Netscape's Journey from NetSite to iPlanet

Last year brought a host of changes for Netscape Communications Corp., now a subsidiary of America Online Inc. ( Foremost was the rebranding of the company’s highly successful Enterprise Web Server platform as part of an alliance with Sun Microsystems Inc. (

In January 1999, Netscape ( announced Enterprise Server 3.6, which would be the last of the formal software releases in the Enterprise Server product line. At the time, the company expected to ship Enterprise Server 4.0 sometime in August or September 1999.

Netscape Enterprise Server debuted in December 1994 as version 1.0 of the Netscape NetSite Web Server. In March 1996 the company released the first officially branded Netscape Enterprise Server product -- version 2.0.

In March 1999, Netscape and Sun publicly took the wraps off of their much-ballyhooed alliance, and announced an aggressive plan to jointly develop software for e-businesses and e-commerce. The two companies pledged to provide business software that would run on Solaris, Windows NT, and on servers running Linux, AIX from IBM Corp. (, and HP-UX from Hewlett-Packard Co. (

At the time, both companies said they would continue to sell individually branded Sun and Netscape mail and messaging, Web, and application servers until the end of 1999, at which point they expected to switch over to solutions distributed under the iPlanet brand. Netscape has indicated that it will continue to provide end-of-life support for its Enterprise Server until June 2000.

In September 1999, the Netscape-Sun Alliance produced version 4.0 of the iPlanet Web Server, the first of the branded iPlanet server platforms and the successor to Netscape’s Enterprise Server. An effective melding of Enterprise Server 3.6 and Sun’s own Web server solutions, iPlanet Web Server 4.0 is said to provide performance and reliability advantages. It also ships with enhanced support for Java.

Now shipping in version 4.1, iPlanet Web Server runs on several top-name enterprise operating system platforms: Microsoft Corp.’s ( Windows NT 4.0; AIX 4.32 from IBM; HP-UX 11.0 from HP; Red Hat Linux 6.1 from Red Hat Inc. (; Tru64 Unix 4.0D from Compaq Computer Corp. (; Irix 6.56 from Silicon Graphics Inc. (; and Sun’s own Solaris 2.6 and Solaris 7 and 8 platforms.

Because iPlanet Web Server 4.1 is geared toward mission-critical e-commerce environments, it boasts an intelligent load-balancing technology that maximizes system uptime, and includes additional amenities such as dynamic log rotation and process monitoring.

When iPlanet Web Server 4.1 is deployed on Unix platforms, users can take advantage of the software’s support for multiple processes. Sun and Netscape officials say iPlanet Web Server 4.1’s combination of distributed load balancing with a multiprocess and multithreaded architecture lets it perform optimally under high loads, another prerequisite for demanding e-commerce environments.

Sun and Netscape hope to make iPlanet Web Server 4.1’s Java support a key differentiators. As a result, the Sun-Netscape Alliance’s next-generation Web server platform provides support for goodies such as Java Servlets, Java Server Pages, and in-process plugable Java Virtual Machines.

Representatives from Sun and Netscape hope customers will take advantage of iPlanet Web Server’s robust Java support for mission-critical, Java-based Web applications.

In the area of Internet standards, iPlanet Web Server complies with HTTP 1.1 and supports SSL hardware accelerators.

On the management side, iPlanet Web Server 4.1 appears to offer a repackaging of most of the amenities found in the Netscape Enterprise Server, including cluster management, SNMP monitoring, and integration with the iPlanet Directory Server, formerly Netscape Directory Server.

Graphics: Breakdown of Web servers and operating systems among the Fortune 500.