When the software giant releases Longhorn Server in 2007, it will introduce a re-architected edition of its Internet Information Services Web server, said Bob Muglia, senior vice president in charge of Windows Server development.
The changes will make IIS more modular, which will speed up performance for Web applications, he said.
"We're componentizing IIS so you can load just the pieces of the Web server that you really need," Muglia said. "In the process of doing that, we'll be supercompetitive to Apache."
The open-source Apache Web server, which is often run on Linux, is the most widely used Web server and frequently used to serve Web pages on public Internet sites.
Taking a page from Apache, Microsoft intends to introduce a "plug-in architecture" to run applications inside the Web server, Muglia added.
"Web (hosting), security and high-performance computing are the three areas where Linux has more strength," he said. "Clearly, the one we're weakest in is hosting."
To make Windows Server a more attractive option than Linux for security, Microsoft intends to bolster its software with policy-based administration tools to simplify the task of setting up virtual private networks and authenticating network access across several servers.
The company is also looking to adapt its existing antispyware software to its Windows Server and business customers, Muglia said.
He declined to detail packaging plans, but he said that these enhancements would not be worked into the R2 update of Windows Server 2003, which is due by the end of this year.
"Right now we've got an antispyware beta that's out and we're looking at how we can deliver that technology to the enterprise on a broader basis," he said. "The big difference is that enterprises need to manage things, whereas consumers manage themselves."
To combat Linux in the high-performance computing market, Microsoft next year will release its first product in that area, called Windows Server 2003 Compute Cluster Edition, Muglia said.