Zeus Web Server: An enterprise-strength Web server with outstanding performance and management characteristics.
Zeus Web Server is an enterprise-class product, with a corresponding price, in a space crowded with open source and ostensibly free products. Does the Web server have what it takes to command the high price tag?
The price tag on Zeus Technology’s Web server causes it to immediately stand out in a gaggle of Web servers. One could say its initial licensing fee of $1,700 for up to two physical CPUs serves as a barrier of entry, immediately separating Zeus Web Server from the open source and ostensibly free products that crowd this space.
Zeus Web Server was designed and developed to fit a range of demanding needs: performance, reliability, security, management, and support. That it successfully provides these things in an enterprise-class product is not only an element of marketing, but also its distinguishing feature.
Zeus Web Server runs on operating systems (i.e., Linux and Unix) for which free and near-free Web servers are the norm and satisfy the general market. Proof of this is evident in the numbers: Apache, according to the monthly Netcraft Web server survey, accounts for 67 percent of all Web server deployments, whereas Zeus Web Server accounts for about 1 percent.
This muddies the cost/value proposition picture and begs the obvious question: What market is Zeus Web Server after, and what value does it add to warrant its high price point?
The answer to the first question is, naturally, the multiserver, mission-critical enterprise market. The answer to the second question will be addressed in this review.
One could say that performance makes a tremendous difference, and Zeus does say that. It claims not to be the fastest rabbit out of the hole, but that it makes the most out of any hardware and posts impressive performance metrics while doing so.
However, Web server performance as a metric is controversial. What is less controversial, and perhaps more important, is the way Zeus Web Server was designed and developed to fit a range of demanding needs: performance, reliability, security, management, and support. That it successfully provides these things in an enterprise-class product is not only an element of marketing, but also its distinguishing feature.
The Power of Virtuality
Installation and configuration of a “typical” Web server is not (to be trite) rocket science. If Microsoft can stealth install IIS during an installation of a Windows server, then you can expect other Web servers to not require elaborate installation. Zeus Web Server is designed for enterprises with many nonstandard configurations, where most of the people doing the configuring know their way around a Unix/Linux command line interface. We found our basic knowledge necessary when installing and configuring Zeus, but an in-depth background was not needed.
The documentation for Zeus Web Server is clear and concise, bordering on terse, even. However, when we found ourselves in a bind, we were able to find plenty of online support for troubleshooting. As the company has been around a while, it has developed a significant body of support information as well as a user community.
Configuring a Zeus Web Server begins with creation of one or more Virtual Servers (a single server machine may theoretically have 10,000 Virtual Servers). This and almost all other administrative tasks are handled by the Zeus Administration Server with browser access. Virtual Servers may also have Subservers that usually correspond to Web sites and are created by simply adding a new directory under the document root of the Virtual Server. The tools Zeus provides lend themselves to the management of large numbers of both Virtual Servers and Subservers (e.g., template configurations), which should be expected of a product designed for enterprise Web sites, ISPs, and Web hosting.
Performance on an individual machine level is a priority for Zeus that has resulted in it having a running battle with Apache aficionados. Like most Web servers, Zeus uses various tricks with threading, queues, and cache to maximize throughput and response time. Benchmark tests over the years tend to support its claims. Zeus Web Server works well on older servers (one of our test machines was a near-ancient 300 MHz Dell), even when a small footprint is necessary (15 MB of disk space, 32 MB of RAM).
The Cluster Conundrum
Cluster management is clearly the direction Zeus is taking to not only distinguish itself from the Apache crowd, but also to find a niche in which to be profitable.
While the debate over performance of an individual server may go on forever, there is no question that for the truly heavy-duty environment, multiple servers are needed, and often a server farm. For that, organizing servers into clusters becomes critical. From our experience, this is where products like Zeus earn their stripes and, with that, the right to charge for the product. Zeus more or less assumes it will be deployed on multiple Web servers with multiple virtual servers and multiple Web sites.
As a result, the server features one of the easiest systems for creating a cluster that we’ve seen. It’s mostly automatic: Install Zeus Web Server, minus the Administration Server, on another machine; give this server the port name of the previously installed Administration Server; check to see if this machine is visible to the Administration Server; create Virtual Servers and Subservers. Repeat as needed.
By default, Zeus Web Server uses round-robin load balancing for the clustered servers. As this is inadequate in most cases, Zeus Technology offers Zeus Extensible Traffic Manager as a major add-on product. Extensible Traffic Manager performs sophisticated load-balancing and traffic management. Cluster management is clearly the direction Zeus is taking to not only distinguish itself from the Apache crowd, but also to find a niche in which to be profitable.