Dynamic Web Development with Seaside

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23.3.2Installing Apache

Next we install Apache 2.2, an industry leading open-source web server. Depending on your requirements you might decide to install a different web server. Lighttpd, for example, might be better suited in a high performance environment.

Some people prefer to use one of the web servers written in Smalltalk. This is a good choice during development and prototyping, as such a server is easy to setup and maintain. We strongly discourage to use such a setup for production applications due to the following reasons:

  • The web server is something accessible from outside the world and therefore exposed to malicious attacks. Apache is a proven industry standard used by more than 50% (depending on the survey) of all of today’s web sites.
  • To listen on port 80, the standard port used by the HTTP protocol, the web server needs to run as root. Running a public service as root is a huge security issue. Dedicated web servers such as Apache drop their root privileges after startup. This allows them to listen to port 80 while not being root. Unfortunately this is not something that can be easily done from within the Smalltalk VM.
  • Smalltalk is relatively slow when reading files and processing large amounts of data (the fact that everything is an object is rather a disadvantage in this case). A web server running natively on the host platform is always faster by an order of magnitude. A standalone web server can take advantages of the underlying operating system and advise it to directly stream data from the file-system to the socket as efficiently as possible. Furthermore web servers usually provide highly efficient caching strategies.
  • Most of today’s Smalltalk systems (with the exception of GemStone) are single threaded. This means that when your image is serving files, Seaside is blocked and cannot produce dynamic content at the same time. On most of today’s multi-core systems you get much better performance when serving static files through Apache running in parallel to your Seaside application server.
  • External web servers integrate well with the rest of the world. Your web application might need to integrate into an existing site. Often a web site consists of static as well as dynamic content provided by different technologies. The seamingless integration of all these technologies is simple with Apache.

Let’s go and install Apache then. If you are running an older version you might want to consider upgrading, as it makes the integration with Seaside considerably simpler, although it is not strictly necessary.

$ sudo apt-get install apache2

Ensure the server is running and make it come up automatically when the machine boots:

$ sudo apache2 -k restart
$ sudo update-rc.d apache2 defaults

Copyright © 26 September 2017 Stéphane Ducasse, Lukas Renggli, C. David Shaffer, Rick Zaccone
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