Re: Unstable, unpredictable, fundamentally broken
> This is a trifle unreasonable. I have
> had excellent support from Psoft and
> most of my problems were of my own
> making due to unfamiliarity with Linux
> and Java. Now I have learned more I am
> able to use the system successfully. It
> is also important to consider the
> price/performance. There are better
> systems but so is the price - in most
> cases 10x or more!
You're certainly correct that HSphere's not overly expensive. It's now been about 2 years since I had the misfortune of dealing with an HSphere machine. It's quite possible that they've made significant strides since then.
Unfortunately, I'm still skeptical. While I'm not a java programmer, I've dealt with enough application servers to know that I shouldn't have to be and I am intimately familiar with Linux (as well as several other Unix flavors). A well written java application (and, despite what some have to say, that phrase is NOT an oxymoron) is supposed to handle exceptions cleanly. The versions of HSphere I dealt with did not.
You're correct that the Psoft technicians are more then capable of handling problems resulting from end user mistakes - poor configuration choices, etc. However, when the control panel simply breaks (as in the result of a bug, a failed update, or the like) their support is often not enough of a lifeline. Tickets can sit dormant for a week or more waiting for a response from a developer (a response that often never really materializes). This is no fault of the support teams, really - after all, they're simply supposed to be supporting the application, not developing it - but knowing that isn't much comfort to a customer whose services are unavailable.
Customers whose control panels functioned as advertised were quite happy with their experience - the panel does provide functionality that's rare amongst it's competition. Still, when an HSphere box really breaks, it generally stays broken. Also you should keep in mind that there's no clean exit strategy - if you want to migrate off of HSphere you have to recreate your configuration from scratch. If you happen to not have copies of your content stored offsite (and you'd be surprised at how few HSphere users take that simple precaution), you'll have to resign yourself to an painful process of figuring out which of any number of possible include files contains the data you need and then manually exporting that data into a portable format. I've seen HSphere migrations take over 2 weeks of a dedicated engineer's time.
Just seeing HSphere's convoluted filesystem hierarchy would be enough to make me leery of installing it - having seen the turnaround time involved in addressing any kind of serious problems with HSphere on several dozen machines, it would be irresponsible of me to every give the product the benefit of any doubt. It was poorly designed then and was sufficiently large a project that I'd be very surprised if it's since been rearchitected as a cleaner application. If you're happily running HSphere, more power to you - but keep copies of all your content offsite and make a point of tracking down and documenting the backend configuration while the machine's functional. You really don't want to have to try to extract that information when the machine's in a critical situation.
I'm not really a big fan of control panels to start with, but I recognize the need the address and have seen some that worked quite well while providing customers with useful featuresets. HSphere provides an excellent featureset, but at the cost of reliability, security, and portability. When people ask me about HSphere, I simply recommend that they find something more balanced - CPanel, for instance (which apparently HSphere was somewhat loosely based on, at some point). They can always simply use additional applications to fill in any functionality gaps.
Unstable, unpredictable, fundamentally broken
I've dealt with this control panel on many machines. While featureful, it is utterly unreliable. You really don't want to see what it does to a Linux machine's configuration.
PSoft's support team, while more than willing to help, is simply unable to provide adequate solutions to or explanations for the ways that hsphere misbehaves.
Upgrades routinely break important services, the list of known exploits is unbeleivably long, and the error handling is attrocious (HSphere drops random java exceptions as if it uses them to track cpu cycles).