Microsoft produces a short video called "Building Windows" that it shows at numerous Microsoft events all over the world. As new Windows versions have appeared, the OS's features have expanded, and the Windows team has grown larger and has evolved, Microsoft has produced and shown new versions of this impressive video. The video details how the Windows software team builds software by identifying, fixing, and regression-testing bugs; incorporating user changes and suggestions; and recompiling the software twice a day. Microsoft will probably soon release a new version of this video that shows the world how it built Windows Server 2003.

To build IIS, Microsoft uses procedures similar to those that it uses to build the OS. So that you can get an idea of what goes into building IIS, I'd like to take you through the process of building Windows. However, because much of the process is held under a strict nondisclosure agreement (NDA), I can't give comprehensive details. The process begins with pilots and prototypes. The next steps are the alpha builds of the software, which are never shown publicly and usually don't even include installation programs. Then, Microsoft releases the beta version. Microsoft carefully plans public betas and uses the beta process to get feedback and identify bugs from non-Microsoft people and companies around the world. Microsoft makes it clear to those who use beta builds that the software isn't ready to put into production. Beta builds often include what Microsoft calls "show-stoppers," which are bugs that are so serious that Microsoft needs to fix them before releasing the software. Internal betas of the software exist, too, and are available only to Microsoft employees and trusted partners.

After Microsoft decides that the beta process is complete, the release candidate (RC) process starts. The RC builds of Windows identify the final stretch. Microsoft usually has confidence in a RC and uses the public to do last-minute regression testing. RCs are also used for broad public adoption before the software actually ships. RCs let the more technically savvy companies become familiar with the new version before they can actually buy it. Many companies go live in production on RC builds. For Windows Server 2003, Microsoft will release a list of early adopter companies at public launch events all over the world on April 24. After the RC period (Windows Server 2003 had two RCs), the software hits the release to manufacturing (RTM) stage.

Last week, Microsoft handed off the Windows Server 2003 gold code to CD replication contractors to create the hologrammed CD images and product box and to shrink-wrap the software for distribution. Handing off the gold code marks the completion of more than 3 years of work by 5000 Windows team members, who represent 10 percent of the entire Microsoft employee base.

Rather than shipping as a separate product, IIS 6.0 ships as part of Windows Server 2003 OS. I've deployed IIS 6.0 in production internally and for many customers, and I think it's very fast. Under its default configuration, IIS 6.0 seems twice as fast as IIS 5.0. Microsoft won't reveal the official third-party performance metrics until a few weeks after the official launch event, but I guarantee that you'll see impressive performance gains.

Microsoft will formally introduce Windows 2003 in a worldwide launch event on April 24 in San Francisco. To find out more about the Windows 2003 launch events, go to http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/launch/default.mspx