An Introduction to the Active Platform
Microsoft has a very 'active' perspective on how application architectures should be created. For that matter, the word 'active' or more specifically, the term ActiveX, has become a standard part of packaging just about every product concept released from Microsoft within the last year.
Active Platform is the name given to Microsoft's component-based application development model for the Web. Active Platform is divided into three major sections:
 Active Desktop - an ActiveX-enabled client architecture designed to house components and language-independent scripting environments
 Active Server - primarily intended to provide an execution environment for running business logic distributed across enterprise application servers
 ActiveX Technologies - the object-based underpinnings of all of the above - commonly referred to as The Component Object Model, or COM
Given that definition, let's turn our attention to where server-based applications are created.
The Active Server Side of Things
Active Server components actually constitute what we traditionally think of as the 'middle' tier, or business rule layer of an enterprise application. These components are responsible for encapsulating the majority of an application's transaction and database logic. For example, you might decide to place the logic for a complex calculation that requires access to several database tables inside an Active Server component. This component would then be invoked by other Active Server components during execution of one or more of your enterprise applications.
The server-side execution environment that makes much of this possible is named Active Server Pages (formerly code-named "Denali"), an environment in Microsoft Internet Information Server that executes ActiveX Scripts and ActiveX Components on a server.
Welcome to Active Server Pages
Active Server Pages are a key component of Microsoft’s dynamic web content strategy. With Active Server Pages, a software developer can create interactive and personalized web pages for their World Wide Web site or corporate intranet without having to understand the internals of a web server or complex application programming interfaces. In addition, Active Server Pages is extensible via software components written using Microsoft’s Component Object Model so you’ll be able to take advantage of code you’ve already written using languages such as Visual Basic, C++ or Java.
A Little History
The World Wide Web came to life in 1990 when researchers at Switzerland’s CERN laboratory needed to distribute documents and graphics via the Internet but needed something more than simple file transfers. It’s a familiar story, but it was this series of events that led up to the creation of the most significant evolutionary period in application development.
From Web Sites to Web Applications
After the initial introduction of the web, a specification emerged: CGI, or the Common Gateway Interface. This specification allowed resources, in the form of executable programs, to be requested by a web browser and executed by a web server via a standard Uniform Resource Locator or URL.
These CGI-based programs could take user input in the form of command line parameters and use the standard input and output file handles of a program to receive and generate HTML output in response to a browser’s request. In addition, various pieces of state information located on the server could be interrogated by the program during execution and used to make logic decisions as to how this processing should occur. The ultimate goal: use this logic and processing capability to provide a custom experience for the user on the other side of the browser.
In one way or another, what emerged was a means of using logic far beyond the capabilities of HTML to accomplish standard data processing functionality such as input validation and database access and the power to distribute that processing across the world.
Where Active Server Pages Fit In
Active Server Pages were introduced with release 3 of Microsoft’s web server, Internet Information Server or IIS. Active Server Pages are actually a series of dynamic link libraries or DLLs that are installed on your web server by either a standalone installation program or as part of the Visual Studio 97 setup for Visual InterDev. These DLLs give IIS the ability to interpret and process information via the use of a script file (called an ASP script) that is resident in your web application directory.
Scripts and Why They Are Different
Once you complete the installation of Active Server Pages, a web browser can request scripts just as if it