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Hope for Zope

By Mark Gibbs
Network World Fusion Focus, 12/28/98

Well, it looks like this new-fangled open source thing is catching on. Netscape got the bandwagon rolling (in the face of losing the browser wars it was so much more stylish than just sulking) and recently IBM released an open source secure e-mail product.

What's even more interesting is all of the new open source freeware. I stumbled over such a product called ZOPE the other day that is at least intriguing if not downright cool. ZOPE stands for "Z Object Publishing Environment" and is an object-based, open-source Web application platform.

ZOPE competes with products such as Cold Fusion, Silverstream and Netscape Application Server but it has a significantly different architecture. ZOPE is based on a simple scripting object model and an integrated object database all written in Python, an open source freeware language. You don't need to know Python to use ZOPE.

ZOPE includes Web and FTP servers and can be extended to cover other protocols such as POP3, SMTP and IMAP. The integrated object database uses the native file systems to manage its data by default but can also work with other storage managers, such as bsddb or relational databases. Data managed in external databases (Oracle, Sybase, MySQL and ODBC are supported) can also be integrated with ZOPE and according to the developers "[it] takes about twenty lines of code to add support for another database. Well, maybe thirty."

ZOPE is reputed to be *very fast*. Again, quoting the developers" "It is the result of years of doing Web application servers. We have chased dead ends, started over, made mistakes, and settled on a solid approach. Critical pieces are written in C. Templates are pre-parsed. Namespace lookups are minimized. Plus a host of other small details that add up to very high performance."

ZOPE is developed under Linux on Intel hardware and is supported on Linux/Intel, Solaris (SPARC and Intel), Digital Unix, BSDI and Windows NT. The developers note that "We have also done consulting with it on SGI/Irix and HP-UX. It should run on Windows 95, Mac OS and even Windows CE. Maybe someone will port it to the Pilot."

Finally, as I noted above, ZOPE is free. That's right open source *and* free. From the ZOPE Frequently Asked Questions list … question: "Is it really free and open source? Have you lost your mind?" Answer: "In a word, yes."

If I can find the time between now and Christmas, I shall be testing ZOPE, and I'll let you know what I find. If you beat me to it, drop me a line and let me know what you think.

Mark Gibbs is an consultant, author, journalist, and columnist. He writes the weekly Backspin column in Network World and authors frequent features for a number of publications. Gibbs is also a principal of Change Council and affiliated with a number of high tech ventures including Netratings, Inc., the most advanced Web audience measurement firm. Contact him at mgibbs@gibbs.com.

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