Articles / Big News at ApacheCon

Big News at ApacheCon

Jim Jagielski writes: "It was at the closing plenary of ApacheCon 2000, in Orlando FL, that a long-anticipated release of software was announced: an alpha release of Apache 2.0. With a few short keystrokes, the Apache Software Foundation announced to the crowd of developers at AC2K that Apache 2.0a was available for download." To many Apache devotees, the announcement of an Apache 2.0 release, even an alpha, is news that has been eagerly awaited for several years. It was way back in 1996 that the Apache Group (now the Apache HTTPD Server Project, of the Apache Software Foundation) realized the advantages of a threaded implementation for Apache. It was also in that same year that Robert S. Thau released to a few Apache developers 'apache-XX', his experimental, but pretty robust, threaded Apache implementation. Although the current 2.0a codebase doesn't utilize any of the actual code of that distribution, that experimental server served to provide some clues and inspiration to the 2.0 design process, as well as to the GNU Pth project, which looked to RST's threading library for some implementation ideas. Along the way, development on 2.0 would ramp up and cool down for many reasons, one of which was the popularity of the 1.3 codebase and the developer resources required to keep that code mature and worthwhile.

But Apache 2.0 is more than just a "threaded Apache." In fact, Apache 2.0 is designed to accommodate several different types of "process models" called MPMs. You can, for example, have Apache 2.0 use the old 1.3 method of preforking UNIX processes to handle HTTP requests. You can also use a combination of processes and threads, if that's a better solution for your OS.

Apache 2.0 also includes the new Apache Portable Runtime library, called (wait for it...) APR. The inclusion of APR allows 2.0 ports to such OSes as BeOS and Win32 to be much more robust than the current implementations. It also greatly simplifies the entire porting process, especially to non-UNIX platforms. The entire framework of 2.0, in fact, even allows for Apache to be truly multi-protocol, and not "just" a web server.

Or, at least, all that good stuff WILL happen, once the Apache 2.0 codebase continues through its alpha and beta cycle. It's important to recall that this 2.0 release is an ALPHA release. "It was very important," said Ryan Bloom, Apache Group member and one of the driving forces behind 2.0, "for us to get the source out to developers as soon as possible." Even though 2.0a has been used and tested by many of the ASF members, the real development cycle doesn't start, almost by definition since Apache is Open Source, until the source is available to the entire OS community. And there was no better time, and no better audience to announce to, than the ApacheCon 2000 Conference.

It is hoped that, with outside developer feedback and patches from the alpha release, a true beta release of 2.0 will be available in short order, and a true final release later on this year. One obstacle which the Apache Group faces is that, as far as anything with the Apache name on it is concerned, the term "beta" doesn't have the same definition as it does for other software. The fact that Apache beta releases have been as stable and as robust as they have been is in fact a feather (and a multi-colored one, for that matter) in the developers' collective caps. But it also puts some undue "pressure" on what constitutes a beta quality release for the Apache 2.0 code. With the release of 2.0 alpha, the group hopes to get back into a more "standard" beta cycle, with frequent releases of new betas.

There is still much work to be done for 2.0, but the release of this alpha jump starts the development process. Having the code work correctly under FreeBSD and with 3rd party modules will most likely be the first areas tackled by the community. But even more importantly, it takes the energy, excitement, and enthusiasm of everyone working on Apache to higher levels. 2.0 gives developers a new sand box to play in, a new code base to hack on, and a new project to lead the way to world domination.


Jim Jagielski has been active in the 'Net community since the mid 80s. He's contributed to several Open Source projects, the most noteworthy being the Apache HTTPd Server, on which he's been a core developer since 1995. He also serves as the Exec VP and Secretary of the Apache Software Foundation. Jim is President of jaguNET Access Services (www.jaguNET.com) and CTO of OneStopSite (www.onestopsite.com), a Web-technologies and services company. He is also a freelance writer and presenter.


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