Netfirms, a Canadian web-hosting company, said yesterday that it would begin letting customers build and host websites running both Windows and Linux applications at the same time. The company said its decision was based on increased demand for such sites from web developers and their clients.

Toronto-based Netfirms has built its own clustering technology, which allows customers to manage Windows and Linux applications - each running on separate server grids operated by the web host - transparently through a single account, according to Thomas Savundra, the company's president.

Netfirms said it is the first web hosting company to let customers use both Windows and Linux applications and code through a single web-hosting account.

"We've traditionally been a Linux host, but a lot of developers were starting to feel enclosed," Savundra said. "They may want to run an application or develop functionality using Windows technology but not get a separate account or website."

In particular, Savundra said there has been demand for ASP.Net 2.0, the update to Microsoft's web application development platform that was released in November 2005, from web developers who were formerly exclusively loyal to the Lamp stack (Linux, Apache Web server, MySQL database and PHP programming languages).

Many developers are motivated by their own clients, who may be primarily Windows shops, said Savundra, although some are developers who have started to run open-source applications on top of Windows.

Netfirms, which said its hosts 1.2 million websites, built a cluster server that connects its Windows 2003 Server grid and its Linux grid seamlessly to its customers, Savnudra said. The cluster server was certified by Microsoft, but Netfirms otherwise got no assistance or funding from Microsoft, Savundra said.

Customers can subscribe to plans at Netfirms that start at $14.95 per month for a website with 150GB of disk support.