Microsoft Unveils New Tools for Windows Hosting

Microsoft today released new initiatives to help hosting companies save time and money as they deploy new servers and value-added services, including broader support by hosting automation software. The Microsoft Solution for Windows-based Hosting Version 3.0 includes tools to help providers build, provision, patch and monitor web servers and integrate them into existing operations.

Hosting automation provider SWSoft said it will begin supporting Windows servers with its control panel products, which include Plesk, PEM, Virtuozzo and HSPcomplete. SWSoft says its software powers more than 70,000 servers, and is used by many of the largest hosting service providers. Another automation software maker, Ensim, said it supports the new features in its software for Windows Server 2003.

SWSoft's decision to support Windows was welcomed by one of the industry's largest players. "SWsoft has brought exceptional value to our global hosting business," said Andreas Gauger, CEO of 1&1 Internet. "We are excited about the future as they further integrate with Microsoft hosting technologies. We also look forward to introducing additional Microsoft hosting capabilities that capitalize on the speed, dependability and security of the Windows Server 2003 platform."

Some Windows hosting providers say Microsoft's hosting strategy has focused primarily on the dedicated server market, which has shown rapid growth and offers the potential for a greater volume of licenses per hosting customer. 1&1's interest is significant, as it is among the world's largest providers of shared hosting with over 4 million hostnames, with the overwhelmingly majority running on Linux. 1&1 wasn't the only shared hosting provider expressing enthusiasim for the new capabilities.

"With the Microsoft Solution for Windows-based Hosting Version 3.0, we've been able to keep our staffing levels low and streamline operations," said David Sipes, chief technology officer of iPowerWeb Inc. "Moreover, we've been able to improve our customer experience across all servers, and that really helps us reduce customer churn and build loyalty."

iPowerWeb currently runs most of its operation on open source operating systems Linux and FreeBSD. The company hosts about 7K hostnames on Windows Server 2003, compared to 176K on FreeBSD and 81K on Linux.

Microsoft says the Version 3.0 tools provide "out-of-the-box" hosted services components for SharePoint collaboration services, SQL Server hosting, and a wide range of services supported by Internet Information Services (IIS), including ASP.NET, SSL, FTP, e-mail and FrontPage Server Extensions. Microsoft worked with automation software makers Ensim and SWSoft in preparing the new tools.

"According to our customers, operational efficiency and the ability to increase average revenue per user are must-haves in today's highly competitive Web-hosting environment," said Pascal Martin, general manager for Hosting Solutions at Microsoft. "We designed the Microsoft Solution for Windows-based Hosting Version 3.0 with these critical goals in mind."