More than 1,000 Apache developers and users gathered at ApacheCon 2000 in Orlando last week to discuss — among other things — the progress the Apache Web server is making towards World Domination. A series of sessions on the PHP and Perl scripting languages, for example, went under the tongue-in-cheek title “World Domination Heroes.” Behind the levity, however, was the knowledge that Apache does indeed hold a commanding position in the world of Web servers. In the opening plenary, while members of the Apache Software Foundation took questions from the audience, ASF vice president Ken Coar casually displayed on an overhead screen the Netcraft Web site, which monitors Web server software use on the Internet. Apache holds a commanding lead, running nearly 60% of the servers on the Internet. Microsoft’s IIS was a distant second, with around 20%. Apache 2.0 — which was released in alpha on the conference’s final day — will likely widen Apache’s lead still further. Among other features, the new release incorporates an improved approach to threading on Unix, which means a single Web server can now potentially handle thousands of users. Another change, called the Apache Portable Runtime, or APR, moves platform-specific code out of the core Apache code and into modules. That will allow the use of native Windows calls on Microsoft platforms, boosting Apache’s performance in serving static pages on Windows by as much as 150%, according to Bill Stoddard, a development manager at IBM and ASF developer. Earlier versions of Apache required non-Unix platforms like BeOS and Windows to use POSIX-emulation functions that hurt performance. While Apache’s scalability on Unix should be greatly improved, Stoddard does not expect Apache 2.0 to see much of a performance boost on Unix. In response to an audience question, Stoddard added that Apache 2.0 will compile and serve Web pages on Windows 2000 but it has not received any testing yet on that platform.
A Meeting of the Minds
Unlike the recent LinuxWorld conference in New York, which had a huge show floor and was accompanied by a veritable tidal of press announcements from various vendors, ApacheCon 2000 was billed as a conference for developers. For many attendees, like Ben Laurie, director of London-based A. L. Digital Ltd., and an Apache Software Foundation board member, the chance to talk to fellow Apache developers in person was a high point of the meeting. “I’ve been working with Apache for five or six years — since version 0.9.11 — and until this meeting I hadn’t met a lot of my fellow ASF board members,” he says. Others conference-goers came looking not only to network with other Apache users but to pick up useful information as well. David Veatch, for example, an Internet developer at a bank in Kansas City, Mo., went home satisfied in that regard. He found a talk on Apache security “extremely enlightening.” Among the topics discussed there was a potential security hole in the Secure Sockets Layer encryption process in Apache.
Apache meets Comanche
There was also plenty of new technology to see at the conference. In the Covalent Technologies’ booth, for example, developer Daniel Lopez Ridruejo was demonstrating Comanche, a slick Open Source graphical tool for managing Apache Servers. Comanche stores configuration information about the Apache server in XML. That allows administrators to make changes manually, if they wish. It also makes it straightforward to add support for new Apache modules, as well as for other Open Source products. A Comanche plug-in for administering Samba has already been written. According to a study conducted late last year, some 23% of Apache servers on the Web use PHP. Zend Technologies, based in Ramat Gan, Israel, took advantage of the conference to announce its Zend Optimizer for PHP, which the company says can speed up Web applications by 40 to 100 percent. Available for free at www.zend.com, the optimizer makes several passes through the code, optimizing different elements each time. The company plans to release later this year other PHP performance tools, including a script caching module which stores a compiled version of PHP scripts in an Apache server’s memory, thereby reducing processing time. Also at the conference, Collab.Net announced the release of a test suite framework for the Apache Web server. Sponsored by Hewlett-Packard, the testing framework is the first product to come out of sourceXchange, Collab.Net’s online exchange for Open Source development projects. Apache developers will be able to use the test framework to determine if a new build of the Apache server is functioning correctly. It will also serve Webmasters, by showing them if a new Web site is working as expected. The Apache Software Foundation announced plans at the conference for ApacheCon Europe, to be held in London, October 23-25, 2000.