ServersTaking on the World With Sun Java System Web Server

Taking on the World With Sun Java System Web Server

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Sun Java System Web Server: A top-notch, Java-based industrial-strength Web server

Or at least the Web. Sun’s recently renamed Java System Web Server is a top-notch, Java-based industrial-strength Web server ideal for enterprises seeking a server as reliable as its rip speed.

The Sun Java System Web Server (formerly Sun ONE Web Server) builds on a long line of industrial-strength Web servers running on an industrial-strength operating system — Solaris. The latest version, 6.1, is available for x86 Solaris, Red Hat Linux, HP-UX 11i, IBM AIX, and even Windows, but most users will probably opt for Solaris on SPARC version for its operating system stability, which is as critical as Web server stability in business-critical applications.

The Web server provides a wealth of enterprise- and ISP-level features, including granular assignment of administration rights, high security, extensive reporting and logging functions, support for many virtual domains, and scalability and high availability through support for clustering.

We tested the Sun Java System Web Server on a Sun Fire V210 server dual-processor system with two UltraSPARC IIIi 1 GHz processors, 4 GB of RAM, four 10/100/100 Ethernet ports, and hardware SSL acceleration (available for about $5,000). Performance was impressive, rivaling a dual-processor Xeon 2.8 GHz system running SUSE Linux and the Apache Web server, even without the SSL accelerator. With SSL acceleration performance was superb. Performance is also helped by the Network Cache and Accelerator (NCA), which boosts performance by maintaining an in-kernel cache of Web pages accessed.

Adding similar SSL acceleration capabilities to an Intel system adds from $600 to $1,500 to the system price, which brings the equivalent hardware up to a comparable price for either SPARC or Intel. On the other hand, the price of $1,495 per CPU for the Sun Java System Web Server is a great deal more than that of Apache, although it is comparable to the cost of using Windows Server 2000 or 2003 with IIS.

Administration of version 6.1 is far simpler than previous versions. The Web server is administered through a browser-based console, which provides a clean, easy-to-use GUI interface for configuring, managing, and monitoring the Web server. Administration of tasks can be delegated at a very granular level, allowing ISPs or corporate data centers to grant specific rights to local sys admins while keeping control of the more dangerous functions. Monitoring and reporting functions have also been improved, with SNMP and e-mail notification easy to configure. A wealth of reports are also available for all aspects of Web server performance.

Security is a prime consideration in Web environments, and in this regard Sun aids administrators by disabling all access by default. Thus, access rights must be specifically granted, rather than the administrator needing to search for potential security holes. The Web server includes support for SSLv2, SSLv3, TLS 1.0, and X.509 digital certificates, as well as PKCS #11, FIPS-140, and 168-bit, step-up certificates. Certificate-to-LDAP mapping enables administrators to create different SSL and other security parameters for each virtual server and enables role-based security settings. CGI scripts can be run with different user IDs, enabling different security settings for different scripts. Access control lists (ACLs) can also be maintained by a virtual server or with one file for all servers.

Sun provides built-in support for Web farms or virtual clusters, including management views through the console, sharing of configuration information among the servers in a cluster, and HTTP 1.1 persistent connection handling across clusters. Servers can be dynamically configured and replicated easily to create dynamic clusters. Process monitoring and automatic failover and restarts mean clustered environments can be kept at maximum performance without the need for human intervention.

For developers, the Sun Java System Web Server supports not only Java Servlets and JavaServer Pages (as would be expected), but also Active Server Pages 3.0 (VBScript/JScript 5.5), NSAPI, CGI, CFML, WebDAV, and PHP. A built-in Java runtime is included with JDK 1.4.1_04 and JDBC 3.0 support, along with connection pooling, the Java Naming and Directory Interface 1.1 API, and JavaBeans. A built-in search engine is included as well.

Overall, the Sun Java System Web Server is hard to beat for large and dynamic corporate or ISP environments. Its array of enterprise-class features, rock-solid stability and performance, and secure environment provides an excellent platform for Web development.

Pros: Feature-rich Web server that is heavy-duty and reliable, especially on the Solaris operating system;
Scalable with clustering and failover features;
Support for lots of development standards — ASP as well as JSP, CGI, PHP, SHTML, and WebDAV;
Free developer edition for evaluation or nonproduction use
Cons: Relatively expensive

Reviewed by: Logan Harbaugh
Original Review Date: 11/26/2003
Original Review Version: 6.1

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