Sales of appliance servers to service providers for both the dot com and SME markets are expected to boom this year.
Worldwide appliance server sales are expected to hit $11.5bn (£7.2bn) by 2004, compared with only $740m last year, said Mark Melenovsky, research manager for worldwide commercial systems and servers at researcher IDC.
Appliance servers, unlike PCs, come pre-loaded and preconfigured for a single function and are sealed against most user upgrades and modifications, said Melenovsky.
Several vendors have recently launched appliance-server products aimed at taking advantage of the boom.
Oracle started shipping its long-awaited 8i Appliance package this month, through hardware OEMs and value-added distributors (CRN, 12 April).The 8i Appliance is essentially a database that runs on Intel-based servers when neither Unix nor Windows operating systems are present. Oracle is marketing the appliance as a foundation for a larger e-business infrastructure package suitable for SMEs.
The 8i Appliance will be aimed primarily at system integrators. Hall-Mark Computer Products and the KeyLink Systems business unit of Pioneer-Standard Electronics will manufacture and sell the appliance to run with servers from Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Fujitsu Siemens.
At the same time, Dell has unveiled its Dell PowerApp appliance servers.
These include a 1U (1.75in-high) dedicated Web server with Windows or Red Hat Linux-based Web-hosting software, and 1U and 2U dedicated Internet caching servers using Novell Internet Caching System technology. Both are expected to ship in May.
Lindy Lesperance, an analyst at Technology Business Research, said: "Dell waits for a market to mature before getting into it. But once it does, it uses its manufacturing and distribution to roll over competitors." Dell also unveiled its Service Provider Direct initiative - a range of resources, programmes and alliances for Internet and application service providers and Web hosting companies.
Oracle and Dell followed IBM, which recently unveiled a new series of Web-hosting appliance servers with Microsoft, due to ship by the end of the month.
The use of Linux in embedded systems such as appliance servers received a vote of confidence last month when 50 companies, including IBM, Motorola and Red Hat, said they are backing the Embedded Linux Consortium.
The consortium aims to advance Linux technology in embedded applications such as Internet appliances, wireless access, home networks and set-top boxes.
Ashim Pal, an analyst at Meta Group, said the use of embedded Web servers would rise, as they are included in products such as set-top boxes and wireless application protocol phones to store content.
The open nature of Linux means it can be developed for specific functions, such as embedded systems, rather than all-encompassing Windows systems, Pal added. "NT is seen as unstable because it is designed to do multiple things. But with Linux, the operating system can be developed for a single use. That's why a mobile phone never crashes," he said.
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