Review: WAMP stacks for Web developers

All-in-one Apache-MySQL-PHP server packages for Windows vary widely in features, flexibility, and ease

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Microsoft Web Platform Installer 3.0
Microsoft's Web Platform Installer provides a user with an automated way to create a Web software stack on top of Internet Information Server. Right there, it's at odds with everything else described here in that Apache is not part of the picture -- but almost everything else in the *AMP stack (PHP, Perl, MySQL) is. Still, it would be a bit of an omission not to talk about it, especially since it helps accelerate Web development on Windows platforms by deploying many non-Microsoft stack elements.

Of all the other stacks listed here, Web Platform Installer (WPI) comes closest to the Softaculous AMPPS stack, in that it allows you to deploy and manage numerous third-party and open source components on top of IIS. It's also similar to Softaculous in that all the components of the stack are managed through an interface (here, it's a native Windows app), and they're downloaded on-demand and installed as needed.

When you first run WPI, you can set things up roughly one of two ways. The "easy" way is to select Applications, pick the app(s) you want installed, and let the installer do all the heavy lifting. Any components needed for the installation that are not already installed will be auto-selected and installed. The installer also asks pertinent questions about the app(s) you're setting up: default usernames and passwords, database connections, and so on. It's all very professionally presented and deployed.

The slickest part of the Web Platform Installer isn't the Installer itself, though that's nice on its own. It's the WebMatrix control panel application, which provides a management interface for websites deployed through WPI. From this interface you can perform basic administration on the website (start/stop/restart), jump to the Web-based configuration pages for any installed applications, see a log of all requests fulfilled by the site (with a handy search function), examine databases and files associated with the site, and even run SEO/performance reports on a given site.

Another of WPI's big strengths is that it works as a staging server, from which content can be automatically deployed to a production site with a couple of clicks. This includes everything: the files on the server, data in the database, everything. Unfortunately it doesn't let you do the same in reverse; you can't slurp up a remotely published site and edit it locally unless that site was deployed from WPI in the first place.

Another issue I ran into: When an app is deployed in WPI, it's deployed in a stack that has its own port number. If you want to change this port number, you'll need to change it by hand in WebMatrix and the app's own internal settings. Also, the default hostname for the app is localhost, so if you want to make the app accessible by anything other than the local system you'll need to change the hostname (again, in both WebMatrix and the app itself), and open a port in the system's firewall for good measure.

Recommended for: Those developing on IIS on Windows Server, but using open source stack components as well.

Microsoft's Web Platform Installer lets you pick applications and even whole frameworks, by Microsoft and others too, to install into your stack.
Microsoft's Web Platform Installer lets you pick applications and even whole frameworks, by Microsoft and others too, to install into your stack.
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