipeline. Need to swap out a module on the fly? There's no need to re-boot - IIS7 won't even miss a beat.

Speaking of the request pipeline, ASP.NET will no longer be an ISAPI extension that is merely bolted onto IIS. Rather, ASP.NET will be fully integrated into the IIS7 request pipeline (referred to as Integrated Mode), enabling it to intercept and respond to the complete set of IIS events. This core integration also enables ASP.NET features like caching and authentication to be applied to all file types without sacrificing the performance of mapping non-ASP.NET file types to the ASP.NET ISAPI extension. The obvious use of that added power will be to replace and/or add to the list of modules mentioned above that comprise IIS7. As an example, you could build your own custom authentication store, state management mechanism, or native image handler, among other things.

Another programmatic enhancement that will come with IIS7 is the ability to modify Request headers as they are received. You can also modify the Response stream, as well as the cookies collection (even after the request has been processed by another application). This will enable you to easily integrate your Web application with third-party Web applications and ISAPI extensions that may require low-level editing of data as it is received and transmitted. It will also enable you to do things like modify static images as they are being streamed out from the Web server. Very cool.

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