Sun Java System Web Server

Sun Java System Web Server is a piece of software I’ve used for nearly 10 years now — since the days when it was called iPlanet.

Not too long ago version 7 was released. it’s free to download and use, so anyone reading this can go give it a try. I’ve been playing around with it myself so it’s on my mind and I thought I’d share a few of my feelings.

First, this is a marked improvement over previous versions. The admin interface is cleaner and more intuitive. I like the improvements they’ve made on the file structure of the thing, such as lumping the cert databases in with the configs of each server instance rather than sticking it in a separate folder. I like the concept of being able to configure a server, but not have the changes be immediately deployed. And it’s a hell of a lot better than editing a text file as is typical for the Apache user.

I don’t like the amount of options you have to help tune the server’s performance. Honestly, I’ve no idea how to properly evaluate what each variable’s (thread pools, keep alives, etc) optimal setting is. And this is even after reading the performance and tuning guide they provide with each release! It’s a bit like BMW’s iDrive. I don’t want to spend 30 minutes configuring every silly little setting on my car just so I can go down to the store and get some snacks. Just give me a few pedals, a steering wheel, and a gear shift, I don’t need to fiddle about with anything else.

But this is nothing new to 7.0. It’s been like that for quite a while. So it goes.

But the biggest worry, by far, is that I can no longer manage virtual server classes through the administrative interface.

The idea is you have multiple virtual servers. Each virtual server is, essentially, its own little web server instance. Each virtual server contains settings on what domain or ip to listen to, what directory to serve documents from, where to store logs, etc. Now there are times where you want these settings to actually be shared with multiple virtual servers. Enter the virtual server class. In 6.0 (and even earlier versions) there was a simple interface to do this.

Not any more.

You can still apply the concept of a virtual server class by manually editing the configuration files, but no longer is there an spot in the administrative interface to do all this. That’s annoying.

One other little thing that really tweaks me is on the page that lists out all the virtual servers for a given server (or administration node using the new 7.0 terminology); there’s a table and each row is a virtual server. One of the columns in the table contains a comma-delimited list of all the hosts that virtual server is set to listen for. Well they don’t put any spaces after each comma, so any virtual server with more than a couple hosts assigned to it will force the table beyond the width of your computer’s screen. In my case I have to scroll very, very, very far to the right to see everything because of this. Simply adding a space after each comma would make this particular page far more functional.

Despite all this I think 7.0 is such a huge improvement over 6.0/6.1 that I plan on migrating to this new version as soon as possible. And should I discover this to be an absolutely horrible mistake I’ll be sure to let everyone here know about it.

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