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Orion Application Server: A Hunter in Pursuit  : Page 2

The Orion Application Server is a hunter in pursuit of market share in the app server space. Steve Franklin discusses the attributes that make this fledgling product an app server to watch.


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Price: Competitive, But Too Generous?
Not much needs to be said hereOrion's pricing is very competitive. You don't have to pay for development licenses, and deployment licenses are US$1,500 per server independent of the number of CPUs on your server. In fact, I worry that Orion's pricing structure is too generous. Some companies use Orion for prototyping and development and then move to more costly application servers for production. Porting development code from Orion to larger production instances is relatively easy and it encourages more open development practices. Low-cost developer licenses would supply revenue that IronFlare could use to support its Web presence and speed up product development.

Installation (Quick and Easy); Deployment (Not)

Setting Up Orion
How easy is it to set up Orion? The expert installation guide is only three lines long! In a nutshell:

  1. Unzip.
  2. Copy tools.jar to the orion directory.
  3. Run the executable orion.jar file in the orion/ dir.



You may want to tweak the default-web-site.xml file in the config directory.

Orion undoubtedly has one of the easiest and quickest installations you will find. Even a new user can install it in less than five minutes. An expert will be able to configure Orion for multiple applications in less than five minutes also. The first time that I worked with Orion's configuration files, however, I found myself struggling for a few hours with multiple applications, virtual hosting, modification of data sources, and session bean configuration because of Orion's poor supporting documentation.

Orion 1.5.2 has an alpha of some graphical deployment/administration tools, which show real promise. In particular, I think Orion is stepping in the right direction with its EAR (Enterprise ARchive) and WAR (Web application ARchive) deployment creation tools. (You can access these through consoleadmin.jar, or through earassembler.jar and webappassembler.jar directly.) These tools simplify the deployment and installation of a production-ready application. Their EJBMaker tool creates and maintains EJBs, but not with the functionality that JBuilder or similar high-end IDEs do.

Orion's ease of deployment positions it well for efficient developmentsmall intervals between code modification and EJB tests make for quick coding cycles. I've found that the installation and/or update of one or more EJBs can be very slow and time consuming with many other application servers. Orion's auto generation of stubs further speeds up the EJB installation process.

Compliance
Orion offers strong support for the J2EE specifications. In the previous review I pointed out Orion's thorough J2EE support in comparison to some of its competitors. The lead is now less pronounced, and some competitors seem to have caught up. Case in pointcompare WebLogic's specification support to that of Orion. BEA has indicated EJB 2.0 compliance ahead of the pack (in WebLogic 6.1), which is impressive when you consider that the formal vote on EJB 2.0 took place on September 4, 2001.

Granted, statements of support aren't always reality. My experience with porting software to/from WebLogic and Orion is that J2EE software moved back and forth quite seamlessly with both provided that your coding and design decisions plan for it (i.e., avoiding proprietary extensions).

Orion itself is not yet J2EE certified, probably due to the costs of certification more than anything else. Oracle's OC4J software is certified with the 1.2.2 and 1.3 JDK (see: OC4J Certification Matrix and Oracle9iAS Containers for J2EE (OC4J) Technical FAQ)



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