John Chamberlain
Developer Diary
 Developer Diary · You Heard It Here First · Sunday 11 January 2004
Why Apache is Beating Microsoft IIS
The news in servers last year was that Apache use grew dramatically while Microsoft IIS remained stagnant and lost market share. Other players are not even on the map. Yesterday I wrote an analysis of this phenomenon published on Kuro5hin which attributes it to:

    - Apache becoming more accessible on Windows
    - security concerns about IIS
    - more widespread use of Java-based technology

In reply to my news post on the statistics to Slashdot readers have voiced their own opinions on the subject. Some other factors not mentioned in my original analysis are:

    * global use of the Internet favors Apache

The US and European markets are maturing and many of the increases in IT are to be seen in global locations especially in Asian countries like China and Korea. In these environments Apache tends to be preferred to IIS. In fact in some cases open-source software is being mandated by government policy.

    * the public is becoming more sophisticated

A couple of years ago the average user found installing AOL challenging. Now retirees and lumberjacks who could not even type two years ago are happily sending email and browsing the web. As the public's general level of computing knowledge goes up they are warming up to less approachable, but in some cases more powerful technology like Apache. It requires use of an editor to use Apache effectively, but only a mouse for IIS. The importance of this distinction to market share has been declining.

    * the administrative burdens in Windows are becoming more onerous

When Windows was a simpler creation back before the turn of the millenium it was not only easier to install and run than unix but it was easier to administer and that went for its web server as well. As Microsoft's products, especially server products, have become progressively more complicated to answer the needs of large corporate users their administrative burden has soared. Windows was originally created as a single-user desktop solution, not a networked operating system, and it still shows in its overall architecture. This has created a permanent headache for their development teams and intensified administrative complexity. Just because something has a GUI interface does not mean it is necessarily easier to operate. As the number of settings hidden away in obscure dialog boxes increases and the incessant security patches take their toll on admin's nerves Apache is becoming an increasing attractive alternative.

    * open-source software is becoming acceptable to corporations

Many readers see Apache's surging success as being the vanguard of the open source revolution. While these hopes may be premature in my opinion there is no doubt that corporations are casting off anti-unix prejudices and dipping their toes into open-source waters. Two years ago Microsoft's "open source is a virus" campaign was received without reservation by low-brow corporate IT, but today that idea has been largely discredited. Linux has found its way into corporate server rooms and CIOs have come to realize that indeed Linux is not a virus.

Cannot Ignore the Java Factor

My own feeling about Apache's success as written up in the Kuro5shin analysis linked above is that the spread of Java is the leading factor. The choice of development tools drives IT in a very grassroots way and in my own estimation 2003 has been a decisive year in the switch to Java technology. I wrote two days ago that Java has whipped .NET technologically. A lot of analysts hedge on this and say each has its advantages, but as things stand currently I think this wishy-washy sitting on the fence is missing the technological fundamentals in Java's favor described in my overview.

Believe or not I still get more emails and web hits related to my old VB materials than to any other part of my web site, but my perception is that this is a legacy effect and overall the momentum of development usage has swung to Java. One of the reasons I think so is the exponential growth of desktop applications written in Java. Even as recently as a year and a half ago desktop Java applications were virtually non-existent. Check out the most recent issue of Swing Sitings. These apps are really advanced. We are talking main line MMORPGs, and complex database and finanancial applications; things that until recently were unknown to Java. Everyone focuses on sexy topics like web services, but the meat of computing is in desktop applications and in that area Java is exploding. My own application, the OPeNDAP Data Connector is a perfect example. Long term this is the kind of benchmark worth watching.

        ~ John Chamberlain

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