Microsoft and Intel announced plans for a Windows NT based server appliance for small businesses at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (Winhec), which opened in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Such single application systems from vendors such as Cobalt Networks have been on the market for some time, however, and are often based on tailored versions of Linux. Oracle, for one, introduced its socalled Database Appliance, a dedicated database server based on Oracle 8i and Sun?s Solaris kernel, earlier this year.
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft?s president, demonstrated a prototype of the Windows based Server Appliance during his keynote speech. Microsoft?s version of the thin server concept is based on Windows NT Embedded 4.0, which was first announced in 1998.
NT Embedded was initially developed for use in devices such as routers or industrial controllers, and is a ?building block? version of NT, enabling system designers to implement only those NT components needed for a specific system.
The Windows based Server Appliance will offer basic server functions such as file and print sharing and Internet connectivity, but is not intended to host applications. It will come without a screen or keyboard and, Microsoft claims, users will be able to set it up and manage it from a Web browser running on any networked PC within 30 minutes, without requiring any specialised knowledge.
Although the prototype shown at Winhec was jointly developed by Microsoft and Intel, the partners said the devices would be sold by OEMs. The first appliances are expected to hit the market in the second half of this year and will cost less than $2,000, although some models will possibly be nearer the $1,000 mark.
In an unusual step for Microsoft, this price is also likely to include a licence for an unlimited number of users.
On the opposite end of the NT Server spectrum, Microsoft also demonstrated a 64bit version of Windows 2000 and a four node cluster of Windows 2000 servers for the first time on Wednesday.
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