Zeus Web Server -- A feature-rich, Unix-based, load-balanced Web server

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


One of an e-business' most valuable assets is its Web server. For an enterprise looking for room to grow, Zeus claims to be the best choice. Zeus does have a track record in this regard, being the main Web server used by eBay, Lycos, Infoseek, and Blue Mountain. It also claims to host one out of every 35 Web sites.

At its core, Zeus Web Server uses a small number of single-threaded I/O processes, which are each capable of handling tens of thousands of simultaneous connections. Big numbers, in this case, are good. However, to keep up with the I/O processes, an organization will need either very fast equipment or a good cluster of servers.

One of an e-business' most valuable assets is its Web server. For an enterprise looking for room to grow, Zeus claims to be the best choice. Zeus does have a track record in this regard, being the main Web server used by eBay, Lycos, Infoseek, and Blue Mountain. It also claims to host one out of every 35 Web sites.

Fortunately, Zeus Web server comes native with Web server clustering support. This enables a set of Web servers to act as a single Web server for the end user and allows the load of serving Web pages to be balanced across a set of different computers and (assuming an enterprise has the bandwidth) multiple connections.

One might ask what makes Zeus different from Apache, as Apache has a larger Web presence than Zeus? Although on the surface there might not be major differences, the proof is in the code when it comes to transistors.

Apaches uses a dedicated I/O process for each connection request. This might not be such a bad thing if an infinite number of connection requests could be created, but that isn't the case. Apache is limited to 256 connection requests. Zeus uses a small number of processes, but each process can handle, as previously noted, tens of thousands of connection requests. Even one Zeus thread can handle many more connection requests than Apache as a whole.

One should bear in mind that Zeus' capabilities do not really shine unless there are a large number of connections. Thus, administrators will not really benefit from Zeus over Apache unless they have high traffic volume. That is why eBay, one of the most heavily trafficked e-commerce sites, uses Zeus. Zeus runs rings around Apache in terms of serving massive amounts of traffic.

Because Zeus runs primarily on Unix-based operating systems, it's difficult to configure for administrators not familiar with the command-line nature of the Unix family. Also, compared to Apache, which is freeware, Zeus is much, much more expensive. Enterprises with high-traffic demands that wish to load balance their Web hosting across multiple servers in the future, may wish to consider Zeus despite any major problems associated with the program.

Pros: 7 Load-balancing capabilities, 7 Can handle high volume of traffic efficiently

Cons: 7 High price tag compared to shareware Web servers, such as Apache, 7 like most Unix-based products, it is difficult to configure properly

New in v3.4r2: Added Solaris8/Sparc NCA and HPUX/IA64 versions; added tunable to specify permissions of webserver config files; updated the bundled 'fpinst.sh' script; provided support for ISAPI HSE_STATUS_PENDING; added tunable to allow multiple zeus.cgi CGI runner processes; updated the FastCGI runner script '$ZEUSHOME/web/bin/fcgirunner'; sendfile on Solaris now correctly handles all byte-ranges; zinstall copes better with non-standard tar on MacOSX 10; Dynamic Virtual Server improvements, including better subserver-like behavior; home directory mapping can now handle single-character username maps; fixed fatal error that occurred on Solaris when the OS configuration specified an LDAP source for some name service lookups (nsswitch.conf); Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 2

New in v4.0: New task-oriented, browser-based user interface with intelligence capabilities; increased Apache compatibility; real-time visualization and management tools; dynamic content delivery; support for multi-byte character sets; multi-language support; AJP v13 support and new native bindings for Tomcat/Jserv; WebDAV support; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 5

New in v4.1: Connection counting and limiting to protect against attempts to overload the Web server or Web application with excessive HTTP-based requests; request filtering to guard against known HTTP-based attacks; request checking to protect against malformed HTTP requests; improved SSL client certificates and security through certificate revocation; more easily managed SSL client certificates for different Web sites; SSL policy can be quickly and easily controlled; support for certificate revocation; enhanced security through increased stability against invalid requests; improved stability to guard against various invalid HTTP and HTTPS requests; improved dynamic content performance and dynamic content delivery performance; simplified architectural monitoring through SNMP support; added SNMP support based on net-snmp 4.2.3 (not vulnerable to the recently publicized CERT Advisory CA-2002-03); content compression to speed up large downloads and reduce bandwidth usage; automatically compresses the information it returns to a Web browser, if the browser is capable of accepting content in this format; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 4

Version Reviewed: 3.4
Date of Review: 7/12/01
Last Updated: 3/11/02
Reviewed By: M.A. Dockter
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Click here for the complete review of Zeus Web Server 3.3.1 Issue 2


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