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Microsoft Web Farm Framework, a Tool for Automating Operations Across a Server Farm

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Microsoft Web Farm Framework (WFF) is a free IIS plug-in used to provision and manage systems in a web server farm, enabling the installation and configuration of software components across the farm plus support for automated deployment of ASP.NET applications. WFF can be integrated with load balancers, and can be configured to update the servers in the farm without taking down the entire site by pulling down and updating one server at a time.

Scott Guthrie, a Corporate VP at Microsoft, has written a detailed explanation of what WFF is an how it can be used. WFF can be used to perform all the tasks involved in provisioning and managing servers in a farm, saving the operations personal from performing many manual steps such as:

  • Installing IIS, ASP.NET and all of the core platform components on the servers
  • Installing and configuring custom IIS modules (UrlRewite, Media Services, etc)
  • Configuring IIS Application Pools and Sites
  • Setting up SSL certificates for things like HTTPs endpoints
  • Copying and synchronizing the appropriate sites/applications/content across the various boxes
  • Coordinating the various web servers with a HTTP load balancer to distribute load

WFF allows an operator to install IIS, ASP.NET, SSL certificates and configure a new IIS Application Pool on one server, then duplicating the configuration made to the other systems. Application provisioning works the same way, i.e. an application is installed once on one server then WFF replicates it across all servers.

WFF can be further automated with Windows PowerShell cmdlets including creating a server farm, adding/removing servers, setting up applications, and starting/stopping a certain server.

The servers in the farm need to have Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2 installed. IIS 7 or IIS 7.5 is also needed on the controller server.

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