HP joins server appliance market

Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. of Palo Alto, Calif., kicked off an aggressive entrance into the server appliance products market in April with the announcement of 21 server appliances.

Launching under three categories of server appliances – Web hosting, VPN and traffic management, and Web cache and streaming media – the HP products are the last server vendor offerings to enter the market, said Alan Freedman, research manager for servers, workstations and storage, at International Data Corp. (IDC) Canada in Toronto.

“It certainly presents a challenge for them. I’m not sure that it would drastically hurt them because the appliance server market is just taking off now,” Freedman said.

IDC defines server appliances as network-enabled devices explicitly designed to provide a single and dedicated service.

Strengthened by an original equipment manufacturer agreement with Intel Corp. and an alliance with Inktomi Corp. that puts Inktomi’s software on the products, all of the HP server appliances are 1U or 2U rack-mountable products. According to Parag Suri, business manager for Netservers at Mississauga, Ont.-based Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Ltd., the products are geared towards companies with corporate data centres and companies using eXtensible Server Pages (XSP).

An important requirement for server appliances is that network managers must be able to quickly install and configure them, so HP built their products to work out-of-the-box, Suri said. The products are pre-configured and come with everything necessary for installation, so the installer doesn’t need much IT experience, he said.

According to Freedman, the real growth in the server appliance market will take place over the next few years as companies build out their Internet infrastructures in terms of putting servers out on the edge of the network and closer to the customers. HP’s true challenges will come from its smaller installed base compared to its competitors and from its tardiness in the market.

“However, the benefit to that is they’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work, and they’ve seen what customers are looking for in terms of appliance servers, so they were able to put a little bit more fine-tuning on the offering than they would have if they just jumped in with both feet at the beginning of the appliance server movement,” Freedman said.

HP’s Web hosting server appliances are designed for businesses that want to get a Web site up and running immediately. The Web hosting products automatically configure the server for e-mail accounts, Web and FTP, Suri said. The 1U size allows up to 42 servers in a standard rack.

HP’s VPN server appliances are capable of supporting 10,000 simultaneous VPN tunnels per device, Suri said. They operate at up to 95 Mbps throughout.

And, last but not least, the Web caching and traffic management server appliances work towards speeding up, load-balancing and managing the security of e-commerce transaction, Suri said.

The Web hosting server appliances are available now and start at $3,129. The VPN server appliances are also available now and start at $4,999. The Web caching and traffic management server appliances will be available in June and will start at $9,999. HP can be found on the Web at www.hp.com.