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Stronghold -- High-end enterprise-level server based on Apache for Unix platforms

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted Jun 25, 2002


Stronghold combines the best of both worlds by taking the most popular Web server on the Internet (the freeware Apache HTTP Server) and adding critical new features -- most notably, enhanced security and administration tools -- as well as full commercial support. Also included with Stronghold is Focus, a conferencing and collaboration package.

The biggest selling point for Stronghold in enhanced security, which is accomplished in several different ways. SSL (Secure Socket Layer) and SSL 3 and RSA public-key technology combine to offer full 168-bit symmetric encryption. Also supported is the Transport Layer Security (TLS), a new protocol that is considered by many to be the successor to SSL. Stronghold also supports hardware acceleration of cryptographic functions via the nCipher hardware cryptographic accelerator. When used, the Web server doesn't need to churn through encryption -- this CPU-intensive ability is offloaded to the dedicated accelerator. This can result in very significant performance boosts in commercial settings where encryption is expected. Stronghold combines the best of both worlds by taking the most popular Web server on the Internet (the freeware Apache HTTP Server) and adding critical new features -- most notably, enhanced security and administration tools -- as well as full commercial support. Also included with Stronghold is Focus, a conferencing and collaboration package.

Stronghold also benefits from improvements in ease of use -- largely a result of its intuitive Web-based GUI interface -- and in performance. With the GUI interface, you dont need to manually edit the configuration files at the core of Apache and Stronghold. The server is available on a wide variety of platforms for UNIX, including SunOS, Sun Solaris 2.5, IBM AIX, Linux (on Intel, Alpha and SPARC platforms), MkLinux, HP-UX, UnixWare, BSDI, FreeBSD, NetBSD (Intel and SPARC), DEC OSF/1, SCO OpenServer, and SGI IRIX. A version for Windows NT -- paralleling the Apache movement into the Win32 world -- is in the works.

Another area that differentiates Stronghold from its freeware mentor is online support. Free e-mail technical support is provided to all registered users of Stronghold, and the Stronghold Web site provides extensive information for the server via FAQs, product documentation, and a download area for updates, patches, and bugs. This more traditional support (as opposed to the open-source support offered by the Apache community) isn't as complete as we'd like to see.

With a list price of $995, it's quite surprising that free telephone support isn't provided as well. (However, on the flip side, Stronghold does include a digital certificate worth $125 from Thawte Consulting and a single license covers all virtual hosts on a given server, so Stronghold's price tag is more reasonable than appears at first glance.) The purchase price does include documentation and a hard copy of the software, but C2Net offers discounts for those who download Stronghold from the C2Net Web site and eschew paper documentation.

Overall, large enterprises with the need for a fast and reliable server will want to give both Apache and Stronghold considerable attention. Those with on-site administrators or experienced Web gurus will most likely want to go with Apache, but those companies that need a bit more hand-holding for getting up and running with their Web sites will find the perfect answer in the $995 Stronghold server.

Note: For a full list of Apache features, pros, and cons check out ServerWatch's Apache review.

Pros: 7 Enhanced security, including 168-bit RSA encryption technology and SSL v3, 7 All the same great features in Apache plus a few of its own, 7 Faster and more reliable than Apache, 7 Intuitive Web-based graphical user interface, 7 Runs on a wide variety of UNIX platforms, as well as MkLinux on the Macintosh, 7 Free technical support via e-mail and Web site, 7 Secure conferencing, 7 HTTP 1.1 support, 7 Built-in search engine

Cons: 7 Price ($995) as compared to the freeware Apache; 7 No Windows NT version (yet), 7 Free technical support doesn't include telephone support

New: SSL support, 168-bit encryption technology, new platforms supported; List of Features

New in v2.4.2: Integrates Apache v1.3.6 (as opposed to earlier versions which packaged v1.3.3), supports Global Server IDs (GSIDs), better protection against denial of service attacks, fix for the SSLeay client certificate problem, sortable directory listings, configurable icon sizes; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 4

New in v3.0: Supports APXS; provides apachectl as an alternative; removed and replaced the company's modssl SSL/TLS module with Ralf S; updated PHP/FI 2.0 to PHP 3.0.16; included mod_perl 1.22 (perl 5.005_03 is included, enabling the module to work on any supported system); includes OpenSSL 0.9.5a, replacing SSLeay 0.9.1b; updated to integrate Apache 1.3.12, thus enabling faster start-up and restarts when a large number of virtual hosts are used, and directives to configure environment variables to be set on a per-directory basis; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 3

New in v3.0 Build 3014 : Updated to integrate Apache 1.3.19 -- this includes fixes for RewriteMap lookups in mod_rewrite, a fix for PDF byteserving, a security fix for mod_autoindex displaying directory indexes, the ability to handle out-of-space condition better with piped logs, and performance improvements for Linux 2.2 and later; integrates with mod_ssl 2.8.1; updated to work with PHP 3.0.18 and PHP 4.0.4pl1, which has a fix for file upload bugs; updated to integrate with mod_perl 1.25; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 2

New in v3.0 Build 3015 : Updated to Apache 1.3.22, PHP 4.0.6, and OpenSSL 0.9.6b; support for AEP and Baltimore cryptographic accelerators; restriction of stronghold-info and stronghold-status pages; directives should be added to httpd.conf to restrict access of the stronghold-info and stronghold-status pages to users on the local network; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 2

Version Reviewed: 2.4.2
Date of Review: 4/16/99
Last Updated: 2/8/02
Reviewed by: Stroud/Reichard
Find additional information about Stronghold on
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Technical Support Information: Free comprehensive technical support via quick turnaround e-mail. The Stronghold Web Site also provides extensive information for the server via FAQs, product documentation, and a download area for updates, patches, and bugs. Telephone support not available at this time.

Operating Systems Supported: UNIX - HP/UX, IBM AIX, Linux, DEC OS/F, Sun Solaris, SunOS, BSD/OS, FreeBSD, NetBSD, SCO Unix, DEC Ultrix, SGI Irix, and Digital UNIX

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