Web Server

If you were to look at the HTTP response headers from this site, you’d see it is being handled by:

Server: heliod-web-server/0.1

Which is a web server you’ve probably never heard of before… Or I should say, you most likely have, but with various different names.

Way back when, this was the Netscape Enterprise Server. Which later became iPlanet Web Server (during the Sun|Netscape alliance). Under Sun alone, it was renamed several times to SunONE Web Server and Sun Java System Web Server (and maybe some other name variants I forget now). Naming nonsense aside, it’s been the same evolving code base all along, best known for high performance and even higher scalability.

Thankfully, Sun open sourced the code in 2009 under the BSD license. Most of it, anyway. Unfortunately a few parts were left out, mainly the administration support, installer and the embedded Java servlet engine. The open source code was kept in sync with the commercial releases until January 2010 (7.0 update 8, using the commercial release version numbering). After that, the open source repository has not seen any activity (not coincidentally, January 2010 was also when Oracle acquired Sun, so this is not surprising).

Surprisingly, the source repository is still available:

hg clone ssh://anon@hg.opensolaris.org/hg/webstack/webserver

The source as published can be tricky to build and it does not produce an installable package. When I was setting up this site last year I ended up forking this code into http://sourceforge.net/projects/heliod/. The code is the same but I added a rudimentary install script to make it easier to get going. You can download binaries for Solaris (x86) and Linux from the sourceforge page so you don’t have to build it yourself if you prefer not to.

(Update: The source is now in github here: https://github.com/jvirkki/heliod)


Joyent Debacle

I’ve been hosting this server on Joyent for a while now for a few reasons. One was that their VMs are Solaris zones which is (a) cool, (b) I prefer hosting Internet-facing servers on Solaris and (c) some of the Sun talent moved to Joyent after the oracle disaster so I liked the idea of supporting Joyent. The other reason was that Joyent offered a fixed-price-for-life server when I signed up so it was a nice deal as well.

Yesterday Joyent broke their promises by dropping all the fixed & lifetime plans out of the blue. There’s been coverage on Slashdot, Network World, ZDNet and plenty other places. Discussion rages on at the support forum and there is a google group dedicated to finding alternatives as well.

The people who prepaid for a lifetime plan were the hardest hit. For me it is not that bad as I was on a monthly plan (not prepaid) but they did still break the promise of a maintaining a fixed price for life.

I could migrate to their new plans, which are about 50% more expensive per month but it seems hard to justify why I should trust these people anymore. So I’ll probably migrate this server elsewhere once I do some research to find something more trustworthy than Joyent. The sad part is it probably won’t be Solaris ;-(