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Sun Open Sources the Netscape Enterprise Server 114

An anonymous reader writes "Brian Aker has announced that Sun has open sourced the Netscape Enterprise Server under the BSD license. This is the evolution of the original server Netscape sold in the '90s during the rise of the first bubble. Almost twenty years later, Apache's original competitor is now made available for anyone to use under an open source license."
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Sun Open Sources the Netscape Enterprise Server

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  • Relevant? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bradgoodman ( 964302 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @03:43PM (#26486227) Homepage
    Is this even relevant anymore? Does anyone even care?
    • Re:Relevant? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @03:49PM (#26486383)

      Is this even relevant anymore? Does anyone even care?

      That's what I was thinking too...

      I actually used Netscape enterprise server way back when... it did LDAP, email imap/pop, and other stuff too... not just web. It competed, in my opinion more than just Apache.

      Its surely seriously outdated code by now in terms of standards supported, etc so its probably not very useful... but who knows... maybe there is something worth looking at in the code. Its certainly not a bad thing that its been open sourced.

      • Re:Relevant? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by htnmmo ( 1454573 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @03:58PM (#26486607) Homepage
        For those that still use it/need it might have to support it it's good. It's also an important part of internet history.
        • by afabbro ( 33948 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @04:13PM (#26486969) Homepage

          I think about once a week I hit a page that has the Sun logo as its favicon, a telltale sign of NES.

          Look for Jonathan Schwartz to write a four-paragraph blog on how this move "leverages the power of our dynamic open source global environmental network" and Sun's "innovation-intensive open ecosystem for defining new architectures and requirements for radical scale, economics and availability" and such.

          Also look for Sun's stock price to continue sinking.

        • Re:Relevant? (Score:5, Informative)

          by tonyr60 ( 32153 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @05:01PM (#26487917)

          This is not the original Netscape code that is being open sourced, it is the current Sun Web server that has its roots in the Netscape Web server. I doubt there is much of the original code left.

          what is not clear is that this is just part of Sun's strategy of outsourcing ALL their code. For example the Sun Application server is outsourced as Glassfish, Directory server is OpenDirectory and the SeeBeyond stuff is going into open source components of JavaCAPS.

          Interesting the way the licensing is going, earlier outsource efforts were CDDL, then GPL, now BSD. If this keeps up slashdotters are going to have to find another company to bitch about.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by bberens ( 965711 )

            ...If this keeps up slashdotters are going to have to find another company to bitch about.

            When I read this I wasn't sure if you meant that Sun had seen the light or that they were going bankrupt.

          • by Hatta ( 162192 )

            outsourcing = sending your job overseas

            open sourcing = opening the source

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Nick Ives ( 317 )

              No, outsourcing means using an outside contractor. Most firms outsource cleaning and security, for example. Offshoring is outsourcing overseas. In this case the GP was trying to imply that Sun is outsourcing code maintenance to the OSS community as a way of cutting costs.

              • Actually the OP seems really confused... Since using both "open sourcing" and "outsourcing" in the same context.
      • Re:Relevant? (Score:5, Informative)

        by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Friday January 16, 2009 @03:58PM (#26486613) Homepage Journal

        LDAP, email imap/pop

        Those were different products often bundled as part of a complete Netscape (later IPlanet) solution. Those are now sold as Sun Java System Directory Server Enterprise Edition [] and Sun Java System Messaging Server [], respectively.

        And this code isn't the dead version of Netscape Enterprise Server. It's the core to Sun Java System Web Server [], yet another piece of the Sun Java Enterprise System [].

        Make sense? Next order of business, then. May I have a call for all those in favor of firing Sun's marketing department? (Slashdot crash in 3... 2... 1...)

        • Re:Relevant? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by codemachine ( 245871 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @04:17PM (#26487045)

          Even Sun's employees seem to be a bit annoyed with the product marketing there:

          "Back in the 90's this was the Netscape Enterprise Server, which later morphed into the iPlanet Web Server during the Sun|Netscape Alliance. After some years it was renamed the SunONE Web Server and most recently renamed again to the JES Web Server (Sun just like to keep you confused, thus the constant renaming of the product!)"

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) *

            You know what I think? I think I didn't put enough emphasis on the word firing . That should have really read, "all those in favor of FIRING Sun's marketing department". Maybe even with a little asterisk that said in bold print, "* As in kicked out on the street, deported from the mainland US, and told they're never going to work in this country again, fired."

            I dunno. What do you think?

            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by Anonymous Coward

              ITYM "Fired. Out of a cannon. Into the sun."

              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) *

                That's exactly what I mean. We've put up with really bad marketing from Sun for too long. So bad that if it were a movie, it would be one of those Lion Gate direct-to-DVD films that is so bad it first wraps around to good, then keeps going to wrap around to "worse than the most horrible atrocity ever committed by Hollywood".

                I say we storm Sun and take over the headquarters. Viva la Revolución! :-P

            • I kind of figured you meant "fired out of a space gun" or perhaps more economically "fired out of the torpedo tubes".

          • But that was Krow. He's special. Used to work here at Slashdot back in the day. Also know as the father of the Drizzle project. He came over in the mysql acquisition. I'm not sure why he asked for BSD, though. That's a bit odd, as he points out it may be the first bsd licensed code to come out of Sun. Maybe he had heard from former customers that wanted to not abide by gpl?
          • by Cramer ( 69040 )

            It's not renaming, it's rebranding. Or as I like to say to marketing minions... calling the same turd by a different name.

          • by arth1 ( 260657 )

            You forgot the original name: Mosaic Netsite []

            Mind, it has roots back to NCSA's web server. Rob McCool initially wrote that, and was allowed to take some of the code with him when Mosaic was founded.

        • Damn. I heard the Sun Directory Service was decent, and so I was excited when I saw this. We certainly seem to need an alternative to redhat's directory service, considering how little uptake there's been from ubuntu, etc.

          • Re:Relevant? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Friday January 16, 2009 @06:26PM (#26489685) Homepage Journal

            *shrug* It works. The admin interface is a little wonky at times, but otherwise nice. Adding LDAP fields is a pain in a half, though. You have to modify the schema file directly and restart the directory server. Not exactly user-friendly.

            Personally, I've been keeping my eye on Apache Directory Server []. It's modern, it's Java-based, it's easy to setup, it's open source, and it's made by Apache. What more could you want? ;-)

            • by Sadsfae ( 242195 )

              Personally, I've been keeping my eye on Apache Directory Server []. It's modern, it's Java-based, it's easy to setup, it's open source, and it's made by Apache. What more could you want? ;-)

              Make it not Java-based?

            • It's modern, it's Java-based, it's easy to setup, it's open source, and it's made by Apache. What more could you want? ;-)

              Well, admittedly, that sounds good. But for the next version, can we please add on NOT java based? ;)

              The professional java language, I love. The professional java APIs, I love. The JRE? Horrible. I wish it had just been compiled to native code from the beginning. Bring on Vala, I say.

          • Sun One Directory Server and RedHat Directory server come from the same code base.

            They are both descended from the original University of Michigan LDAP server.

            Which became the Netscape/Iplanet LDAP server.

            Having actually used both, they are near 90% identical in look and feel. Even the admin consoles look almost the same.
      • Re:Relevant? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @04:10PM (#26486899)

        It can't hurt. As much of pain as it is to operate in mixed environments, we deploy a mix of lighttpd and apache web server for the very reason that even if a major bug or exploit is found in one, about half our front end systems would still be available while the others are being patched.

        The more options the better in my book.

      • re:code

        remember that the netscape code base forked off where Apache did, from the long dead NCSA webserver. Apache has had a vibrant developer community for years. It's unlikely, though not impossible, that there is code here that is better than what's in apache now.

        Of course it will have historical value, but remember this is from the same company and environment that made Netscape Communicator code so bad that, even though wthere was no alternative browser, they though junking the code was better than s

      • Agreed. But where is the source?
    • Probably not much, but it never hurts to look for small gems.

    • by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @03:50PM (#26486401) Homepage Journal

      Nope, it's dead. And this time netcraft really does confirm it [].

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I like Netcraft, but I don't trust their stats completely. Once they identified me as running IIS 5 on Linux.

        No, I didn't have anything between the server and Internet, I don't know what caused them to come up with that combo.

    • Re:Relevant? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by athakur999 ( 44340 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @04:03PM (#26486751) Journal

      So we always talk about how companies should open source software that is no longer being maintained or sold... then when a company actually does it, we say "who cares".

      • So we always talk about how companies should open source software that is no longer being maintained or sold... then when a company actually does it, we say "who cares".


      • Re:Relevant? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ACMENEWSLLC ( 940904 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @05:25PM (#26488385) Homepage

        Na, only a few people said who care. I say "Cool, another open source product."

        I'll never use as a developer, but another free option is always good. Like someone else said, maybe there is some good code in there. Perhaps projects I do use will benefit from this.

        Kudos to Sun.

      • Re:Relevant? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by HiThere ( 15173 ) <{ten.knilhtrae} {ta} {nsxihselrahc}> on Friday January 16, 2009 @10:50PM (#26492745)

        There are those who say "Who cares?", but there will always be short-sighted ones.

        I have no *personal* interest in the Netscape server, but I'm glad that it's open and available. It may someday be crucial, and if not, it's good insurance.

        • by ancientt ( 569920 ) <> on Saturday January 17, 2009 @02:04AM (#26494189) Homepage Journal

          I'm not exactly a fan of the server, but I work in the financial industry and we work with a vendor which provides banking services built on this platform. (Name and version vary.) Whether they will continue to use it or not remains to be seen, but with it open sourced, they have the option to continue to use it and support it to whatever degree they desire where they might otherwise have felt like they were limited to whatever level of support they could get agreed to by Sun. This may make the difference for them between a solid and supportable product and costly development and associated growing pains on a new platform.

    • Re:Relevant? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dedazo ( 737510 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @05:14PM (#26488175) Journal

      As good as Apache is, it could use some competition. Apache also creates a sort of monoculture that is probably not very healthy (especially in conjunction with PHP).

      I personally have been moving away from Apache and using lighttpd (and FastCGI) whenever possible with my Python applications.

      More choices are always better.

    • by wkcole ( 644783 )

      Is this even relevant anymore? Does anyone even care?

      There are a lot of companies (particularly "old economy" ones) who bought the Netscape server back when there were concrete advantages to doing so who have built up complex ecosystems around it: other software, ways of working, and skillsets that have accumulated and evolved organically for a decade based on the Netscape/iPlanet/SunOne webserver. Those would have to be replaced wholesale if they decided to switch to another platform, and that's not a simple or inexpensive project. I've worked at a few suc

      • This. We were in this situation (see my comment below) - I would dearly have loved to have ripped out the Netscape Server and put Apache in for my own sanity, but sanity points are apparently useless to sysadmins.
  • Can someone explain why this story was tagged 'republicans'?
  • Kudos to Mr. Aker! (Score:5, Informative)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {}> on Friday January 16, 2009 @03:49PM (#26486361) Homepage Journal

    Wow. Netscape Enterprise Server. Now there's a name I haven't heard in a long time. I was actually pretty excited about looking at the code to satisfy my historical interest. There's a lot of old Netscape technology that's bitten the dust over the years!

    Unfortunately, this appears to be the modern Java Enterprise Server code. There's even Java 1.5 classes to read in modern XML configuration files. I can't find any sign of some of the really interesting stuff from days gone by. (e.g. LiveScript - a technology that was before its time and thus under-implemented compared to what it could have been used for.)

    Still, this is a very interesting bit of history and I'd like to thank Sun and Mr. Aker for releasing it! I'm going to dig through the versioning history and see if there's anything in there. Anyone else here find something interesting?

    One thing that impresses upon me about this server is how little code their is. Weighing in at only 13 MBs, it's far too small of a project to be of commercial interest today. But back then, this was some pretty big stuff! ;-)

    • s/LiveScript/LiveWire/g

      Sorry, my memory is a bit rusty on that point. Here's a fun developer's guide to make up for it: []

      (Can you believe that it's still on SCO's servers? I thought they'd finally divested all of that nasty business of owning assets and whatnot. :-P)

    • by CyberLord Seven ( 525173 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @04:14PM (#26486995)

      Netscape Enterprise Server. Now there's a name I haven't heard in a long time.

      Why, oh why, did you have to phrase it like that and trigger the memory?

      NCSA Mosaic: Netscape Enterprise Server. Now there's a name I haven't heard in a long, long time.

      Luke Spyglass: I heard he died during the Browser Wars.

      NCSA Mosaic: Oh, he's not dead. Not yet, anyway.

      Luke Spyglass: So, you know him.

      NCSA Mosaic: Of course I do. He's me!

      From the Slashdot discussion "Browser Wars Declared Over?

      April 18, 2007

      From Browser Wars IV: A New Hope

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, @01:34PM (#18784983)

      Luke Spyglass: "You fought in the browser wars?"

      NCSA Mosaic: "I was once a web browser the same as your father."

      Luke Spyglass: "My father didn't browse the web. He was a finger server at the community college."

      NCSA Mosaic: "That's what your Uncle told you. He didn't hold with your father's ideals. He thought he should stay home. Not gotten involved."

      Luke Spyglass: "I wish I had known him."

      NCSA Mosaic: "He was a cunning application, and the best downloaded in the galaxy. I understand you've become quite a good downloader yourself. And he was a good friend. For over a thousand days the W3C protected the web. Before the dark times. Before the Empire"

      Luke Spyglass: "How did my father die?"

      NCSA Mosaic: "A young web browser named Internet Explorer, who was a derivative of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Emporer hunt down and destroy the W3C standards. He betrayed and murdered your father. IE was seduced by the Dark Side of the internet."

      Luke Spyglass: "The internet?"

      NCSA Mosaic: "Yes, the internet is what gives a web browser his power. It's an energy field created by all connected computers. It surrounds us. Penetrates us. Binds the world together. Which reminds me. Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your Uncle wouldn't allow. He thought you'd follow NCSA Mosaic on some idealistic crusade."

      Luke Spyglass: "What is it?"

      NCSA Mosaic: "It is open source browser source code. The weapon of a web browser. Not as random or clumsy as a closed source. An elegant idea for a more civilized age."

    • I was also hit by a sudden wave of nostalgia as I recall the old Netscape web-based admin tool that was actually kind of cool next to the Apache by-hand config file editing back in its heyday.

      It was real popular with the corporate clients who would never buy anything without a $xx,xxx support contract attached to their little $18,000 250mhz Sun Netras.

      In fact now I want to go scour Ebay for an old Netra or SGI Indigo so I can point it out to the kids and rail on about the good old days, right before I yell

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JyriVirkki ( 1454743 )
      It is indeed the modern Web Server 7.0 code. However, there's more than a tiny bit of lines of code tracing back to the Netscape Enterprise Server. The server itself was never rewritten, it is simply ten+ years of continuous development of the same code (so certainly a lot has changed, but also a lot remains).

      I added some more notes about it on my blog here: []

      • festering hunk of bad code? Yippee.

        Honestly, Netscape Enterprise Server (in all its incarnations) was one of the worst servers I've ever had to misfortune to develop on and support.

        The configuration system was TERRIBLE. The gui was worthless for all but the simplest setups, and if you hand edited ANYTHING (which you were virtually assured to have to do) then using the GUI would cause the whole configuration to become hopelessly corrupt. Worse the server didn't actually do things like CHECK its configuration

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Can something like this:

    be used to find sites still running on this ancient software? Perhaps people will find an exploitable part of the code and take down an ancient web site!

  • Same with open sourcing Java, the boat has long left the pier. What sun should concentrate on is making a combined multimedia stack, from the desktop to the server to deliver games and video to the next generation of Internet users. Do a deal with the content owners, the telecom companies and the combined whole could be a massive revenue earner. are you listening, Scott McNealy
  • New courses in fall: Computer History

  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @04:38PM (#26487443) Homepage Journal

    ... whenever I stumble across an old screenshot of Netscape Navigator and next to the URL it says "Netsite" instead of "Location" indicating that the page was being served by a Netscape server.

  • What next? OS/2? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by netglen ( 253539 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @04:38PM (#26487447)

    Shouldn't this announcement be placed under "too little, too late"?

    • Re:What next? OS/2? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2009 @06:02PM (#26489171)

      Too little? Sun in pretty much open sourcing everything it has ever produced, and that's a lot.

      Too late? As far as I know, Sun is massive company that manages, among other things, one of the world's most used programming platforms/languages.

      Has it's stocks gone down a lot? Sure. It's a shame. But every time I see "too little, too late" I must wonder... WTF

      • by El Lobo ( 994537 )
        When you see a place like where the grand-parent's whining gets moderated Insightful and the parent's logical and reasonable post is ignored, you know you must be on Slashdot.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2009 @04:42PM (#26487513)
    After some years it was renamed the SunONE Web Server and most recently renamed again to the JES Web Server (Sun just like to keep you confused, thus the constant renaming of the product!)

    First of all they're not going to open source the entire product but only the webserver core. That is not too surprising considering how Solaris has slowly started to adopt web services for options way beyond your common webserver. I can see that not everyone grasps these tidbits since Sun is indeed a little vague with certain information.

    But I think its silly that you assume that SunONE got renamed. SunONE eventually came to an halt and got re-written (the core was basically all which remained) and a new Administrative webinterface was added. The product then became the Sun Java Webserver 7. So SunONE got basically "renamed" (rehauled is a better word IMO) to SJWS. And as to JES; the Sun Java Enterprise System [].. That is merely a whole suite consisting of several components. You have your basic webserver, LDAP server, mail server, application server, portal server, and so on.

    And guess what ? Instead of re-inventing the wheel all Sun did was basically putting their webserver product into this Java suite. Even SunONE was part of the previous JES suite. So I think that Aker's blog is simply silly and this particular post really isn't worth the attention IMO.

    Granted; Sun has done some pretty silly things and their website can indeed be very confusing at times. Just look at the link I added; does this give you the impression that you, as an individualist or a private business, can download and utilize JES free of charge? Those things have always been very confusing with Sun. But their examples and explanation of what a product really is or what it consists of has never been vague. So I think its a little cheap to write something up which you obviously haven't looked into for one second, only to blame Sun because their information would be vague. Thats rubbish IMO.
  • Open source (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ClosedSource ( 238333 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @05:32PM (#26488541)

    Where all the failed projects go to die.

    Perhaps open source projects should be split into two categories (inspired by MIB II):

    Old and busted:
    Netscape Enterprise Server

    New Hotness:

  • by Fastball ( 91927 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @06:19PM (#26489557) Journal

    ...install Apache, and you're done. Time for wings and beer over happy hour.

  • A company I worked for used NES. I think developer licenses ran about $10k each. Add the annual support and maintenance, and that was some real cash.

    So we switched to something cheaper. Looks like we weren't the only ones!
  • by john187 ( 32291 )

    Apparently, "open source" is the new word for "end of life."

  • Terrible Summary (Score:3, Informative)

    by Adidas13 ( 245348 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @11:32PM (#26493031)

    This is the core of the Sun's current Webserver 7. The submitter linked to a blog that described it as Netscape Enterprise Server (it's great-great-grandfather) rather than the blog [] that clearly points out Sun open sourcing the core of their current Webserver is misleading.

  • I had to administer this vile and festering piece of shit a few years ago. We had an installation put together by contractors, who'd just used Sun everything - an in-house application server written in Java, running on E250s and Netra T1s running Solaris 7 ... and using Netscape Server 4.0 for the web server.

    Then we had to upgrade the four web servers to Solaris 9 - which mostly worked flawlessly, except one machine was completely trashed and needed rebuilding from scratch - and Netscape Server 4.0 to Sun

Receiving a million dollars tax free will make you feel better than being flat broke and having a stomach ache. -- Dolph Sharp, "I'm O.K., You're Not So Hot"