More evidence is emerging that Apache is suffering against Redmond, after a survey revealed that Microsoft’s Internet Information Services web server is outserving Apache on Fortune 1000 websites.

According to Port80 Software, which periodically surveys the public sites of Fortune 1000 companies to determine their use of web and application hosting technologies, Microsoft Internet Information Services 6.0 web server (IIS 6) gained 9.5 percent since August 2006, and passed IIS 5 to lead the survey for the first time, “outserving the open source Apache server and all other web servers among Fortune 1000 sites.”

Overall, IIS 4, 5, 6, and 7 deployments continue a four-year lead in the survey with a combined 55 percent share of all Fortune 1000 corporate sites, versus Apache’s 24.9 percent share.

Last week, a similar survey by UK-based research firm Netcraft found that IIS continued to narrow the gap with the open-source Apache web server, suggesting that Redmond’s offering could surpass Apache as early as next year.

It found that Microsoft grew to 36.2 percent of all active websites, while Apache lost nearly a million website names, as its share of active websites fell to 48.4 percent.

“While Netcraft’s recent surveys demonstrate the rise of Microsoft’s Internet Information Services across the Internet at large, Port80 Software continues to see IIS beating Apache among leading US enterprise companies,” said Joseph Lima, director of Product Development at Port80 Software.

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“Having analysed Fortune 1000 websites for years now, we estimate that IIS 6 penetration will continue unabated while IIS 5/Windows 2000 servers are decommissioned, with a few Apache defections along the way,” Lima added.

“If the trend from previous surveys holds, IIS 7 should be the dominant web server for Fortune 1000 sites by 2011.”

Meanwhile, Port80 Software - in a related survey - found that Microsoft ASP.NET and ASP application server environments are currently used on 51.5 percent of Fortune 1000 sites, an increase of 7.9 percent since 2005. Other application servers like Java platforms (J2EE, JSP, WebLogic, WebSphere, and Tomcat), PHP, and ColdFusion all combined account for 24 percent of Fortune 1000 site deployments. The survey says that heavier use of ASP.NET among Fortune 1000 sites is to be expected, given the prevalence of Microsoft IIS on the same sites.

So does the struggle of such a popular open source web server as Apache, suggest a difficult period ahead for open source in general against Windows?

Not according to industry watcher Robin Bloor, founder and chief research officer of Bloor Research. Bloor believes in the gradual triumph of Linux and states in a recent article, that open source moves at a different speed to commercial software.

He quotes IDC figures from May 2007, which showed that Linux accounts for 12.7 percent of the server market by revenue compared to Windows with 38.8 percent of the market. "Most of the remainder is Unix, although IBM mainframe still has a share," says Bloor.

However, he stresses these figures are for servers shipped from the major hardware makers such as HP, IBM, Sun, Dell etc, and omit “constructed servers.” Bloor points out that Google for example builds all its own servers, and is estimated to be the fourth largest builder of servers in the world - after HP, IBM, and Sun. Indeed, Google’s activity is so great says Bloor, that it distorts the market stats.

Bloor thinks Linux probably doesn’t trail Windows by much and it will almost certainly dominate in time. The determining factor, Bloor says, is the emerging economies (China, India, and Brazil) where Linux is growing at a much faster rate. He believes Linux will triumph here because it can be used to establish a local software industry with local skills, and the cost of adopting it is lower by far than any alternative.