Server appliances arrive in earnest - and all in blue

The server appliance wave continues to wash up on these shores, with Insite Technology's official announcement that it will be distributing the Cobalt Networks product line.

The server appliance wave continues to wash up on these shores, with Insite Technology's official announcement that it will be distributing the Cobalt Networks product line.

Cobalt produces a family of dedicated Web server and cacheing appliances which run a custom version of Linux called Cobalt Linux. The products' chief appeal is their ease of management and low cost - Christchurch-based Insite will be selling the bottom-of-the-range Qube 2 for $2300 ex GST.

Netlink is already using Cobalt RaQ servers to drive the government Website and Clearview is also doing some hosting with the RaQ. Clear Net also recently took the appliance path, buying dedicated cacheing appliances from the US firm CacheFlow, which recently established a local presence.

The pitch for Cobalt's server products is "installation in minutes, ROI in months", the US company's Asia-Pacific sales and marketing director Desa Zraick said at a press briefing this week.

Zraick said the appliances are aimed at "a new class of buyer" as well as established ISPs and Web hosting companies. The 17.5cm cube Qube2 and Qube3 are aimed at small and medium sized business, and the pizza-box style RaQ servers are more suitable for ISPs. All the servers consume less than 40 watts of power.

"Hosting companies in the US are buying the Raq in the 20s, 50s and 100s," said Zraick. "They're cheap enough to pre-provision."

As well as Cobalt Linux, all the appliances ship with Apache Web server software, Bind DNS, sendmail, FTP, DHCP and 56-bit SSL support, which Zraick says should be upgraded to 128-bit, the US government permitting. They also ship with Cobalt's own middleware APIs and a simple user interface.

Vraick said there are "multiple apps and databases available" for what she described as "an e-commerce-ready box", from both ISVs and the open source pool - including a version of the Oracle 8i database, announced last week.

"I'm not quite sure who is going to put a $30,000 software product on a (US)$1000 box, but that's what our customers requested," said Vraick.

All the appliances include a PCI slot and offer the option of a Linux command line.

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