[ The opinions expressed by authors on Linux Today are their
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On November 4th, the day before Cobalt Networks (NASD:COBT) went
public, I had the good fortune of spending a couple of hours with
Kim Brown of DataQuest, Carl Howe of Forrester Research and Francis
Gaskins on RadioWallStreet discussing Cobalt Networks and network
appliances. In the event you missed the activity on Cobalt, the
Company planned to open its IPO at $17 on November 5th. Instead,
the stock initially opened for $22 and closed the day at $105. On
Friday, November 27th, the stock closed at $143 1/8.
So what does Cobalt Networks do? They make network appliances
using a Red Hat 5.0 distribution ported to the MIPS platform. In
case you're interested in hearing the discussion, it's still
If you decide to miss the analysts' discussion, the topic that
caught the most attention in my mind centered around Cobalt's
software. In a nutshell, the analysts didn't have much to say about
the Company's 1U form factor. Instead, they saw the main market
differentiation for Cobalt being its ability to create an appliance
with software. I remember thinking at the time that someone would
probably catch that point and realize they could just sell the
Three weeks later, I ran across Cybernet's NetMAX product line on the shelves of
the MicroCenter in Richardson, Texas. MicroCenter retails computer
products in the superstore fashion and does a very good job with
Linux. You might say, someone caught the point and realized they
could just sell the software.
I found out that NetMAX has an inventor. Cybernet Systems,
established in 1988 and with clients such as the U.S. Government,
Ford Motor Company and the A.I. du Pont Institute, invented the
NetMAXTM suite of thin server/Internet appliance
software. After extensive investigation, I came away quite
impressed. Cybernet has developed the industry's first suite of
Linux-based "thin"network server products.
Cybernet calls their products the NetMAX Thin Server series.
They feel that NetMAX will appeal to a broad market of users who
want both the power of the mature Unix operating system and the
ease-of-use of a point-and-click interface. They designed the
software for what they refer to as a universally recognized need
for a network that is simple to administer across multiple
platforms - Windows, Macintosh and Unix.
They have a suite of four products which include WebServer,
FireWall, FileServer and the NetMAX professional.
NetMAX WebServer is a pre-configured Web server, Email server
and FTP server in an integrated product. The NetMAX WebServer
includes and easily installs all necessary software in about 15
minutes. The product includes a Linux operating system based on the
Red HatTM distribution or FreeBSD, the Apache web
server, the Sendmail Email server, and an FTP server. All of the
services are pre-configured and integrated into the WebServer
product. The point and click HTML based interface works in a
browser like Cobalt's RaQ and Cube products.
NetMax advertises the WebServer as "all necessary software
included and installed with the complexities of Linux concealed,
multiple Web sites supported, Web site access reports, Web browsing
monitor, IMAP and POP Email server, spam-blocking facilitities,
Windows, Macintosh, and Unix clients supported and a software only
solution ." MicroCenter priced NetMax for $89.95.
NetMAX FireWall is a firewall and a router in one integrated
product. NetMAX FileServer provides file, print, and CD-ROM sharing
and backup utilities. FileServer also includes cross-platform
printing, software mirroring and RAID5, full and differential
backups, server and client backups and data restored to any client.
NetMAX Professional sells for about $500 and has the kitchen skink
thrown in with network management tools.
While all the big computer companies plan on offering 1U track
mount servers in the appliance mode during the first quarter of
2000, NetMAX offers the needed software today. At $89.95, hardware
guys can put together a motherboard with a socket 370 and sell
Cobalt clones for about a quarter the going price. Suddenly, one
has to wonder if Gateway's OEM deal with Cobalt hasn't gotten
undercut before they sell the first server.
I like the NetMAX products. Here's a company that said they
would shrink wrap a Linux based network appliance and they did it.
While the idea doesn't seem very novel considering the many people
who have told me they could do the same thing, the idea and fifty
cents will buy you a cup of Sanka.
Adelstein, CPA, is the CIO/CFO of Bynari, Inc. He's the author of several
books and articles on business and technology and has management,
consulting and hands-on experience in the Information Technology