Originally Published: Friday, 5 May 2000 Author: Blair Ireland
Published to: In-Depth Reports/In-Depth Reports Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

The Apache Project

Apache has been designated as Linux's killer app. Distributions are freely bundled within various Apache distributions, so it would make sense that while Linux grows in popularity, so does Apache. Also, IBM announced a while ago it was porting Apache over for its AS/400 line of servers. When Big Blue takes an interest in any software, let alone open source software, it attracts attention.

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One of the hottest topics on the Internet today is a little project known as Apache. No, I'm not talking about some cool military helicopter, but the Apache web server. If you never heard of Apache before, you probably think it was named that because it's a killer Web server, so they named it after a killer helicopter. Well, you are right about one thing. It is a great, powerful, popular Web server, but thats not why it was named Apache. The real reason is because it's "a patchy server." Back in the day -- February of 1995 to be exact -- the most popular Web server was the public domain HTTP daemon developed by Rob McCool at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Rob left the NCSA in mid-1994 though, so development of the daemon had stalled. Webmasters then had to start developing extensions and bug fixes to continue their use of the server. Soon thereafter, a group of 8 webmasters banded together and started co-ordinating bug fixes and patches to the web server. In the end, 8 core contributors formed the original Apache Group, with the first public release of the Apache server (v. 0.6.2) in April 1995.

Since the released version used NCSA httpd 1.3 as a base, the developers knew they need to re-design and overhaul the code. It was in June of 1995 that this started, and features for 0.7.x were added, including pre-forked child processes and API for extensibility. With all the work by the developers going on in the background, they were able to release a fully beta-tested server by December 1, 1995. By that time, the server had also been ported to several obscure platforms, with a new set of documentation. Within a year of the Apache server's release, it became the #1 server on the Internet, a record it still holds today. In fact, according to Netcraft's latest web server survey, 60.05% of all web servers are running Apache.

Recently, as you might have heard, the alpha version of Apache 2.0 was recently released. Changes are extensive, including Unix threading, multiprotocol support, and a new build system. The code has also been redesigned to better fit the large community of developers maintaining and enhancing the code. There has been an absolute enforcement of an "Apache Style" for code, and more API hooks have been made in the process. Check out the full list of new features.

The alpha version was released a few weeks ago at ApacheCon 2000, a conference organized by the Apache Software Foundation. This foundation was created in early 1999, bringing the Apache name to more than just their Web server. The foundation has extended their reach into other areas, like the Java-Apache Projects and Cocoon, an XML server. Randy Terbush, CEO of Covalent Technologies and one of the original 8 core developers of Apache states that "ApacheCon has always been focused at making it a lot easier to become part of the project." Terbush has been pouring most of his efforts into his company lately -- Covalent is the maker of the Raven SSL Apache extension, and provider of technical support for companies using Apache.

The year has definitely been a big success for the Apache Software Foundation as many new developers have joined the Apache ranks. ApacheCon has fulfilled its goals and has allowed developers to join the project much easier than ever before. There are a number of ways to become involved in the project. First and foremost, I would recommend you join the mailing lists available throughout the Apache.org site, specifically the "httpd development list." The Apache libraries are also a helpful stop, not to mention the Apache development site. The development system for Apache has always been the same. It is a meritocracy -- that is, the more work you have done, the more you are allowed to do. This is likely to be one of the driving forces behind Apache's following. Though the core developers set the rules, they can be changed later on by the others.

There are more than a few reasons that developers are constantly joining the project. First of all, Apache has been designated as Linux's killer app. Distributions are freely bundled within various Apache distributions, so it would make sense that while Linux grows in popularity, so does Apache. Also, IBM announced a while ago it was porting Apache over for its AS/400 line of servers. When Big Blue takes an interest in any software, let alone open source software, it attracts attention. It has been said to also be "the next Linux," as it is gaining more popularity every day. Developers are now confident that Apache is here to stay.

Covalent Technologies is basing their entire company on that thought. It is the first company to devote its resources solely to the development, support, and training programs for the open source Apache Web server platform. Several employees of Covalent are in fact active members in the development of Apache 2.0. Though the founder, Randy Terbush, was one of the original core developers of Apache, he now spends more time managing his business. Terbush still finds the time though to handle the task of Treasurer for the Apache Software Foundation.

Once the world realizes how much of a success Covalent Technologies has become, it is no doubt that more companies will start leaning in the Apache direction, or to be more accurate, in the open source direction. I would think that companies would stick to projects related to what they do. This will likely attract developers in the future as well, as these companies will like to hire people that have been working with the open source projects for a while. The enticing thought of being paid to do what they used to do for free could attract nearly anyone to start working there.

For now though, Apache still rages on, destroying its Web server competition. From what I have seen, Apache 2.0 will be a massive hit. Modules continue to be built for the server, optimizing performance ever more, and bringing a larger userbase to the server as well. So far from what we have all seen, Apache is here to stay.

Blair Ireland (bireland@linux.com) is the Web Technology Correspondent for Linux.com. Located just outside of Toronto, Ontario, Blair has been developing TheScripts.com for about 6 months.





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