Finding the right application server software to perform the business logic for Standard & Poor's customized Web sites--and now its Web services business--was critical to the financial institution's success on the Internet. So, S&P engineers put several to the test.
Engineers first evaluated application servers about three years ago. They tested Netscape Application Server, Allaire Cold Fusion, Bluestone Sapphire (since acquired by Hewlett-Packard), NetDynamics Application Server, Silverstream Application Server, Apple WebObjects, IBM WebSphere and Oracle Application Server. "We standardized on Netscape Application Server largely because it had the best failover and load-balancing features at the time," says Brian Whitehead, vice president and chief technology architect at S&P. Since then, Netscape was bought by AOL, which formed an alliance with Sun Microsystems to create the iPlanet application server and Web server products.
The Netscape application server, which eventually became iPlanet Application Server, met expectations, but has since encountered more competition in the marketplace, notably from IBM's WebSphere and BEA Systems' WebLogic.
So, about a year ago, Whitehead felt S&P needed to re-evaluate the products on the market before it launched its Web services initiative. Teams of engineers from various units within S&P were brought in to conduct the testing. Whitehead also consulted with industry analysts and read their reports on the application server market.
"We looked at the companies with the largest market shares--IBM, BEA and iPlanet," Whitehead says. "Our conclusion was that all three of those products are solid. And they're all in various stages of leapfrogging each other in functionality or performance or standards."
Consequently, Whitehead and his team of engineers saw no reason to shift their allegiance from iPlanet. "It was performing the job for us, delivering the reliability that exceeded our expectations," Whitehead says.
iPlanet functionality plays an integral role in the development of S&P's customized Web sites and its Web services components, according to Whitehead. "We do all of our applications development on top of iPlanet Application Server and iPlanet Web Server, Enterprise Edition. And any third-party software, including the divine Content Server and WebGain's VisualCafé development tool, has to be tightly integrated with iPlanet to ensure the site remains highly reliable."