Mac OS X upped the ante for the makers of products like 4D WebSTAR Server Suite V. Built on Unix, Mac OS X already comes out of the box with the raw capabilities to mimic a commercial product like WebSTAR using open-source or otherwise bundled software. So what does WebSTAR bring to the table? Quite a lot, according to 4D WebSTAR director of engineering C.J. Holmes, who recently sat down with MacCentral to discuss improvements in 4D WebStar Server Suite V. The new update is called
4D WebSTAR v5.1 Update, and it’s available as a free download for existing Server Suite V users.
For one thing, 4D WebSTAR Server Suite V installs quickly and easily — a big bonus for system managers and other folks responsible for managing their company’s servers. With Apache and other products, even an experienced IT person can waste a half-day or more setting up everything the way they need it. “Getting back that half-day is well worth it,” said Holmes. “There are a lot of UNIX-friendly admins who are grateful that we’ve come out with this.”
Holmes described one target market for 4D WebSTAR Server Suite V as those people who run what he terms “the accidental ISP.” Holmes said that many companies grow organically into the need to host an Internet or Intranet Web server, database or file sharing system — perhaps one person or department has a specific need, then word spreads to others in the organization. Before you know it, a lot of people are asking for access to or the ability to host shared databases, Web sites and other resources.
“Most people aren’t going to have the resources to sit down and teach each user how [Unix-based tools] work,” suggested Holmes. For those administrators, a simple, easy-to-use package like 4D WebStar Server Suite V can come in handy.
One of the most important changes implemented by 4D WebSTAR v5.1 Update is support for FastCGI. FastCGI is a scalable, open extension to the CGI (Common Gateway Interface) specification.
CGI use is ubiquitous on Web sites as a way for Web servers to interact dynamically with users, but as the number of simultaneously running CGIs increase, server performance bogs. Holmes explained that the solution is to launch a separate application that becomes the CGI process instead. FastCGI itself works faster than conventional CGIs and Apache mods, and offers better stability, according to Holmes.
Another important addition in 5.1 is a new Rewrite plug-in. The plug-in provides URL management features similar to Welcome, a WSAPI-compliant plug-in that will be familiar to many experienced WebSTAR admins. The Rewrite plug-in employs a rules-based system that enables WebSTAR administrators to define URL redirects, modifications and proxy requests.
A new Admin Client is now included which Holmes said sports improved performance. The new Admin Client software supports remote file browsing for Virtual Host and FTP User root folders, fixes a problem that could cause connections to drop when processing large XML (Extensible Markup Language) tables and incorporates other changes.
Language localization also takes the spotlight in this new release. “You can have Web pages localized for whatever the user’s default language is,” explained Holmes. “Users can configure their Web browsers to prefer a specific language and the server figures out the closest match. Server configuration for this feature consists of checking a box in the virtual host.”
Holmes indicated that their tests suggest that the 4D WebSTAR implementation of language localization is up to 3 to 4 times faster than its Apache equivalent.
Another new feature in 4D WebSTAR v5.1 is a new adapter to bridge connections to WebObjects, Apple’s own Java-based application server software. “The WebObjects adapter is based almost entirely on Apple’s code,” said Holmes.
For more information about 4D WebSTAR, visit the
4D WebSTAR Web site.