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Next Step in ISP Control Panels? 111

rdelon writes "Finally there is some movement in the hosting provider control panel department. cPanel and Ensim have been around for years but some people have grown increasingly frustrated with them. WebFaction has developed a new type of control panel. It offers an Ajax web interface that decouples the application from the domain: the root of a website might be served by Ruby on Rails while the /blog URL might be served by WordPress; reciprocally, multiple websites might be served from a single Django application, which reduces the resource usage on the server. A screencast demo of the control panel is available on their blog."
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Next Step in ISP Control Panels?

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  • buzzword bingo (Score:2, Insightful)

    by grozzie2 ( 698656 )
    Dunno about the article, but, that summary, toss in a few more buzzwords and it'll bamboozle any manager into buying the product. Techies on the other hand, if you need a control panel to manage the server, probably shouldn't be managing it anyways, should really get somebody that knows how to run the machine for you.
    • by k-sound ( 718684 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:46AM (#15655353)
      Techies on the other hand, if you need a control panel to manage the server, probably shouldn't be managing it anyways, should really get somebody that knows how to run the machine for you.

      Uhu and real admins don't have a collection of shell scripts to perform redundant tasks over and over again. In fact I've heard that real geeks no longer use keyboards, they send the electrical pulses to the PS/2 port directly using a battery and some wires.
      • Batteries??? Mine's powered purely by my sense of satisfaction, ahhh

      • No, we actually hire outsourced support agencies and make them do everything. Not as fast as a USB 2.0 jack from your brain to the box, but it is one.

        Honestly folks with the advent of Xen I suggest avoiding shared web hosting at all costs. No matter how grand dios the control panel is, or how cleverly they've been able to transcend text descriptors into arguments for simple shell scripts, you have the following issues :

        1 - Popular scripts require functions enabled in php which have corresponding popular vul
    • a first reply is seldom well thought thru..

      when i need to integrate a lot of services, partly self serviced by the customer, where is the problem in having them intgrated into a usable frontend? just because i can create a customer, with a template of security settings/features for him with the ease of a click doesn't makes me a bit dumber then i was before. it just helps. does it mean i don't know how to secure a server, read a log file, tweak a qmail configuration? no, sorry, it doesn't.

      so, next time,

    • Dunno about the article, but, that summary, toss in a few more buzzwords and it'll bamboozle any manager into buying the product.
      Not to mention the demo itself. WTF is Rails or Django or TurboGsomethingorother? What about Drupal or Joomla? At least mention something people have actually heard of.
    • While you are right that a good admin needs to know how to do things manually, having a GUI often speeds things up and saves you time.
      • having a GUI often speeds things up and saves you time.

        While I agree, that, initially having a GUI saves time, I think that over the long term I can accomplish task more quickly over the command line once I know how to do the task that way. Having a GUI is nice, but it should not be mandatory. I should be able to open up a shell and do everything over the command line if I need to.

    • I wasn't aware that my ISP had a control panel. I know my webhost does (and also gives root access) but I didn't know that MSN, AOL, Cox, Comcast, Verizon, gave control panels for their customers.
    • I wonder how many signups they got for getting plugged on Slashdot.

      1. Make nice looking control panel with some ajax and webby 2.0 stuff
      2. Post article with said buzzwords to slashdot
      3. ??
      4. Profit
    • They may be buzzword-happy, but they are serious about their datacenter. Okay, EV1s datacenter anyway... [] "Redundant UPS systems, generator backup, VESPA detection systems, closed circuit monitoring of all areas and entrances, 24 hour guard manned security and redundant a/c systems" I'm glad they keep those damn motorscooters from terrorizing customer servers. I'd have to worry about them if they didn't.
    • I must disagree. Control panels on a monitor in your cell cubicle are a great way to avoid talking to nontechie managers.

      Just make sure there is an icon or a line or something that will, on occasion, turn red and flash. That way, when the obnoxious boss is looking over your shoulder you can say "Uh oh" or something a little cruder and go running off without even saying excuse me.
  • Yuck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Umbral Blot ( 737704 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:39AM (#15655330) Homepage
    Let me try to figure out what that summary is saying. Here we go:
    Some companies provide user friendly interfaces for running web servers.
    WebFaction devloped a "better" user interface (because it uses AJAX?), that can do a bit more

    So what? It doesn't sound revolutionary or innovative in the least. Was this supposed to be in the vendors section, because it certainly sounds like it?
    • Indeed.

      If you're really running a complicated website with multiple applications like this, should you really be depending on an AJAX-y control panel to set it up?
    • Re:Yuck (Score:5, Interesting)

      by baadger ( 764884 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:49AM (#15655362)
      Sure, to us web geeks the functionality demo'd in the screencast just shows how the control panel generates a simple htaccess / web server configuration to keep your code out of your actual public html directory (uses mod_rewrite?) but this is still quite a useful feature to incoporate into a control panel.

      Not everyone wants to deal with .htaccess files or web server config, otherwise they wouldn't be using frameworks like rails or django or control panels like WebFaction to start with. I think the point being made is that organisation of various framework powered websites on a single domain or server has always been a bit of a pain, needing hand crafted attention.

      Oh and since the summary seems to be pretty heavy with the commercial linkage, here's my vote for DirectAdmin [] which has much more reasonable licensing than CPanel.
    • So what? It doesn't sound revolutionary or innovative in the least.

      But it's like, totally Web 2.0, dude. Adding AJAX to something makes it completely new and innovative, just like in 2000, when taking a grocery and putting it on the internet was completely new and innovative.
      I wonder whether this new config panel also includes "digg this configuration" links.
      • I wonder whether this new config panel also includes "digg this configuration" links.

        Why isn't this modded insightful yet? Goddamn!

        Oh it's the 4th. Well, bummer dude, you wasted a good comment. It'll be burried come Wednesday
        • Well, bummer dude, you wasted a good comment.

          You seem to be under the impression that the amount of derisive comments I can produce is in any way limited...
  • Having used a couple of very bad web hosting interfaces, here hoping this makes providers all jump up and add extra ajaxy goodness.

    Though I agree these should'nt really need to do much more than allow you to set FTP/Mysql passwords and set home directories for your domains.
  • Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by giginger ( 825703 ) <giginger@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:44AM (#15655348) Homepage
    Surely it's WHAT the control panel does and not HOW it does it? Maybe it's just me who loves features but would happily have it in a plain interface as long as it worked...
  • I use DirectAdmin as a control panel when I need something done quickly, but the simple fact of the matter is, if you want the job done right, you're going to have to log in witha secure shell. There are no real alternatives.
    • Re:DirectAdmin + SSH (Score:4, Informative)

      by andersa ( 687550 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @07:21AM (#15655522)

      Let me throw some wood on.. :)

      AlternC [] is thoroughly integrated with Debian []. Which means it knows about how Debian does things and doesn't screw up your system, like virtualmin for instance.

      I have used it on a couple of sites now, and I am pretty happy with it. The only inconvinience with it is that the lead developers are French, and the English translation isn't exactly perfect, but it is only a minor one.

      • Which means it knows about how Debian does things and doesn't screw up your system, like virtualmin for instance.

        Have you filed a bug? We're unaware of any issues on Debian at this time--there were some issues with rc.d entries about a year ago, but they've long been resolved. I'm not sure what else you're having trouble with. File a bug about it, and we'll get it fixed. I've been working on a version of the Virtualmin Professional installer for Debian for the past couple of weeks, and things are going
        • You know, to be fair, web/user/virtualmin are probably high quality products on their own. I don't know what it really boiled down to, but the debian packages that was part of the distribution ended up being buggy and unmaintained. Therefore the packages was removed from debian a while back.

          Debian bug #343897 []

          One annoyance I had personally was that it didn't use Debians way of dealing with apache virtual hosts, and the config file ended up being one big unreadable mess as a result.

          One advice i would giv

          • One annoyance I had personally was that it didn't use Debians way of dealing with apache virtual hosts, and the config file ended up being one big unreadable mess as a result.

            Fixed in both GPL and Professional, at least I'm pretty sure Debian's way is supported--it's all configurable options now. We added support for vhosts.conf, or something along those lines for SUSE...all virtual hosts go in a separate file. I consider that an unreadable mess, since I like it all in one place, but I can see how some fo
  • Astroturf? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Elliot Anderson ( 743825 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:50AM (#15655364)
    First we had Matt trying to pimp his site earlier, trying to pass it off as a "You Tube Killer", now we have some control panel company trying to do the same thing. The submitters URL goes straight to WebFaction. It wouldn't be quite so annoying if they wern't trying to pass themselves off as being an uninvolved third party and talking in the third person context all the time. Atleast they didn't call themselves a [cPanel|Ensim] Killer
    • I concur. This is a pretty pointless feeling article to me.

      I mean ... yeah, cpanel isn't much fun, neither is plesk or ensim. But that software is at least interesting.

      This would be the equivalent of Dreamhost posting a story demoing their "one-click installs" of ... well, the same standard-fare software. The only remotely interesting thing here is that he went through the trouble of encoding the video in ogg+theora.

      Don't get me wrong, there's a LOT of room for improvement in the server control panel rea
      • I use Dreamhost, and they don't use Cpanel, they use their own homegrown app. It kind of got to me at first when I switched to them, but the short story is, is that it doesn't matter that much. I don't spend that much time configuring my settings that it makes that much difference. I wouldn't choose a hosting providers based on the control panel, and I wouldn't leave one on the sole fact that their control panel sucked. For maybe the 1 hour a month that I may spend on configuration, it's not going to make
        • The only problem I see in dreamhost is that every change I make thakes a lot of time to be applied, so it is a pain to know if it worked or not.
    • Re:Astroturf? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chainsaw76 ( 261937 )
      Sad part is, it's not even a control panel company, it's a hosting company, who's dedicated servers START at $350/mo. (Celeron 2.0ghz, 120gb drive, 1gb drive, and 1300 gb of data transfer, That'll run ya about $65/mo from other providers so $285/mo markup), and sure they offer shared hosting at $7.50/mo.. but who doesn't?

      • And even their 7.50 (really it's 9.50, if you don't pay upfront) shared hosting is a rip-off. Only 1 Gig of space, and 50 Gig of transfer. With my current provider [] I get 20 Gigs of space and 1 TB of transfer for $7.95.
        • You might want to look up overselling. Some people are willing to pay the same or more for less if it means it's guaranteed that those resources are allocated exclusively to them.

          I do think this particular host is a ripoff, though. Look at the shared hosting plans — a maximum of 3 websites, even if they're all PHP? I've never seen a host that imposes such a stupidly artificial limit. Limits on the number of domains, subdomains, mailboxes, etc really shouldn't be around in this day and age. The only l

      • $350 a month for that! Is this a joke? For that much I could buy one of those PCs and co-lo it for a month, and still have change left over.
      • I use a 'pricier' (but exceptional) dedicated host that's cheaper than that. $290 a month gets me a Dual Xeon 2.8GHz, Dual 160GB SATA drives, RAID1ed, 2GB memory... only thing I'd like more of is bandwidth (200GB/month - but I suspect they'd be quite happy to help out - they go above the call of duty, seconding MXing, slave DNS, etc).

        A2 Web Hosting - - look ma, no affiliate link (and I'm not an employee).

  • Where's the meat ? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Spliffster ( 755587 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:01AM (#15655388) Homepage Journal
    altough it is only a screencast (no demo available AFAIK) I find the UI is pretty nice and cleaned up. We are using Plesk here which is kinda messy (UI wise). I did no really see the point in using AJAX from what was shown in the demo. the only use of ajax in the demo was displaying an animated image while submitting data (and adding some rows in forms, but this is just javascript).

    So, comparing (from what was shown) with cPanel or Plesk, i do not see that killer feature which would make ISP's switch (except maybe the price, but i couldn't find any).
  • "Thanks to a shipping error, I am now currently overstocked on wacky, waving, inflatable-arm-flailing tube men and I am passing the savings on to you!" But seriously, besides the flashy images, AJAX, and there seems to be quantifiably less significant and useful features than any other control panel I know of. The way Ruby on Rails and these other applications are setup, installation is meant to be simple and easily done by anyone. Just save yourself some expense by downloading gem and typing "gem install
  • by jt2377 ( 933506 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:08AM (#15655403)
    know nothing about webhosting, a control panel is not an application for admin. it's an application for users. you do not use cpanel/DirectAdmin/Plesk to manage your server. you do it the traditional way, SSH w/a admin who know his kung fu.
    • The other half of us know that at $350/mo for a celeron 2.0, 120gb drive, and 1 gig of ram (about $65 from LT last I checked), their cheapest server, you are being ripped off. AJAX control panel or not.

      • This point was significant enough that you thought it was worth mentioning twice []?

        They put in the development time to produce their own comprehensive control panel, one that they believe is beneficial to their customers. They saw a void/opportunity in the market and filled it. Web hosting is so easy now with web frameworks like rails many people can run everything they need themselves from 'bare' hosting accounts cutting out the need for pretty services from their host. So developing something that makes usi
    • you do not use cpanel/DirectAdmin/Plesk to manage your server.

      why do you know that i don't !?

      I would agree with you if we are speaking about a server for a handfull of domains, but at large Plesk is very convenient. Let's me setup dns/mail/www and webapplications all trough a browser (yes, even from IE wehn i am not on one of my personal computers).

      It - indeed - eases the work of an admin at an isp. i am doing this for 10 years now for an isp now and then, and since i know bind, sendmail and apache wel

  • by Strepsil ( 75641 ) <> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:17AM (#15655417) Homepage
    I thought I'd seen their web site design [] somewhere before ... I was using that for a bit, too.
  • NExT STeP (Score:5, Funny)

    by Vo0k ( 760020 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:17AM (#15655418) Journal
    NExT STeP in Control Panels for ISP? I know it has a nice GUI, but I think bit antiquated for controlling ISP software.
  • What? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by timecop ( 16217 ) * on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:20AM (#15655421) Homepage
    I want 5 minutes of my life back that I spent watching their "screencast".
    So what does this "control panel" do? Auto-installs blogging software for you?
    Wow, what a progress.
    What about user management, account management, etc etc?
    The dude showed him editing some .html in nano, is that what they expect all users to do?
    This isnt even a "control panel" in any sense of it, its just some GUI installer for blogtrash.

    ISP control panel does a million more things.
    • I watched some more of the flash movie, and I don't think that they are even selling the software.

      It looks like they give you an account on their server running this thing, and you hand over a bundle of cash, your domain, and can then point&click their apps together. After all, it would be quite pointless to sell this, the bundled applications would be outdated within weeks. It only works if it remains on their server, where they can patch/upgrade the various frameworks.

    • sorry... but I have to say this:

      I LOVE NANO! [for simple editing, anyway ;-)]

      Over the last few weeks I've been using SSH a lot. I'm pretty sure I haven't really used my main system for a few days now, I've been doing it all via SSH on my new machine/web-server. Why, just in the last few hours I've installed & configured MySQL, SQLite, Pure-ftpd and Postfix via SSH and nano.

      All these new-fangled Control Panels can kiss my shiny metal ass!

      • I'm gonna be equally off-topic and say: I love nano too! It's simple, intuitive, fast, unbloated, works tolerably over SSH (PuTTY in my case) and best of all, you can side-step the whole vi/emacs debate :)
  • by samj ( 115984 ) * <> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:26AM (#15655432) Homepage
    This ad appeared in the article section, what's with that?
  • I think the write of TFA has ISPs and web hosts confused. ISPs serve up the internet, web hosts serve web sites.
  • I didn't understand a single sentence of the write-up. But I'm sure it must be me. I'm not young enough or something. Or maybe I'm out of touch. I'm sure everyone else has a natural understanding of what a 'hosting provider control panel' is. And what it means when the application is 'decoupled from the domain'. They got it in school. Yeah. That must be it. I must get out of the woods. Fly from my mother's basement. See the blue sky. Shake people's hands. Tell them I love them. In tears. Any
  • WTF!!! (Score:2, Funny)

    Companies/individuals making money by freely advertising on /., instead of paying ads fees ?
  • Webmin is open and extensible, if you really need a control panel of some sort, I can't see why you would use anything else. []

    It already controls many many more things than any of these so called control panels.

    The 3rd party modules are pleantiful as well.

    • I use both Webmin and Ensim Pro for Linux at the moment (on different servers), and must say both have their advantages. The biggest thing in Webmin's favour is that it's free.

      The server I run Ensim on, though, would not be well served by webmin. I'm not a hosting company, but I look after a server used by 100 clubs on one of Australia's largest university campuses, and want each to have its own hosting account. We initially rented space on a server with a hosting company (a "reseller" account using En

  • by paugq ( 443696 ) <pgquiles@e l p a u e r . o rg> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @08:11AM (#15655632) Homepage
    I'd say it's more of a Fantastico [] replacement than a cPanel or Plesk replacement.
  • AJAX? Agile web? Sorry guys - sooo 2005. The zeitgeist has morphed already.
    Words like Rails, Blog, AJAX, Agile will draw only ridicule. Get over yourselves.
  • Next Gen? (Score:3, Informative)

    by nuonce ( 986761 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @10:01AM (#15655917)
    How about a flash back instead? Remember the old Cobalt Network Ones? After Sun decided to EOL of them, they choose to release the code under the BSD License and open source it! The guys at [] took the project over and have been doing one hell of a good job with it! Over at [] we took the BQ project 1 step futher and made an installer that will build you an entire Server in less then 15 minutes. Complete with free Control Panel! It may not be as good as Cpanel or Plesk. But it is great for people who want a free, simple solution!
  • Sure, AJAX is the current buzzword, but nothing they've mentioned is "revolutionary". We use Ensim and it works great for us - we can do/install anything we want, no problem. No it doesn't have Ruby on Rails as a single-click install, but who asks for that anyway? None of our clients. If we want Rails, we can install it, it is easy. What is the big deal? If they want to be "revolutionary", let them open source their control panel. That might get some attention, and then people can actually see if the
  • This site use to provide useful information and stuff that matters. Not balant ads masked as articles.

    Notice the that when you click on rdelon's name, you also go to WebFaction, wonder how impartial can he be?

    Guys, this is not nice. Act like serious people.
  • ISPConfig (Score:2, Informative)

    by Rich Klein ( 699591 )
    I don't run an ISP, and I don't have experience with the control panels mentioned, but I am running ISPConfig [] and I think it belongs on this list of control panels. It's hard for me to offer intelligent comments about it when I have nothing to compare it to, and I still struggle with Linux sometimes. The documentation can't keep up with updates in the various software it uses, but in the end, it works, and it looks pretty slick to my eyes. The authors are, so far, very responsive to emails, too.
  • Well, so you are recomending your own software ? Bleh.
    I'll not even waste my time visiting the site until I see some good review about it on WebHostingTalk.
    • As it states, it is BlueQuartz (based on the RaQ550). It is NOT mine. As far as your response about being on [], or atleast a review. Search for BlueQuartz. You will see a lot of positive feedback on it. The underlaying OS is CentOS v4.3, and it used BlueQuartz for the webgui. But, I did not write the software, just combined the two.
  • I cast my vote for HSPhere [].

    It has a very affordable licensing plan and it does what my company had tried to develop, but never had the time to do: deploy domain services over multiple servers.

    We can define which servers are web (CFMX), web (PHP), e-mail, db, etc., then define hosting packages. When we sign someone up, HSphere configures accounts and access on the differenct servers under a single control panel URL. It's all java, so you can write custom modules as needed.

    Customers can configure FTP, e-mail
  • I don't work for these guys so these opinions are merely my own.

    You guys just read the summary and everytime is says AJAX you automatically start bashing the company using it. AJAX is a tool for allowing a smoother, more interactive, and more responsive interface on the web. AJAX simply makes it a little better than hitting a button and waiting to see if the screen will refresh. If you guys write software and you don't agree that user interfaces should be responsive and informative then I pity your your use
    • Who the hell labeled AJAX as a buzzword, it's an acronym.

      Who the hell labelled cheddar as a cheese, it's a food...

      Also, what's up with so many people complaining about how "everyone on slashdot sucks for thinking XYZ", when they clearly aren't? (in most cases these "everyone here thinks XYZ, but they're wrong" posts outnumber the "I think XYZ" posts ten to one) I just grepped the page, and the only mention of AJAX was "I did no really see the point in using AJAX from what was shown in the demo. the only

    • Thirdly, I'll gladly take an interface that isn't slow, obnoxiously ugly and difficult to use. Webmin, CPanel, Ensim, they are all deep, complex, and ugly. Webmin is the worst.

      Webmin isn't really in the same class as cPanel and Plesk, as it is more of a general system administration tool than a web-hosting control panel. A better comparison is Webmin with the Virtualmin plugin, which is available in free and commercial versions.

    • You guys just read the summary and everytime is says AJAX you automatically start bashing the company using it

      Are you sure the key word is "AJAX"? So if the summary didn't contain the word, then all the complaints about it being an advertisement for a non-free service which does the same things as many other non-free services would go away? Seriously, I'm curious as to how you read the comments and determined AJAX to be the phrase that triggers hate -- my intuition says that the things people are actually

    • If you guys write software and you don't agree that user interfaces should be responsive and informative then I pity your your users.
      Well, these things are basically designed to edit config files. 1 web edit=1 config file edit.

      Unlike places where fancy javascript is actually useful, there aren't any intermediate states. There's no "still shopping," or "not done with form, but need more info." All the information in the form is retrieved before editing, and it's all saved back afterwards.

      So either:
      1) AJA
    • Webmin, CPanel, Ensim, they are all deep, complex, and ugly. Webmin is the worst.

      I would humbly disagree about Webmin (really, to compare to cPanel and Ensim, you need to be talking about Virtualmin). [] []

      Virtualmin Professional also provides an application installation feature, wherein you can have Wordpress, Django, etc. installed for you. Rails, and a few other doodads, will show up in a near future release...installing software automatically
  • This is a commercial, not a serious article.
    Show an application doing all that Ensim or Plesk do in a better way and we will believe it.

  • Someone I know told me that her husband, who interviewed with the cpanel guys, was given top secret insider information that they were developing cpanel for windows. She added that I should keep quiet about this 'privileged' information.

    My reply was silence. Partly because interviewees don't get insider information. The other part came from looking at their website and noticing that they publically announced windows cpanel development. The last reason why I was silent was --- CPANEL FOR WINDOWS? YOU NEED CP
  • Webfaction used to be called, I speak from experience that they are good at python hosting, they also provide free SVN and TRAC hosting to open source projects (such as []).

    That said, this isn't really news, it's advertising. This control panel appears to be little more than a setup tool for various common applications utilising what's probably AddHandler/Action/mod_rewrite commands in .htaccess files (or vhost containers), and an email configurator. Certainly not to

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982