Sun partners up for server appliance

Two long-time pals in the IT industry have teamed up yet again to announce a server appliance.

Sun Microsystems and Check Point Software Technologies have jointly released Sun’s LX50 server appliance, which will come pre-loaded with Check Point’s VPN and firewall software. Sun’s Linux-based x86 rack-mountable LX50 server delivers 2Gbps of firewall throughput and up to 640Mbps on the virtual private network (VPN) side of throughput, Sun says.

The market for such server appliances is somewhat divided between two camps. On the one hand, there is VPN and firewall software that is sold separately and then loaded onto the appliance or on the other, appliances that are sold with the software pre-loaded. Sun is banking on the latter with this appliance.

Competitors in the space include networking giant Cisco Systems, Espoo, Finland-based Nokia and Sunnyvale, Calif.- based NetScreen Technologies Inc. Rivals aside, Sun said it is clearly targeting a specific market with its release.

“It meets the needs of the high-end enterprise market and the remote office (space) as well,” said Sanjay Sharma, market segment manager for security at Sun Microsystems in Menlo Park, Calif. The stand-alone appliance would sit behind a router and connect to the Internet, Sharma added.

The software that comes pre-embedded into the appliance is its “standard Linux-based software,” said Arun Gowda, business development manager at Check Point in Redwood City, Calif. As the third major announcement made by the two companies, he added that the latest deal is a “re-engagement by the companies” building on their long-standing business relationship.

According to numbers provided by IDC in the U.S., the worldwide appliance market is expected to grow by 20 per cent next year. On the surface, it is a deal that should see both companies prosper.

“It extends Check Point’s ability to offer its software to many different channels and it gives Sun a much better play to offer security to its customers,” said Charles Kolodgy, research manager at IDC in Framingham, Mass.

Generally, there are three areas where VPN appliances have found a market home – with the remote user who needs access, as branch-to-branch VPNs to connect offices and as a extranet. The extranet scenario resembles the remote access, with the only difference being the connection at the other end is usually a business partner, explained Mark Bouchard, senior program director at the Meta Group in Reston, Va.

While many of Meta’s customers already have a remote VPN in place, he agreed with Kolodgy that the VPN appliance market is a growth market.

“The branch-to-branch VPN market is really starting to take off,” Bouchard said. The primary reasons for the sudden growth in this market segment are related to cheaper broadband Internet services and some sticky management issues that have been resolved, he added.

Pricing for the LX50 VPN/firewall server appliance ranges in hardware costs from US$3,300 to approximately US$5,700.