A year ago, I told you about Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), the protocol that gives XML developers the messaging and communications infrastructure to conduct business (see the URL at the end of this column). SOAP plays a major role in Microsoft's .NET framework and has heavy support from Microsoft, IBM, and Lotus. Not too long ago, Microsoft also released BIZ Talk Server 2000, which gives the XML movement more support.

A lot has changed since I wrote that column—a lot of technologies have improved, and development-savvy IIS administrators have a lot of tools to play with. I've often wondered what role IIS will play in the XML space. Will IIS administrators be able to play a larger part as business enablers, managing servers that do far more than provide shopping carts and customer-service interfaces? Will the title IIS administrator become even more important in business organizations?

This week, version 2.0 of the SOAP Toolkit went gold and is available for download from Microsoft's Web site. The release includes several new technologies I haven't discussed in this column—and a lot of new acronyms to memorize. As expected, developers in general are moving toward Web-enablement of applications rather than writing Web-based applications. Today, developers can attach standard protocols such as HTTP, FTP, and SMTP to existing applications and make cross-functional applications trade data.

But what does that leave for IIS? Are we doomed to static Web pages and fewer applications? Let's look at the logistics of the situation. Is it really feasible to Web-enable an entire intranet and expect to hang applications on the Internet and our extranets? The security side of me wants to step back and think about that scenario for a moment because it breaks many of today's popular security models.

Web-enabling applications does offer one benefit. I see the day when our Web servers will be mere appliance devices. I recently visited the Windows Embedded XP team, which is busily working on IIS 6.0 in Embedded XP. (You haven't seen much in the way of embedded IIS because, until XP came along, Embedded Windows NT offered only IIS 3.0.) Needless to say, Microsoft is very excited about Embedded XP and the upgrade in IIS. One application of Embedded XP could be more of a reverse proxy server that plays in the same market space as Cisco's Local Director or Arrowpoint caching switches.

I can envision a hardware-based Web server that sports IIS 6.0 in its firmware. Then, Web services—like those that XML and SOAP offer—could coexist on the intranet. So the world of IIS is about to change again. XML and SOAP might or might not be the catalyst, but rest assured that change is coming. For more information about SOAP Toolkit 2.0, visit the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Web site.