TechEd 2006 - Recap

I just arrived home from TechEd 2006 where I gave a breakout session on IIS6: Managing Effective Webfarms.  I have to say this was probably the best technical conference that I've attended.  I was scheduled to help out in the DEV and IIS7 booths and during that time I had plenty of time to discuss the inner workings with many of the IIS Program Managers and Developers that attended.  They are always enjoyable to talk to because of their intimate knowledge of the subject. 

Through the many social events during the day and in the evenings I was able to hang out with many people I knew already and many I met for the first time.  I spent a lot of valuable time with a number of people I respect in the industry.  Probably my favorite was when taking the elevator on the Friday morning, Mark Russinovich got on.  I had met Mark about 3 years ago at one of his seminars that I attended in Redmond.  I don't think he remembered me, but he started a conversation without missing a beat.  We shared a taxi to the convention center while chatting about debugging, his next tools that he will be releasing, speaking engagements, ORCS Web and other things.   For those that don't know, Mark is the brains and primary developer behind Sysinternals ( and the person who discovered the famous Sony root kits.  He's a Windows internals guru, very possibly the top person in that area in the industry.  He's always one of the top rated speakers at events like this and had the top rated session again at TechEd 2006.

Expo '06 was great with dozens of booths of vendors showing off their products and services.  I came back with an extra backpack full of giveaways, balls, pens and gadgets, and a head full of new information and ideas. 

I was pretty happy with my talk and the attendee evaluations were good.  I did three demos during my session, and by the end I had set up a redundant webfarm using 2 web nodes and a primary and backup remote content location.  I forced one server to handle both the role of the primary web server and content server.  Then I pulled the plug (virtually) on that server so that it failed.  Without any downtime, and with only about a 20 second delay, both the web and content roles switched over to their respective backup servers.  It was a fun demo and seeing a successful recovery of a simulated failure was the highlight of the talk.  Three articles and tools that I prepared for the talk can be found here:

Back to IIS7, here are a number of exciting changes. 

  • Tracing is probably the top of my list.  Being able to get detailed trace reports in IIS7 is not only more complete than the current tools, but it's quick and easy to do.  You can set a trace on a particular file or all files, and for any HTTP status codes.  The output is saved directly to an easy-to-read XML file.
  • Delegation is the next on my list.  Developers will love this one.  Now most IIS tasks, like setting the default documents or creating custom script mappings, can be done from web.config directly by the developer.  This makes XCopying of the site possible, and means there is less dependency on the server administrator for straight forward tasks like this.
  • My third favorite is how the IIS7 pipeline is handled.  In the past ASP.NET has an ISAPI add-on.  Now it's integrated right into IIS7.  This means that forms or windows authorization will apply to static files, images and all other non-ASP.NET pages.  In the past if you used ASP.NET authorization, it only affected files specifically handled by the aspnet_isapi.dll ISAPI extension which included extensions like .aspx, .asmx, but not .asp, .html, .jpg or many others.
  • Next on my list of favorite features is the modularization of IIS7.  In IIS6, features like authentication, authorization, default document handing were part of the core server.  Now they are broken out into separate modules that can be disabled or even completely removed.  This allows IIS administrators to remove any functionality that they don't use; giving a smaller footprint which is better for security and also means less memory is used.  This modular structure also makes extending or replacing existing modules easy and powerful. 
  • The user interface is completely redone.  For me it means a lot of relearning since I'm comfortable with the IIS6 interface, but it's a nice looking tool that I'm sure I'll get used to before too long.
  • Programming against IIS7 is easier and more powerful than ever before.  The WMI class is much richer and cleaner and there is also a .NET namespace to directly manage IIS7.
  • There are plenty of other great changes, but those are the ones that stand out to me.

Enough said.  I had a great week and for those trying to decide which event to attend each year, I recommend TechEd as a top pick.

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