InformationWeek: Thin Servers Plug Growing Businesses Into The Net...Mar 28, 2000, 22:01 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Mitt Jones)
"Keeping general-purpose servers running smoothly in a business environment is a mixture of science and art. Large companies can easily absorb the cost of retaining a staff of high-tech alchemists up to the task, but the expense can be considerable for many small and midsize businesses. Even larger companies don't always foot the bill for skilled IT personnel at their remote offices. That's why a growing number of emerging enterprises and branch offices are turning to server appliances-also called thin servers-to address the connectivity challenge."
"The central idea behind thin servers is to keep costs low and reliability high by limiting functionality to one or a few tasks, and by integrating the necessary operating system and software in one preinstalled bundle. Big business has embraced the concept with products such as network-attached storage devices, and Internet caching devices are also catching on. For smaller businesses, however, server appliances are emerging as a sensible solution to another problem-how to easily and efficiently provide E-mail and Internet access to employees, create an intranet site or even an external Web site that can be mirrored to an Internet service provider, and enable firewall security to protect network resources."
"Internet appliance vendors uniformly tout their products as simple to install and configure. Proprietary software that sits on top of an operating system such as Linux or FreeBSD guides users through a series of simple setup screens, which are typically accessed using the browser of a connected PC. "We like to say our objective is to be able to get our mothers to do this," says Kelly Herrell, VP of marketing for Cobalt Networks Inc., which makes the Qube Internet access appliance."
"Though most of these appliances allow some custom settings to be made through HTML interfaces, they're generally designed to be maintenance- free. In contrast to conventional, open-case servers, thin servers keep hardware and software to a minimum, so that "there are fewer variables, fewer things to go wrong," says Paul Miller, director of product marketing for small and medium business and corporate servers for Compaq, which makes a thin servers, including an Internet caching device..."