Apache -- High-end enterprise-level server for Unix and Windows 95/98/NT platforms

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted Jun 5, 2002

Apache remains the king of Web servers despite intense efforts by Microsoft and Netscape to gain dominance in the market. In fact, the latest Netcraft surveys indicate that the freeware Apache is widening its lead over the rest of the field. Apache users have come to rely on the server's rock-solid reliability, outstanding performance, and rich set of features. As its two closest competitors have found out, a brand name alone does not necessarily equate to a loyal customer following (Netscape SuiteSpot), nor does a plump pocketbook ensure market share (Microsoft IIS).

The keys to Apache's attractiveness and popularity lie instead in the qualities listed above and its extensibility, its freely distributed source code, and active user support for the server. And version 1.3.0, now in official release, is already being touted as the most stable and fastest version of Apache ever. When coupled with the fact that the server will now run on Windows NT and 95/98, Apache appears poised to make inroads on Microsoft's sacred soil as well. Apache remains the king of Web servers despite intense efforts by Microsoft and Netscape to gain dominance in the market.

Based originally on NCSA's freely available HTTPd server, Apache's features and strengths are too numerous to list. And if more than half of the Internet's Web sites use Apache, the server must be doing something right, right? Among the most notable features are its cross-platform support, protocol support (HTTP/1.1), modularity (API), security, logging, and overall performance and robustness. Apache runs on Windows (95/98/NT), OS/2, and all the major variants of Unix. The server is fully compliant with HTTP/1.1 and supports API and ISAPI (NT). Apache distributes a core set of modules that handle everything from user authentication and cookies to typo correction in URLs. There are many other tried and true custom modules readily available as well.

Apache's overall security, performance, and robustness are unquestionable -- many of the most accessed sites in the world run Apache or Apache derivatives. Public distribution of the source code results in patches for the software being distributed quickly, and allowing public scrutiny helps ensure that security holes in the software are promptly caught and reported. As a result, Apache's large user base has allowed its developers to create a package that is extremely stable and secure and one that is also able to compete more effectively with commercial packages in terms of both raw speed and integrated features.

Despite all of its strengths, Apache certainly isn't for everybody. Setup and maintenance of the server are accomplished via command-line scripting tools. Unlike most popular commercial servers, Apache offers neither browser-based maintenance capabilities nor any GUI configuration/administration tools. This is an advantage for some developers, but for others it can translate into higher deployment and maintenance costs, especially if the site's administrators are unfamiliar with the fundamentals of the server. The lack of visuals, wizards, and/or browser-based administration tools may be enough to turn some users away. Furthermore, Apache's "user-driven" technical support via newsgroups may not get the job done for more than a few developers. There are, however, several companies that do provide full commercial support -- for a price, of course.

The atypical development and marketing style of the Apache server have not precluded it from becoming the most popular world wide Web server on the Internet today. Apache's robust design and extensibility, coupled with its freeware status and the availability of its source code to the public, make Apache a good choice for enterprise-level Web sites and for individuals and workgroups that use UNIX or a combination of UNIX and NT platforms. While Netscape and Microsoft sustain their search for a chink in Apache's armor, the most popular server on the 'net continues to show that it can withstand the competition's best efforts and still reign supreme as the champion of Web servers.

Pros: Price (freeware); Performance and robustness; Rock-solid reliability; Security; Support for the HTTP 1.1 protocol; Extensibility; Quick tech support via Usenet newsgroup; Streamlined interface

Cons: No Mac version available; NT version is in its infancy (still lacks a number of the UNIX versions' performance enhancements); Interface lacks wizards and graphical administration tools for facilitating configuration and administration tasks; More extensive technical support requires the purchase of a third-party support contract

Version Reviewed: 1.3.6
Date of Review: 4/7/99
Reviewed by: Stroud/Tan

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