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OSNews: An Overview of the Boa Web Server

Nov 26, 2002, 07:00 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jon Nelson)

"Boa is a single-tasking HTTP server. Boa does not fork a copy of itself or spawn a thread to handle each incoming connection, but rather internally multiplexes the connections. Boa only forks for CGI programs, automatic directory generation, and automatic file gunzipping, each of which must be a separate process. The primary design goals of Boa are speed and security, in the sense of 'can't be subverted by a malicious user,' not 'fine grained access control and encrypted communications.' Boa is not intended as a feature-packed server; if you want one of those, Boa is probably not the right choice.

"Boa is written in C and uses the GNU autoconf system to provide a portable code base. It has been reported to run out-of-the-box on many different flavors of UN*X, and with minor tweaking on many more. Currently Boa is developed on a Linux platform, on a variety of distributions, most notably RedHat Linux, Debian GNU/Linux, and Gentoo Linux. Additionally, Boa is available under FreeBSD 4.6 as a port. Boa has also been reported to run on OpenBSD, HP/UX, Solaris 7 and 8, AIX, and even the Cygwin environment for Windows. An earlier release of Boa was even ported to run under DOS!

"Boa excels at certain types of web serving, notably static documents, which means documents served directly off of disk, without involving additional processes. Though desgined before 100Mbit ethernet, Boa can easily saturate 100Mbit Ethernet links on even modest hardware. Boa was designed before such hardware was readily available, and was specifically designed to use resources efficiently. In fact, Boa is actually one of the oldest actively developed web servers...!"

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