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Spilling the Beans on Java Application Servers
November 1, 1999
By Richard Hoffman and Anthony Frey with Mike Lee
Java applications aren't just for breakfast anymore--you need them all day, every day. Java on the server has earned credibility. The language is stabilizing, development tools are maturing and solid, enterprise-class application servers have arrived. We tested five leading Java application servers in our Washington Real-World Labs®. These products can ensure your server-side Java code and components are scalable and fault-tolerant, and provide critical system-level services, such as failover, load-balancing and performance monitoring. Further, many of these products help enable stable and scalable connections to back-end data sources, and most will let you deploy distributed data and business logic objects that can be accessed in a consistent way from almost any OS and platform.
We tested BEA Systems WebLogic Server 4.0, InfoSpinner ForeSite Application Server 3.0.2, Lutris Technologies Enhydra Java/XML Application Server 2.2, Secant Technologies Secant Extreme Enterprise Server (EES) for EJB and TSI Software's Novera 4.6, and poured enough Java through each one to get a Redmond microserf wired. The Netscape/Sun Alliance was to participate with the latest version of its Netscape Application Server, but declined at the last minute, stating the vast majority of Netscape customers and their solutions are deployed on Solaris and other forms of Unix, not NT, our test platform.
Most of the entrants are strong contenders. But capable, straightforward server management, along with wide support for standards tells the final story, making our Editor's Choice a tie between Novera and EES. Novera's excellent management capabilities was unmatched, and its one-of-a-kind directory integration looks to the future. EES provides excellent delivery of enterprise services and strong management, and supports Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) and Java servlets. WebLogic has all the basics we were looking for in an application server, and a capable underlying architecture, but it's harder to configure and use, and therefore more difficult to recommend.
ForeSite's and Enhydra's Java servlet environments have less to offer. Enhydra, however, shows intriguing potential as an open source environment for servlets or for managing a Java-based presentation layer. Its home-brewed XML Compiler, an alternative to Java Server Pages for separating graphical and design elements from Java code for dynamic page generation, is powerful if still a bit raw. ForeSite does a good job of encapsulating and integrating diverse data sources, but its documentation is opaque, its enterprise-level features are limited and it doesn't handle Java servlets in a standard fashion. Neither product directly supports EJB. We can only recommend them if your final application simply requires a way to encapsulate existing data sources (ForeSite) or is heavy on presentation-layer elements (Enhydra), and doesn't need a fully managed distributed application.
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