Sun speeds up Cobalt Qube, adds security

Sun Microsystems Inc. upgraded its Cobalt Qube server appliance line Monday, adding new security and management software along with faster processors to its hardware targeted at small and medium-sized businesses.

Just larger than a soccer ball, the Cobalt Qube 3 is Sun’s attempt to make serving e-mail, print files, Web sites and cached images easy to manage. Users would typically plug the appliance into their Ethernet network, set up the basic functions and then access other administrative tools via the Web. The Qube is targeted toward small businesses looking for a low-maintenance server and larger businesses seeking a low-cost product to handle one job, such as caching files at a branch office.

Sun sells standard, business and professional editions of the Qube. All three versions will now come with 450MHz K62 chips from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) and run a homemade flavor of Linux that is a tweaked version of Red Hat Inc.’s distribution of the operating system, said Peder Ulander, senior director at Sun Cobalt. The standard edition starts at US$1,149 with 64 MB of memory and a 20 GB hard drive. The professional edition costs US$2,099 with 512 MB of memory and a 40 GB hard drive.

With the latest release of the Qube, users will find new features for setting up networked printers. The Qube 3 can queue and serve up documents to a remote printer for users with Macintosh, Windows or Unix computers.

Users will also now be able to work with the PPTP (Point to Point Tunneling Protocol) and IPSec (Internet Protocol Security) standards for maintaining VPNs (virtual private networks). Support for this networking technology should make it easier for companies to keep a growing network secure and support remote workers.

Sun improved language support on the Qube 3 as well, making a multilingual management Web site for English, German, Spanish, French, Japanese and Chinese speakers, Ulander said.

While suffering from slow sales for its higher-priced Unix servers, Sun claims the Cobalt products have been attractive to customers with reduced IT budgets. The company positions the Cobalt line against low-end servers based on Intel Corp. chips and running Microsoft Corp.’s operating systems.

Sun Microsystems of Canada in Markham, Ont., is at