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IBM Unveils Web Server Appliance with Optimized Windows 2000 Code

Trying to get in on the server appliance future that analysts are predicting will be big business in a few years, IBM Corp. today unveiled the first of its line of appliance servers.

The new model is a 1U, 2-processor capable Netfinity server running Windows 2000 Advanced Server optimized for Web serving and enhanced by new IBM software designed to speed the delivery of Web content.

IBM (www.ibm.com) is branding the new servers the Netfinity A-Series, and the new box, which comes in three configurations, is called the Netfinity A100.

"We mark the beginning of our appliance generation of servers," declared Jim Gargan, director of strategy and product marketing for Netfinity at IBM. He said the A100 establishes a new paradigm that he called unpacking-to-Web-hosting operations. "It takes a typical customer 2 ½ hours to unpack and install that server. With the A100, we can accomplish that task in 5 minutes," he said.

Early industry reports about the new combination of IBM server and Windows 2000 operating system said it would use a lightweight or embedded version of Windows 2000. The Microsoft Corp. (www.microsoft.com) representative at the launch news conference tried to dispel those rumors.

"This is not Windows 2000 Lite, this is not Windows 2000 Embedded," said Bill Veghte, vice president of the embedded and appliance platform group at Microsoft. "This is taking the capabilities of Windows 2000 and optimizing them for Web serving.

There is certainly some work that is applicable to the embedded kit. But the focus was, ‘Deliver a great server.’"

The Web server-optimized version of Windows 2000 Advanced Server leverages Internet Information Services 5.0, Network Load Balancing, SMP support, and asynchronous I/O from Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Veghte said. Disabled services in the Web server-optimized OS include DHCP, DNS, WINS, TAPI, RRAS, and domain controller functionality.

Veghte repeatedly declined to answer questions about whether the work Microsoft did with IBM on the A100 is similar to work rumored to have been done for a server appliance expected shortly from Dell Computer Corp. (www.dell.com).

Market research firm IDC (www.idc.com) last week published research on the appliance server market calling it "too hot not to touch" for server vendors. IDC predicted appliance server revenues would reach $11 billion by 2004, up from significantly less than $1 billion in 1999. Within that market, IDC projects that revenues in the Web server segment will grow even faster – at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 130 percent compared with 73 percent CAGR for the overall appliance server market.

IDC, which sees 2000 as a pivotal year for appliance servers, expects much of the appliance server growth to come at the expense of general-purpose servers.

The new IBM A100s start at $6,000. The least expensive configuration comes with one 650 MHz Pentium III processor, 512 MB of memory, a 9 GB hard drive, and 10/100 NICs. A medium configuration adds a second 650 MHz chip, a second 9 GB hard drive and bumps the memory up to 1 GB. The most expensive setup includes two 750 MHz Pentium IIIs, 2 GB of memory, two 18 GB hard drives, and Gigabit Ethernet NICs.

All models come prepackaged with Netfinity Web Server Accelerator Version 2.0, which leverages the Windows 2000 kernel to boost Web-hosting performance by storing frequently accessed information such as the home page and product photos, freeing the Web server for transaction data such as consumer credit card and shipping information.

The slim servers are based on the Netfinity 4000R servers, and IBM has decided against sealing its appliance boxes, Gargan says. "We thought long and hard about that, and what we decided to do was not to take that approach. Should a customer want to add a second processor to that appliance [later], they’re able to do so. Should a customer want to redeploy this system as a general server, they would be able to do so." – Scott Bekker

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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