HP offers free Web server

HP's Internet Server offers more than Apache and IIS, and less than commercial application servers such as iPlanet - but it's free
Written by Charles Babcock, Contributor

Hewlett-Packard has brought out a Java-based Web server that lets users quickly and easily deploy Internet services - and it's free.

HP's new Internet Server, introduced last week, will be given away to all comers, including competitors, in the company's bid to get builders of Web services to follow its technology lead and to get back into a leadership role in both the Java and Web services communities.

Internet Server moves beyond the typical Web server - whether open source Apache or Microsoft Internet Information Server, which primarily serve up HTML pages - but stops short of trying to be a commercial application server - such as Sun Microsystems' iPlanet or BEA Systems' WebLogic, which provide many database services and connection services beyond the Web connection.

"HP's Internet Server is right in between those two," said Martin Marshall, managing director at Zona Research.

HP's Internet Server offers a minimal implementation of a new specification called the Java Services Framework (JSF), which allows users to quickly construct and deploy specialised software services - such as verifying a credit card or checking inventory. And once those services have outlived their usefulness, it kills those services, according to John Capobianco, general manager of strategic marketing for HP's new middleware division.

The server is aimed at fast-paced businesses that want to offer new products or services online at a moment's notice. If the product or service doesn't pan out, the server can be quickly freed for other duties.

HP's Internet Server, among other things, provides a cordoned-off space on the Web server where services with different but closely related characteristics can be built and deployed - such as one service using version 1.2 of the Java Virtual Machine and another using version 1.3 - which quickens applications deployment, Capobianco said. In the past, two separate Web servers would have been implemented to accomplish such partitioning.

JSF was adopted as a technology goal in April by the Sun Microsystems-supervised Java Community Process, where many vendors collaborate on building new Java technology.

JSF supplies a strictly defined framework through which services may be offered using a combination of new Java technologies, such as the Java Naming and Directory Interface or the Embeddor, a means of placing Java-class libraries on a device so they may implement a new service. Within the framework, services may be registered, discovered and brokered for a user, regardless of who produced them, Capobianco said. HP's Internet Server implements the proposed JSF for the first time in its draft, and what may become standard, format.

Sun's representative was against adopting the JSF as a new technology in the April vote, joined by dominant application server vendor BEA, Marshall said. "Why would somebody who already owns a big share of the application server market vote no? This technology could underpin the next generation of application servers," undercutting commercial products, he said. Sun officials could not be reached for comment.

Dwight Davis, vice president of Summit Strategies, said HP's willingness to give Internet Server away was a move to "commoditise" a minimal application server in order to get companies to turn to HP for follow-on technology, including the hardware and Unix operating system, with which it competes with Sun.

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