Netscape's enterprise solution is solid

Companies with complex Internet commerce needs or transaction-heavy Web application requirements will find Kiva Enterprise Server (KES) 2.0 well worth evaluating.

This first release since Netscape Communica-tions' acquisition of the product late last year, shows wonderful improvement in the areas of scalability and reliability, as well as the inclusion of well-conceived development aids.

There are three components that make up the KES solution: Developer Studio, Enterprise Server and Extension Toolkit.

The Developer Studio is an integrated development environment that includes a project man-ager, HTML and Java editing tools and wizards, and a graphical query designer. The product offers good flexibility by integrating with other existing third-party tools, such as Symantec's Visual Cafe, Microsoft's Visual C++, Sun's Java Workshop and Powersoft's PowerSite. In addition, the company plans to continue integrating with other development tools in future releases.

I found the Developer Studio to be well thought out and an improvement over the development kit provided in the previous version, Kiva Enterprise Server 1.5.

In particular, the AppLogic Wizard and the Query Designer were product-ivity-boosting tools that made it easier to create my applications.

What's on offer

KES offers good support for database accessibility. Applications can manipulate one or more data sources with native access for DB2, Informix, Sybase and Oracle. ODBC access is also available. I combined data from DB2 and Oracle databases using the Query Designer and found the going quite easy.

KES shows tremendous strength in the areas of scalability and fault tolerance compared with previous versions and more importantly, its rivals such as Oracle's Web Application Server 3.0. For the moment, KES leads the high-end application server pack.

In particular, load balancing has been enhanced in this version and is now maintained in a distributed fashion across all servers in the application environment, which eliminates a potential failure point. (In the past, Kiva maintained load balancing within a master server in the application environment.)Another reliability improvement is the real-time exchange of session and state data among the application servers. The use of multiple application servers, combined with this real-time exchange, enables a high degree of application availability while ensuring that transaction data is not lost due to server failure.

I tried to create several failure situations including server down conditions. KES worked flawlessly and none of my test transactions were lost. In fact, the failure condition was not even apparent on the client side of my test applications -- a truly impressive feat.

KES includes an enhanced Enterprise Administrator tool whose graphical interface makes managing the environment much easier than in previous versions. Graphical tools let administrators fine-tune database access and application usage as well as load-balancing parameters. System administrators will also like its logging capabilities, event management, and monitoring functions.

New linkage

The Extension Toolkit is noteworthy because it is expected to offer integration with IBM's MQSeries for CICS and IMS systems as well as with BEA's Tuxedo. Developers also will be able to use the Extension Toolkit to provide linkage between KES and enterprise applications such as SAP and Baan, and to integrate other services such as a Web search engine, into the application environment.

Also of note is KES' flexible support for multiple client types -- HTML, C++, and Java. This again boosts productivity and flexibility because you only need to write server-side logic once to support a variety of clients. KES also includes support for building native Java and C/C++ clients.

This release of Netscape's Kiva Enterprise Server puts the product ahead of the competition. It's an excellent solution for those who need highly scalable and reliable application services -- especially in high-volume, transaction-based environments.

Enterprise Server 2.0

A combination of strong scalability and fault tolerance, major development aid enhancements and integration with a multitude of third-party tools, databases, and legacy systems, makes it one application server to reckon withPros: Improved load balancing capabilities; real-time state and session data synchronisation; includes more comprehensive development aids and flexible options to use third-party tools; easy-to-use deployment options and environment management tools; native access to major databases; CORBA support; add-ons available for legacy system accessibilityCons: High costPlatforms: Windows NT, Solaris, HP-UX, IrixPrice: Enterprise Server: Pricing starts at $40,000 per CPU for Windows NT; $55,000 per CPU for Sun Solaris, HP-UX, and IrixNetscape Communications Tel (02) 9911 7770 Fax (02) 9911 7724