A Powerful Serve

Zeus is pricey, but its strengths justify the costs

The thunderous performance of Zeus Technology Ltd.s namesake Web server may be what attracts the most attention, but Zeus Web Server 3.3.8 also provides a host of other strong features that make it one of the top enterprise-level Web servers eWeek Labs has seen.

Zeus 3.3.8, released last month, proved to be a very flexible and highly configurable Web server—one with the scalability and power to run the busiest, most demanding Web sites.

In this version, Zeus has added support for the Macintosh OS X operating system, making it one of the first enterprise applications to provide a version for the newly enterprise-ready Mac OS. As did its predecessors, Zeus 3.3.8 runs on Linux and pretty much every variety of Unix; Windows platforms remain unsupported.

Although Zeus grabbed less than 4 percent of the Web server market in the latest Netcraft survey, some of the biggest Internet service providers and content sites on the Internet rely on Zeus servers. And although the $1,699 Zeus does compete heavily with the free Apache Web server, which commands a 60 percent market share and runs on even more operating systems, its more direct competitor is the similarly priced iPlanet Enterprise Server.

We ran usability and performance tests on Zeus 3.3.8 running on RedHat Inc.s RedHat Linux 7.0 and on Mac OS X. Tests included building and managing a site with static and dynamic content, plus performance tests against Apache 1.3 on both systems. For the performance tests, we used RadView Software Inc.s WebLoad 4.5.

Users accustomed to Apache and its configuration files will be impressed by Zeus intuitive and very capable browser-based management interface. From this vantage point, we could centrally administer multiple servers as well as define most server settings. The Zeus interface may lack the wealth of options found in the iPlanet browser interface, but its cleaner and easier to navigate. Also, administrators who prefer direct editing of Web server configuration files still have that option in Zeus.

Massive SPECweb tests have been released that reveal Zeus 3.3.8s performance capabilities, especially on multiple CPU systems and with many thousands of simultaneous connections. The tests performed in eWeek Labs were by necessity more modest (maxing at 1,000 simultaneous connections and on less hefty machines), but the results still showed that Zeus 3.3.8 maintains an edge over its Apache rival, especially at higher load levels.

Running on the Linux system (a 550MHz Pentium III CPU with 384MB of RAM), Zeus 3.3.8 maintained a small edge over the Apache server at low-load levels, but as the load approached 1,000 connections, the Apache system slowed considerably, while Zeus 3.3.8 had a much smaller performance drop.

On the Mac OS X system (a 667MHz PowerMac G4 with 256MB of RAM), the Apache server actually had a small edge at first, but Zeus 3.3.8 passed it at higher-load levels. (According to Zeus, Apple Computer Inc. made several last-minute changes to OS X and Zeus had to send us a second build that lacked some features that would affect performance.)

On a related note, the high level of performance both the Apache and Zeus servers achieved during the Mac OS X tests was very similar to their respective performance under Linux, suggesting that the Mac OS is finally a legitimate option for enterprise-level servers.

For Web application development, Zeus Web Server 3.3.8 supports pretty much everything, from JavaServer Pages to PHP to Zope. In fact, the server can use many of the same modules that Apache uses.