Making an Open Source Server Enterprise Ready

Making an Open Source Server Enterprise Ready

July 15, 2003

Covalent Enterprise Ready Server: Enterprise-level Apache framework that offers the flexibility of Apache with enterprise features and support from Covalent

With a share of the installed server base that consistently hovers above 60 percent, Apache remains the king of the Web server market. Since its release in April 2002, Apache 2.0 slowly gained acceptance as the development team behind the open source project stabilized APIs and made it possible to adopt patch releases without the pain of recompiling modules.

Covalent, a consistent presence in the Apache space, has gotten behind the latest iteration of the Apache Web server with Covalent Enterprise Ready Server (ERS), a commercial repackaging of Apache 2.0 that feature proprietary modules and a management interface meant to make dealing with the occasional arcana of Apache configuration and management much less painful.

ERS ships on several platforms, and although Covalent's site lists a fairly conservative set of supported operating systems, the product runs on a wide variety: Windows NT (Service Pack 4), 2000, and XP are all supported, as are SPARC Solaris 2.6 through 9. RedHat Linux versions 6.x through 8 are supported. ERS is also able to run (with less support) on most Linux systems using glibc2.

Covalent's additions to the base Apache package can be characterized by their impact on security and management.

On the security side, the product demonstrates its focus on multiple platforms by offering a variety of authentication modules, including NIS, LDAP, Oracle, and ODBC. SSL v2.0 and v3.0, and TLS 1.0 are supported as well, making ERS a good fit for a variety of clients across just about any platform.

With the optional Covalent FTP module, the product also authenticates and authorizes FTP transactions, bringing another common Internet protocol under a single management and configuration umbrella, a nice option for far-flung development environments.

On the management side, Covalent offers the Covalent Management Portal (CMP), an SSL-hardened, Web-based front end for configuration and management tasks. CMP provides an interface to multiple (Covalent claims anywhere from one to "hundreds" of) servers. Rather than simply granting administrative privileges to anyone with a password, CMP enables administrators to delegate servers and tasks to specific users.

CMP provides setup features with a graphical one-stop configuration tool that includes JavaServer Pages, Java Servlet Support, mod_perl, SSL, DAV, mod_proxy, and SNMP support. Once configuration is complete, CMP performs a validation function to ensure the server is good to go. This feature is especially useful for administrators who are more comfortable making configuration tweaks by hand.

Once the server is up and running, CMP allows remote graceful restarts and provides a page with real-time performance statistics that includes the total number of server threads, uptime, and traffic in bytes per minute.

ERS also has its eye on the administrator who's feeling cautious about upgrading from Apache 1.3, which remains a ubiquitous Web workhorse: With the Covalent-developed mod_compat, modules from the older version may continue to be used until modules are developed for Apache 2.0.

At $1,495 per CPU, ERS is hardly inexpensive, especially when the 25 percent annual maintenance service fee to keep the product updated with all the latest patches is figured in. One should keep in mind, however, that ERS does offer an immense amount of value-add backed by a company heavily invested in the Apache development process, and that is therefore able to deliver competent, expert support should the need arise.

Pros: Good support for a variety of platforms; Apache management and configuration is handled through a configuration tool; Integrated FTP services; Configuration auditor
Cons: Expensive; Limited Linux support, depending on the distribution

Reviewed by: Michael Hall
Original Review Date: 7/15/2003
Original Review Version: 2.0