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Sambar Server: Freeware Win32 Web server or development platform?

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted Jun 18, 1999


A hidden gem in the increasingly crowded world of Web servers, Sambar Server is a multithreaded HTTP, FTP, and proxy server with a very adequate set of features -- adequate enough to be on anyone's shopping list when looking for a Web server.

Originally developed for Sun Solaris but now available only for the Win32 platform (which includes the ability to run as a Windows NT Service), Sambar Server features DLL-based server APIs (with source code provided for Windows GUI wrapper and NT Server) that can serve as a platform for more ambitious offerings. It also supports HTTP KeepAlive for persistent connections. And, as evidence that Sambar excels as a development platform, there are many source-code examples included (such as a sendmail client, security interfaces and a page counter) so you can extend Sambar Server to fit your specific needs. A hidden gem in the increasingly crowded world of Web servers, Sambar Server is a multithreaded HTTP, FTP, and proxy server with a very adequate set of features -- adequate enough to be on anyone's shopping list when looking for a Web server.

But even if you're not intending to use Sambar Server as a development platform, you'll find that it excels as a basic Web server, thanks to strong browser-based administration tools. Every aspect of Sambar can be administered via Web browser, and it's easy to find what you need, thanks to the well-designed interface. In addition, all Sambar Server documentation is formatted in HTML pages and can be accessed directly from the administrative screens. You probably won't even need to access the documentation to install and configure the server -- but when you get into some more esoteric uses (such as proxy serving), you'll want to consult the documentation.

Explicitly supported are CGI 1.1, WinCGI 1.3, ISAPI, server-side includes, and Dynamic HTML, while Perl 5 is included with the server. There's no support for FastCGI, unfortunately, nor is there any explicit support for Java. The Dynamic HTML capability is particularly advanced, with the ability to tailor specific text or entire documents based on the client request, client hostname, IP address, user agent, referer or client profile.

Sambar also includes the ability to incorporate macros into dynamically generated documents. These macros are stored in a system initialization file, defined with a #define statement (similar to #define statements used in C or C++) and cached in the system upon startup. In addition, Sambar Server can be wrapped inside other applications, as it is shipped as a DLL and comes with source code provided. (Unsupported are Microsoft's FrontPage Server Extensions, which is curious for a product that's so closely tied to Windows NT.)

There are a host of security mechanisms, mostly relating to keeping users out of sensitive directories and files, and some basic user and IP authentication options. By default, Sambar Server imposes some basic security by requiring that all files must reside in one of two directories where the server is installed. The directory that controls system administrations, sysadmin, is password protected. In addition, access can be limited by hostname or IP address, and document locations can be redirected. However, there's no provision for more advanced authentication schemes used on the enterprise level, such as RADIUS authentication or import of usernames from the Windows NT user directory. Nor is there support for secure transaction via the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

Sambar Server includes a general, if somewhat limited, task scheduler for managing regular events: search-engine reindexing, log-file rotation, and dial-on-demand. Events can be scheduled for monthly, weekly, daily, or hourly execution. The scheduler thread runs every two minutes and checks for tasks, which are then run serially. The documentation warns against running too many tasks at the same time, since they are run serially (and therefore not simultaneously), but since all scheduled tasks are limited to five minutes (by default; you can change this if you want), there's not much chance that any essential time-sensitive task will be bumped by another task. (Speaking of logfiles: Sambar Server includes a log-analysis tool that provides information about top pages, hosts, downloads, uploads, agents and client operating systems and per-page performance statistics. In addition, you can set up your own custom analysis.) Also supported are document aliases and virtual domains.

You can position Sambar Server as a front end to ODBC datasources. You can insert HTML tags in your documents that are interpreted and turned into SQL queries. Again, while this capability isn't as advanced as those found in much more expensive Web servers, it's good enough for most basic purposes.

Sambar Server also includes other server capabilities. A search engine will index an entire site and allow full text searching of HTML and TEXT documents. An FTP server allows both anonymous FTP access or authenticated access restricting access to specific users or directories. A proxy server filters HTML requests and also supports SSL-tunneling, but does not support caching by default. In addition, the proxy server can direct all requests to a remote proxy for service (such as the caching proxy maintained by an ISP). Finally, Sambar Server can be configured as an FTP, NNTP, SMTP, POP3, IMAP4 and RealServer proxy server. The proxy servers are really geared toward supporting multiple clients on a private network connecting via a PPP connection.

Sambar Server excels both as a standalone Web server and as a development platform for more advanced programming efforts. In either case, Sambar Server compares favorably to more commercial offerings, making it worth your time to download and evaluate -- the server is free after all!

Pros: 7 Browser-based administration, 7 Excellent documentation, 7 Good programming tools, 7 Proxy-serving capabilities, 7 ISAPI and Perl support

Cons: 7 No explicit Java support, 7 Security limited to user authentication; no links to Windows NT user database, 7 No Microsoft FrontPage Extensions support, 7 No SSL support

New: 7 Dial-On-Demand; 7 Dynamic HTML via scripting language, ODBC scripting, and extensible methods; 7 ISAPI Extension support; 7 DLL-based server APIs; 7 Full-text search engine; 7 Integrated Perl 5; 7 Virtual domain support; 7 Server-Side Includes; 7 List of Features

New in 4.2: Real Audio/Video proxy support, unbuffered CGI support, native FTP proxy, proximity search, significantly faster full-text indexing, SOCKS4/5 support, icon map for automatic directory lists, scripting scalar functions and expression support, bug fixes; search engine spider (in new pro version only); Release Notes (Java Servlet support has been pushed to a later release)
Upgrade Meter: 3

New in 4.2.1: A significant bug was found in the 4.2 release that caused the abrupt termination of connections on some NT machines; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 3

New in 4.3 Beta 2: HTTP/1.1 support (significant bug fixes and performance improvements), UNIX Cron daemon integration (1 minute timeouts), WebCAM sample application (including source code), JavaEngine for running Servlets (pro only), Various small bug fixes; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 3

New in 4.3 Beta 6: HTTP/1.1 support (significant bug fixes and performance improvements); Unix Cron daemon integration (1 minute timeouts); ability to customize server error messages with scripting (.stm); WebCAM sample application (including source code); JavaEngine for running Servlets (pro only); Mail Transfer Agent (pro only); and various small bug fixes; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 2

New in 4.3 Beta 7: HTTP/1.1 support (significant bug fixes and performance improvements); Unix Cron daemon integration (1 minute timeouts); ability to customize server error messages with scripting (.stm); WebCAM sample application (including source code); JavaEngine for running Servlets; Mail Transfer Agent (pro only); various smaller bug fixes; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 2

New in 4.3 Beta 8: SSL Support (via OpenSSL); multiple small bug fixes; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 1

New in 4.3 Beta 9: Removed *.bat files from the CGI-BIN directory due to security issues; support added for quoted-printable mail attachments in Webmail; fixed corruption caused by search spider fixed; added RC@mailprop scalar for retrieving individual mail message properties; changed SMTP mailer to require comma- or semicolon-separated lists of e-mail accounts; fixed SMTP mailer duplicate output; added RCXsetcookie for setting HTTP cookie headers from scripts; fixed POP3 server to not save message updates if no QUIT received; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 3

New in 4.3 (Production Release): Fixed the closing of the MBOX on POP3 failures; fixed MTA resend in the event of a connection close failure; changed MX lookup in MTA to retry four times before failing; added usecss optional argument to Webmail maillist RPC (more CSS to come); added RCShome parameter for WebMail to change the directory; prevents nested include looping (halt 10 deep); fixed DNS server and HTTP Proxy server crash on long URLs; added "local" fetcher option (aliased to previous "all" routing option); Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 3

New in 4.4 Beta 3: Added replyto.stm to Web mail interfaces and moved to /sysuser; tightened security of many RPCs to be script-only; updated environment variable report; added NT domain authentication as log-in option; experimental distribution mechanism for semi-automated software updates added; increased space allotted for cookies to 4096 bytes; added latest Perl 5.6 to the distribution; fixed another FTP crash associated with .htaccess parsing; added DBMS cache enable/disable/status capabilities; added auto-link hilighting/click in WebMail; fixed crash on restart via sysadmin forms; fixed CPU spinning on some SSL connections; fixed support for GNUJSP (broken in 4.3 production); modified CGI layer to terminate all processes on shutdown; moved docmgr and webmail code to new "sysuser" folder; Release Notes
Upgrade Meter: 2

Version Reviewed: 4.2 Beta 9
Date of Review: 6/17/99
Reviewed by: Kevin Reichard
Last Updated: 9/4/01

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