Limited-capability Java-oriented application server
June 5, 2002
Intertop has won a lot of attention thanks to its innovative approach to developing and positioning application development on the Internet and intranets. And while the focus of this section is on application servers, it's impossible to separate Intertop's development environment from its server environment (much the same as our approach in evaluating the SilverStream application server). A comprehensive review includes a look at both the development and server sides of Intertop.
Like all application-server environments, the point of the Intertop Application Server is to run applications that provide access to a disparate group of Internet-accessible JDBC/ODBC-compliant databases and legacy data and to deliver this data to users on the Internet and/or intranets. To support legacy databases, however, you'll need to write your own Intertop applets, as none are provided with the basic Intertop Application Server package.
While not really meant for enterprise-level deployment, the Intertop Application Server does feature a decent level of scalability, providing load balancing when implemented on multiple CPUs and supporting an unlimited number of client applications. Intertop can support older CGI programs via a CGI adapter. There's also a Java Gateway that provides application access to any third-party Java class library
Intertop claims that the performance of the Intertop Application Server is better than other application servers thanks to how sessions are managed. The Intertop Application Server manages concurrent sessions of client requests individually and maintains the state of each session. This eliminates the need to reinitialize sessions, which reduces server overhead.
And because Intertop Application Server uses a unique application framework -- where Java applets are sent to the desktop browser and only data is updated by the server, rather than entire HTML pages -- the server overhead is lessened because only session/state management is performed by the server, with updated data sent directly to the desktop. Since an Intertop communications proxy handles communication between client and server portions of applications via HTTP, there's no need to open additional ports through the firewall.
Administration of the server is made easier by an Administration Console, used for configuring client access to critical or restricted server applications. In addition, the Administration Console manages the application server startup and shutdown and also provides other management functions. One nice touch that makes Intertop Application Server a decent choice for e-commerce is the inclusion of a CyberCash component, which relays transactions to another e-commerce server on the network.
One major drawback to the Intertop Application Server is its system requirements: Windows NT Server 4.0 (with Service Pack 3 or later) with either the Netscape Enterprise Server 3.x or Microsoft Internet Information Server 3.x or later, Sun Solaris with the Netscape Enterprise Edition Web server, or Hewlett-Packard HP-UX with Netscape Enterprise Edition. You can't use Intertop Application Server with the Apache Web Server or O'Reilly's WebSite Professional.
The Intertop Application Server is part of Intertop's Application Platform, a total solution for developing and deploying Internet applications. Two other parts of the platform worth noting are the Intertop Application Builder (formerly known as i-Xpresso) for creating browser-based Java applications and the Intertop CE Application Builder for creating Internet-enabled applications for handheld devices running Windows CE.
Interestingly, Intertop Application Builder uses Basic-like scripting, which is then converted to Java, with the rationale being that any developer familiar with Visual Basic will have no problems using Intertop Application Builder. In addition, the Intertop Application Builder supports the Java Component Library, a set of standard Java classes, with the promise that applications developed in Intertop Application Builder will run on any version of the Java Virtual Machine (i.e. both the Sun and Microsoft versions).
The Intertop Application Platform is a powerful tool for creating and deploying applications. While there's little reason to consider Intertop Application Server if you're not looking at using the Intertop Application Platform as well, the combination is definitely worth a look if you're in the market for an application server and have needs that fall somewhat short of the enterprise level.
Pros: 7 Browser-based management, 7 Tightly integrated with the Intertop Application Platform, 7 Supports load balancing
Cons: 7 No advanced security features, 7 No support for Enterprise JavaBeans
New in v2.1: JDBC connectivity to any JDBC/ODBC-compliant database, Administration Console for configuring client access to critical or restricted server applications, enhanced session/state management, improved load balancing; Release Notes
Windows NT - Intel (NT Server 4.0 SP3 or SP4). Unix - Sun Solaris and HP-UX