Covalent gets Apache Enterprise Ready

Upgrade brings new ease of use to popular Web server, but may be overkill in one-server shops

Covalent Technologies Inc.s Enterprise Ready Server 2.1 takes the popular, powerful Apache Web server and adds much-needed management and configuration features that help to make Apache more attractive to large enterprise Web operations.

Enterprise Ready Server 2.1, which shipped this month, takes special advantage of the recent release of Apache 2.0 (click for eWeek Labs April 15 review of Apache 2.0) through a new Windows implementation. Using Enterprise Ready Server, businesses can take advantage of Apache and move away from Microsoft Corp.s IIS (Internet Information Services) without having to learn how to configure and manage Apache through .conf files.

With Covalents Enterprise Ready Server, companies can easily build customized implementations and then manage them through an intuitive and secure browser-based management interface.

In tests, we found Enterprise Ready Server to be a very useful and powerful management layer for the Apache Web server, not only easing basic configuration and management chores, but also making it very easy to implement features that typically involve complex scripting. Probably the biggest weakness in Covalents Enterprise Ready Server is that its main component is the powerful, free open-source Apache Web server. And although those just moving to Apache will find Covalent to be very attractive, especially in large multi-server environments, many current Apache users, especially those that dont want or need a management interface, will be comfortable sticking with .conf files.

At $1,495 the Enterprise Ready Server 2.1 is priced in line with competing products such as Sun Microsystems Inc.s Sun One Web Server (formerly the iPlanet Enterprise Server) and Zeus Technology Ltd.s Zeus Web Server. However, in the case of these competing products, companies are purchasing the entire Web server, rather than just a management layer for an open-source product.

Many companies will find a lot to like in Covalents Enterprise Ready Server update, especially sites that manage a lot of servers. However, despite the nice added management features and streamlined installs, sites with single server implementations may be better off learning how to manage Apache as is.

Managing just fine

We found the browser-based management portal in the Enterprise Ready Server to be very intuitive and capable. When accessing the interface from a remote system the entire management session is done through a secure SSL connection. This greatly reduces, although it doesnt remove, the potential security risks inherent in remote administration.

In the management interface it was simple to carry out standard administration tasks, such as creating virtual servers or directories. Some of the best features were those that greatly eased tasks that are usually difficult in Apache, such as adding new modules or receiving alerts for specific server activity--something that typically would require creating a cron job.

Another welcome feature added by the Enterprise Ready Server is advanced log management, which makes it possible to quickly combine logs from multiple servers. This upgrade also includes excellent real-time monitoring capabilities.

Like competing Web servers, such as the Sun One Web Server, the Enterprise Ready Server can handle both standard access control and advanced session user authentication. In addition to using standard Apache access mechanisms, such as .htaccess files, the Enterprise Ready Server can also leverage external authentication sources such as LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) directories.

Besides the Apache Web Server, the Covalent Enterprise Ready Server includes a number of other applications within its installation, including the Tomcat Java Server Page server. Covalent also has its own FTP server, which can be optionally added to the Enterprise Ready Server.