Zeus 4.0 cashes in on Microsoft security fears

The UK company's first new Web server software in four years will offer protection from worms such as Nimda and Code Red

UK-based Zeus Technology is hoping to cash in on security fears over Microsoft's IIS Web server software with the first major upgrade to its own namesake Web server in four years.

Earlier in October, analyst firm Gartner Group issued a statement warning companies not to use Microsoft IIS due to its poor security. However, for companies that have a heavy investment in IIS, moving to another Web server platform may not be an option, said Zeus product manager Nick Telford-Reed. "One thing we looked at with Zeus version 4.0 is way of providing transparent protection against those IIS vulnerabilities."

What the company came up with is an application that runs on Zeus 4.0 to receive proxy requests, which it scans for malicious or malformed code before passing them on to the IIS servers. Nimda and Code Red used malicious scripts to attack IIS servers. "These worms eat bandwidth because once they connect to the server they don't let go," said Telford-Reed. "If Zeus 4.0 sees those connections being formed it will drop them immediately."

Zeus hopes to create a community of users around its IIS security solution, who will be able to warn of new worm sightings.

The company also hopes that with Zeus 4.0, it will be able to make life easier for system administrators. Support for multiple languages is built in (Japanese and Korean language packs will be available early 2002), the graphic management interface has been improved, and the server can, says Zeus, take better advantage of available hardware.

Licences for Zeus version 4.0 will cost £1100 ($1450) for a one- or two-processor server, with an extra £550 ($850) slapped on for each extra CPU. But product manager Nick Telford-Reed said he hoped to attract custom from companies that currently use the popular -- and free -- open source Apache Web server software, by offering better performance from the same hardware.

"The industry is not awash with spare cash," said Telford-Reed. "So people want maximum performance from the hardware they have, particularly where they have expensive, multiple-CPU. They reach a bottleneck very quickly, particularly with Apache."

Zeus version 3.0 has had a reputation for offering good performance, but was often criticised for slow performance when delivering dynamic pages. Telford-Reed said Zeus 4.0 has been optimised for dynamic pages and claimed it can deliver PHP 45 percent faster than Apache can. Like other non-Microsoft Web servers, though, Zeus 4.0 does not natively support Active Server Pages. Zeus relies on partnerships with HalcyonSoft and Sun Microsystems' Chillisoft! division for ASP support.

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