Although Microsoft's marketing machine has focused on the security, scalability, and interoperability benefits of Windows Server 2003, the new server product's performance story--which independent tests recently verified--is compelling, particularly for Web administrators. VeriTest, an independent test lab, did performance testing on Windows Server 2003 and found that the new OS outperforms Windows 2000 and Windows NT 4.0 by a dramatic margin--typically running two to three times as fast on the same hardware. Compared with NT Server 4.0, Windows 2003 is on average two times as fast at serving files, three times as fast at serving dynamic Web content, and four times as fast at serving static Web content.

If you're looking for ammunition you can use to convince those above you in the org chart that you need to migrate from NT to Windows 2003, this performance data will help dramatically. You can find a summary of the VeriTest results, including a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, at the first URL below. For the entire suite of performance metrics and benchmarks, including Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC) benchmark tests, click the second URL below.

Third-party performance metrics are interesting, of course. But relating them to your environment in the trenches is difficult because such tests are performed on millions of dollars' worth of cutting-edge hardware. Furthermore, although performance is at the top of the list of features for many Web applications, it's not an important feature for everyone--the features that are most important for every company in today's economy are cost and total cost of ownership (TCO). In rebuilding Internet Information Services (IIS) 6.0 from scratch, Microsoft made it dramatically faster. But does the raw speed of IIS 6.0 do anything for your bottom line? If you consider the opportunity for server consolidation, it does.

Improved performance is just one byproduct of redoing IIS. In IIS 6.0, Microsoft separated key services to give IIS 6.0 the fault tolerance it so desperately needed. In IIS 5.0 and earlier, a simple developer mistake can bring the entire server down, along with every Web application. Now, you can run thousands of Web sites and applications on IIS 6.0 on new, inexpensive hardware without worrying that one mistake will bring your entire production system down.

For many companies, the server consolidation opportunities in Windows 2003 are driving the migration to IIS 6.0. Consider ISPs or application service providers (ASPs), for which server consolidation is a primary ingredient of the business model. Hosting numerous IIS applications from different companies is difficult. If you're hosting applications for both Ford and General Motors, you don't want one application taking down the other because of a developer's mistake. Before IIS 6.0, this scenario was especially difficult.

MaximumASP ( ) is a cutting-edge ASP that hosted IIS 6.0 for its customers even before IIS 6.0 shipped in beta form. "IIS 6.0 facilitates unlimited IIS application roots within their own isolated processes while still managing a finite number of server processes," said Chris Page, chief technology information officer of MaximumASP. "The bottom line is that our customers get more performance, more scalability, and fault tolerance for free--simply by tuning their Web applications on our IIS 6.0 Web servers." Page told me that his company had more than 100 customer Web applications running on IIS 6.0 when Windows 2003 shipped on April 24. "The migration to IIS 6.0 is great on both our bottom line and our customers."