1. Apache Web Server –
Ready for the Enterprise
D.H. Brown Associates, Inc.
222 Grace Church Street
Port Chester, NY 10573
Fax: (914) 937-2485
May 23, 2001
Copyright 2001 D.H. Brown Associates, Inc. 1
2. Apache Web Server – Ready for the Enterprise
TABLE OF CONTENTS
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY...................................................................................................................................... 3
APACHE – OPEN SOURCE TECHNOLOGY APPLIED TO TODAY’S BUSINESS PROBLEMS .................... 4
APACHE – READY FOR THE ENTERPRISE ..................................................................................................... 6
APACHE – LEADERSHIP APPLICATION AREAS ............................................................................................ 8
APPLICATION SERVERS........................................................................................................................................ 8
CORPORATE W EB INFRASTRUCTURE .................................................................................................................... 8
APACHE – EXPERIENCED IN THE ENTERPRISE.......................................................................................... 10
APACHE AT A LARGE FINANCIAL INSTITUTION ...................................................................................................... 10
APACHE AT A LARGE HEALTH INSTITUTION .......................................................................................................... 11
Copyright 2001 D.H. Brown Associates, Inc. 2
3. Apache Web Server – Ready for the Enterprise
Apache Web Server –
Ready for the Enterprise
Although to many “open source” is synonymous with “Linux,” the Apache project is
acknowledged to be the most successful open-source project to date. Apache can trace its roots
to the NCSA University of Illinois project written by Rob McCool. When McCool left to work
for Netscape, a group of eight volunteers picked up from where he left off. From this modest
beginning, the Apache project has evolved far beyond the confines of a standard web server, with
a collection of offerings that today exemplify a leading web-deployment platform including Java
Server Pages (JSP) and servlets support.
In 1995, Apache was generally regarded as falling short of the demands of the enterprise
customer. The technology was freely available, but incomplete. The Open Source Software (OSS)
model was suspect. Performance was perceived to be slow. Support was something one did for
oneself, or with luck, the problem might be deemed interesting enough by a collection of
engineers for them to provide support. Certainly, this was not software on which one would bet
the success of a business.
But Apache continued to evolve. In 1996, Apache displaced the NCSA web server and became
the most widely used web server in the world. In 1998, Apache acquired a formidable backer,
IBM, who chose Apache as the core technology of its WebSphere product line, and entered into
an agreement with the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) to lend ongoing development support
to the project. Other companies, such as Sun, HP, Compaq, and Apple today ship Apache along
with their operating systems.
Enterprise customers are taking notice that the world has changed. The OSS model has proven
itself successful. Demand for a fully functional, open-source web server has accelerated the
acceptance of Apache technology at a rate unmet by competing proprietary offerings. For the last
three years, Apache’s share of servers outside of the firewall as shown by Netcraft1 has increased
at an approximate compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.5%, contrasted with no change
to Microsoft IIS, and an average Netscape/iPlanet decline of 12.5% per year. This demand has
spawned the birth of companies supplying the support, accountability, and solution infrastructure,
which enables the complete solutions required by the enterprise customer. Additionally, this same
Netcraft survey shows that today Apache operates on 62% of the websites surveyed, with its
nearest competitor being Microsoft IIS at 20%. This means there is a readily available supply of
Apache skills in the industry.
Apache solutions and vendors exist who can meet the needs of enterprise customers at
significantly lower cost. Apache solutions offer flexibility, simplicity, and manageability not
available from competing proprietary solutions.
1 See http://www.netcraft.com/survey/, Market Share for Top Servers Across All Domains, August 1995 - April 2001. Netcraft
polls approximately 28.7 million internet-connected servers; this excludes servers behind (primarily corporate) firewalls.
Copyright 2001 D.H. Brown Associates, Inc. 3
4. Apache Web Server – Ready for the Enterprise
APACHE – OPEN SOURCE TECHNOLOGY
APPLIED TO TODAY’S BUSINESS PROBLEMS
Apache is a premier example of technology available under the OSS model. As such, its
development has been rapid. There is a large and growing community, developing Apache in
areas of consumer interest, on any platform with a following. Influential members of the Apache
community claim that the high degree of customization required to implement most web
applications makes Apache a better choice than other competing “monolithic” products, since its
modularity makes it more flexible and easier to extend.
The Apache project consists of dozens of modules that implement and expand the web-server’s
capabilities, notably including Jakarta (Java-Apache), XML and the industry-standard Tomcat JSP
and servlet engine. These components have been readily packaged into integrated application-
server suites by Covalent, a leading Apache company.
The Apache technology is proven, building on the successes of those on the front line. Leading-
edge sites running Apache include Amazon, Apple, Cisco, CNET, Iomega, Macromedia,
MapQuest, Yahoo!,and many more.
Unlike proprietary software, new releases of Apache are tested by thousands of people, which
leads to more stable releases. In contrast to proprietary software where revenue and marketing
constraints drive releases, new versions of Apache are released when the software is ready. The
ASF is serious about the correctness of its software, as exemplified by this quotation:
Apache exists to provide a robust and commercial-grade reference implementation of the
HTTP protocol. It must remain a platform upon which individuals and institutions can
build reliable systems, both for experimental purposes and for mission-critical purposes.2
As a direct result, Apache is a stable, dependable, standards-based technology that does not fail.
According to Ryan Bloom, one of the lead developers of Apache 2.0, implementations of Apache
on common platforms experience only a handful of confirmed significant bugs each year, which
tend to be fixed within 2-4 weeks. On new platforms, bugs tend to relate to porting issues.
The version of Apache currently under development (2.0) continues this theme of stability and
maintainability. Version 2.0 has been re-architected with a focus on both portability and
maintainability. The mission of the Apache Portable Runtime project is to isolate the operating-
system interface to a library of C data structures and routines. There is also a test suite exercising
the functionality required for Apache, which will serve to speed development and debugging for
Apache is designed with simplicity and flexibility in mind. Thanks to Robert Thau’s contributions
of a modular structure and Application Programming Interface (API) for better extensibility,
thousands of developers have created modules for Apache that cover almost any kind of
functionality that would be needed by any company. With this modular design, users can plug in
the functionality they need, resulting in highly optimized solutions ranging from a lightning-fast
static server to a fully functional e-commerce server.
For previous versions of Apache, raw performance numbers have been cited, typically comparing
an out-of-the-box version of Apache to a vendor’s highly tuned benchmarking special. Not
surprisingly, these numbers showed Apache at a disadvantage. And indeed, “Apache is a general
web server, which is designed to be correct first, and fast second.3”
2 See http://httpd.apache.org/ABOUT_APACHE.html.
3 See http://httpd.apache.org/docs/misc/perf-tuning.html.
Copyright 2001 D.H. Brown Associates, Inc. 4
5. Apache Web Server – Ready for the Enterprise
Even so, in real-world applications, Apache’s performance was usually on par with competing
implementations. Most sites have less than 10 Mbits/second (the speed of a standard Ethernet
connection) of outgoing bandwidth. Apache can fill this running on a single low-end Pentium-
based machine. Sites with more bandwidth tend to require more machines due to other
considerations such as CGI or database transaction overhead. Since Apache performance was
rarely the bottleneck, the development focus had been mostly on correctness and configurability,
items of crucial interest to enterprise customers.
In the development of the current version, Apache 1.3, performance was enhanced to the point
where there is minimal difference with other high-end web servers.
Copyright 2001 D.H. Brown Associates, Inc. 5
6. Apache Web Server – Ready for the Enterprise
APACHE – READY FOR THE ENTERPRISE
It’s common for CIOs, CTOs, and IT managers at enterprise shops to have significant
reservations about Open Source Software, especially when making decisions about mission-
critical infrastructure applications. IT decision-makers tend to be risk-adverse, and typically focus
on the following concerns:
• Can I obtain support for this software?
• Who is obligated to fix problems with the software?
• Is this software high quality? Is it well documented? How stable is the project?
Good answers to these concerns level the playing field.
The answers to these OSS-specific concerns are widely debated, and differ among the various
OSS projects. Enterprise customers operate at a different level where only one answer is
acceptable. OSS or any software must offer the support, accountability, documentation, and
stability to serve the entire organization.
For Apache, the news is good. World-class service and support are available. The ASF website
currently lists 16 companies or consultants who offer commercial support for Apache.4 Primary
among these are,
• Covalent. With seven ASF members on staff (and three of the nine ASF board members),
Covalent has made a significant investment and commitment to supporting the stability and
quality of the Apache project. Covalent offers a wealth of products: server software,
including Covalent Secure Server, Commerce Server, Managed Server and Fast Start Server;
and Apache plug-ins, including Covalent SSL, AntiVirus, Intrusion Detection, and SNMP.
Its service offerings include consulting, training, support, and system-integration services.
• IBM. IBM has four ASF members on staff to make significant contributions, such as
improved performance on Windows NT, and to provide technical support. Additionally,
these team members and others at IBM ensure that Apache is a leading solution for the
enterprise. IBM’s WebSphere product line features Apache as its web server.
For Enterprise customers, the evaluation then moves on to the following business concerns:
• Is this software reliable? According to the Netcraft “Sites with longest running systems by
average uptime in the last 90 days” uptime survey, which covers the 50 most-requested sites,5
as of May 12, 2001, all ten of the top ten sites and 45 of the top 50 run Apache.
• How scalable is this software? Apache can run on any hardware, from an old Intel 486 to a
Sun UE-10000 or a Compaq GS-320. Unlike web servers based on “shared nothing”
operating systems, Apache lends itself well to load sharing in multi-server environments.
Scalability is a common topic for papers presented at ApacheCon.6
• How manageable is this software? Apache web servers can drop right into any corporate
network-management infrastructure that supports a standard SNMP MIB, such as those
based on HP OpenView, CA Unicenter and Tivoli. Junior staff members are especially likely
to be familiar with Apache, since nearly every college and university uses it. Books on
Apache can be found at nearly every bookstore. IT specialists who want to learn on their
own time appreciate access to the code.
4 See http://www.apache.org/info/support.cgi.
5 See http://uptime.netcraft.com/up/today/top.avg.html.
6 See http://www.awe.com/mark/apcon2000/apachecon2000.pdf. Apache e-Commerce Solutions, Cox & Thorpe, ApacheCon
2000, Florida. This paper is just one example of how to build and deploy reliable large-scale systems using Apache.
Copyright 2001 D.H. Brown Associates, Inc. 6
7. Apache Web Server – Ready for the Enterprise
• Is this software secure? The modular nature of Apache allows problems to be isolated easily
and fixed quickly. Source-code availability leverages thousands of users looking at a problem
and proposing fixes, rather than having to wait on a few overworked support engineers.
Indeed, vulnerability to security holes in unneeded/unwanted features is eliminated, since
Apache can be customized to include only required functionality, unlike software available
from other vendors.
Although cost tends to be the most visible advantage of OSS, cost only comes into play for
enterprise customers after the concerns discussed above are addressed. But this benefit can be
significant, especially considering that application-server licenses for large or replicated
deployments can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. Apache leverages this
cost benefit. A customer’s funds are better spent on tailoring the product to a specific need,
rather than on functionality, which is becoming a commodity.
Another benefit is vendor independence. Infrastructure choices are critical, since a change in
infrastructure has significant repercussions on the applications running on it. Consider the
enormous costs to users (and ensuing bad will) generated by vendors who go out of business, or
who drop support of a product. Many vendors offer support for Apache including Covalent,
IBM, Red Hat, HP, Compaq, VA Linux Systems, and many others.
In the past, only the largest customers have been able to negotiate source-code escrow
agreements with vendors to assure that the source code will always be available. Now, everyone
who uses Apache has the source code continuously available. In the unlikely event that the worst
happens, and part or all of the Apache OSS projects are abandoned or do not enhance areas of
interest to a particular customer, they can always make arrangements to support and enhance
projects themselves, or work with one of the third parties mentioned above.
The last major benefit is that Apache, by definition, is more extensible than proprietary web
servers, as anyone (including customers, supporting vendors, or even independent engineers who
want to make a name for themselves in the community) can add functionality.
IT managers, CIOs and architects should consider putting Apache on their short list of viable
solutions. Indeed, Apache exists in many enterprises already, usually brought in at the department
level first where there are technical skills to deploy web servers. But its potential as a viable open-
source solution is far greater.
Copyright 2001 D.H. Brown Associates, Inc. 7
8. Apache Web Server – Ready for the Enterprise
APACHE – LEADERSHIP APPLICATION AREAS
E-commerce servers based on Apache are widely used in the industry, taking their place as back-
end servers to a variety of web storefronts. Nearly all modern e-commerce software and
techniques are available on Apache, including web-application servers based on J2EE. IBM has
chosen Apache to be the foundation of WebSphere. Other products that support Apache include
BEA WebLogic, iPlanet, Oracle, Silverstream, HP Bluestone, and OSS Enhydra.
The Enhydra project is the most visible open-source application server available today. The
software is an outgrowth of work done by Lutris during the early days of e-business application
development. Lutris now offers two versions of this application server: the OSS version, and an
inexpensive commercial version for which it provides additional features, testing, and support.
Enhydra supports Java servlets, Java Server Pages, and Enterprise Java Beans (EJB).
Enterprise customers use Apache with Tomcat to offload their expensive commercial-application
servers, especially with stand-alone servlet applications and JSP applications, which do not make
use of custom-tag libraries. These inexpensive front-end systems connect easily to and interact
with larger Java 2 Enterprise Edition application servers and databases on the back-end of an
CORPORATE WEB INFRASTRUCTURE
For enterprise customers, their web infrastructure presents significant potential problems, starting
with their large size. A complex of systems, legacy applications, and new applications running on
a mix of new and old hardware and software from many different vendors challenges the IT
department to keep it all running. In addition new capabilities, which are added as they come
along, increase the complexity.
The following Apache strengths provide viable solutions for these concerns.
APACHE IS AN OPEN STANDARDS-BASED SOLUTION
Apache runs on the majority of platforms available today. It is supported on over 160 variants of
UNIX, and such proprietary operating systems as OS/400, OpenVMS, all versions of Windows
since V3.0, Netware, MAC/OS, and OS/2. Additional platforms are opening as well. IT
departments can standardize on Apache (and thereby lessen their complexity and support costs),
regardless of other platforms in use.
APACHE SOLUTIONS ARE MANAGEABLE
Apache web servers can participate in any corporate network-management infrastructure that
supports a standard SNMP MIB, such as those based on HP OpenView, CA Unicenter, and
Third-party vendors such as Covalent offer GUI-based management tools and installation tools
to improve manageability.
Copyright 2001 D.H. Brown Associates, Inc. 8
9. Apache Web Server – Ready for the Enterprise
APACHE IS EASY TO ACQUIRE, AND THE PRICE IS RIGHT
In the corporate web infrastructure, one size does not fit all. A web server might serve the casual
needs of an individual or department, or might support a business-critical application, or any
range of needs in between. Apache web servers come in all sizes, from the free, unsupported
download for an individual, to the fully supported 24x7 application server. There is no need to
worry about the cost and management of licensing; the software is freely available. Additional
expenditures for capability and support can be considered and justified on a case-by-case basis;
with Apache, there is no requirement to buy unneeded capability or support.
Copyright 2001 D.H. Brown Associates, Inc. 9
10. Apache Web Server – Ready for the Enterprise
APACHE – EXPERIENCED IN THE ENTERPRISE
Part of any evaluation of the suitability of Apache for enterprise customers is the experiences of
those who are currently using it.
APACHE AT A LARGE FINANCIAL INSTITUTION
We interviewed the Assistant Vice President for Web Services of an infrastructure group for a
large, multi-national financial institution. This executive’s choice of an Apache supplier is
Covalent. 70% of the web servers in the enterprise are Apache. This executive chooses Apache
• A pac he i s sta bl e. It is the best UNIX solution available for this primarily Sun/Solaris
• Apache provides the best reliability and uptime. Downtime is to be avoided. Hence, rebooting
on a weekly basis (or more often) is not an option. Apache web servers do not hang and
their performance does not deteriorate over time.
• A pac he i s sta nd ard . The institution’s standard browsers are certified builds of both
Internet Explorer and Netscape. Web pages need to be compatible with both. The
availability of non-standard, proprietary HTML extensions threaten to introduce
• Apache’s fl ex ib il ity i s appealing. Although this vice president is a personal believer in OSS,
corporate policy mandates that all software be purchased from a vendor who will be
accountable for that software, and who will provide maintenance. Covalent provides this
Although 70% of the web servers in the enterprise are Apache, this executive has experience
running many different web servers, including IIS, iPlanet, WebSphere, and WebLogic.
Experience has shown that not only are acquisition costs lower for Apache, but on-going
maintenance costs are lower as well, since the infrastructure group is not forced to buy unneeded
functionality and support.
But cost is perceived to be a secondary benefit. Apache’s reliability, scalability, and leverage of
experience are the primary benefits.
This executive’s experience has shown Apache’s performance in handling its share of the four to
five million hits per day load is on par with the other platforms being used. When performance
problems are experienced, the bottleneck has been in the network.
It is clear that without a company like Covalent, Apache would never be used in this institution, if
for no other reason than the corporate requirements of accountability and maintenance.
But this vice president perceives additional value from the relationship with Covalent:
• Covalent has a high level of acknowledged Apache expertise, led by its seven ASF members.
• Unlike other higher-profile software companies, Covalent will listen to good ideas. It is
appealing to be able to influence Apache development.
• Due to their leading position in Apache development, Covalent knows and shares where the
industry and product are most likely headed, lessening the risk of making poor technology-
• Covalent fosters a s en s e o f c om m u nity . Experiences and possible solutions to common
problems are shared.
Copyright 2001 D.H. Brown Associates, Inc. 10
11. Apache Web Server – Ready for the Enterprise
APACHE AT A LARGE HEALTH INSTITUTION
We also interviewed the Director of e-Business Infrastructure of a large, multi-national institution
specializing in health and health-related products and services.
Apache has been a corporate standard at this institution for approximately three years. Their
initial motivation to change was due to performance problems with their previous web-server
platform. The change to Apache solved their performance problems. Performance has been fine
Today, the Director perceives Apache to be the best product available. The most valued Apache
features are its source availability, modularity, customizability, and the ease of integrating back-
end database applications. And although this institution has a standard hardware platform for web
servers, the fact that Apache is available on a wide range of platforms is perceived as highly
The Director is not a believer in OSS per se, but rather a believer in excellent software. In the
director’s view, as in the rest of the industry, some OSS software is better than others. But the
OSS value proposition of source code availability has proven crucial to solving problems in the
Covalent’s products and services are currently being piloted at the institution. The institution
requires support and easily-installed, prepackaged, and tested distributions. Covalent products and
services meet these needs.
Copyright 2001 D.H. Brown Associates, Inc. 11
12. Apache Web Server – Ready for the Enterprise
This is a good time to consider Apache. Apache solutions and vendors exist which can meet the
needs of enterprise customers and at significantly lower cost. Secure Apache solutions offer
flexibility, simplicity, and manageability not available from competing proprietary solutions.
Copyright 2001 D.H. Brown Associates, Inc. 12