Gateway Announces Server Appliances

  • Written By: R. Krause
  • Published: December 15 1999

Event Summary

December 7, 1999 [Online News] - San Diego-based Gateway, Inc. jumped into the PC server appliance market today, announcing a pair of Linux-based devices that can handle Internet access, e-mail and file sharing for small businesses and franchises or branch offices of larger companies.

The new Gateway Micro Server models run off of an embedded 64-bit RISC processor made by MIPS Computer Systems Inc. and can be installed in as little as 30 minutes, Gateway said. The Linux operating system is hidden from end users, who only see the built-in Internet and e-mail applications. The devices start at $1,299 and are intended to support up to 100 users, although Gateway said more could be handled for simple e-mail uses.

Gateway appears to be one of the first vendors to come out with server appliances built around Linux. However, we believe one of the most popular uses of Linux with companies that are adopting the Windows alternative is in single-function applications similar to the appliance concept.

Market Impact

Although it is a tad late to the arena, Gateway joins the growing list of vendors shipping server appliances. Gateway chose to outsource the system design to Cobalt Networks (using Cobalt's Qube series as the system base), rather than develop the equipment in-house. Market growth for server appliances should increase based on Gateway's significant position in the PC market. In addition, providing a Linux-based server will tap into that growing market.

Gateway's stated focus is small businesses, with good reason. The Qube series is viewed more as a small-shop product than a building block for a large ISPs/ASPs. In addition, Cobalt's performance numbers (based on the Web Polygraph testing performed by Data Communications magazine) are at the lower end of the scale - this makes it unlikely that a Gateway-modified system will drastically improve those figures. This also leads to a small-shop focus.

Finally, this announcement means that Cobalt has another distribution channel, which should strengthen its position in the small-vendor server appliance market.

User Recommendations

This announcement has little effect on customers needing general-purpose (GP) servers - server appliances are too specialized to be of interest to the general market. There will also be little interest for users wanting to build up large appliance "farms".

For those users who have decided they need/want to have a server appliance setup, this announcement provides another vendor alternative. Branch offices may have some interest, but it begs the question of whether the company has an integrated architecture/strategy, and how the MicroServer fits in with that strategy. The $1299 price tag will be especially appealing to smaller (a/k/a "Mom and Pop") shops. However, small shops may be the only viable market for these appliances. Larger shops would gravitate towards systems more like Cobalt's RaQ series - rack-mountable, 1U (i.e. rack unit) high, gangable solutions. We believe that Gateway should also consider offering a re-badged RaQ server.

Users who decide they need a Linux-based server appliance should include this in their selection process, albeit with the mentioned caveats.

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