HP unveils new server appliances

Hewlett-Packard beefed up its hardware line Wednesday with the release of 19 new server appliances designed to handle specialized Internet content management functions.

Server appliances are a type of Internet infrastructure building block that can complement hardware vendors' server and storage lines. The small size and often low cost of server appliances give service providers and others a tool for managing specific types of information. Such products generally come with basic software functions that fit into networks without too much difficulty for administrators.

HP's Web hosting appliance comes with a browser interface, which the company claims can ease the loading of software like the Apache server and Sendmail Inc.'s mail routing technology onto the products. The hardware handles hosting of multiple Web sites and processes e-mail flow. HP released two models of its Web hosting product available immediately starting at US$2,199.

HP also released two models each of both its Web Cache and Media Cache server appliance lines. Both sets of products should help speed the delivery of content stored on a network to the end user. The cache servers start at $16,999 and will be available on June 1.

The company also launched nine new Traffic Management appliances centered around handling the electronic-commerce needs of its customers. Each of the units fits into a customer's existing network, speeding transactions and handling the direction of content between servers. Lower-end models of the line will start at $6,999 and be available on May 1.

Four new VPN appliances are aimed at helping users route information though secure tunnels on the Internet. Available in May, the units will start at $ 3,499.

Intel Corp. designed the software running on most of the appliances and joined HP for the launch of the new products. Inktomi Corp. also highlighted its work on caching and streaming media software, which was incorporated into the appliances.

All three companies pointed to an interest in server appliances from customers looking to lower network management costs in the midst of difficult economic times. With embedded software and ease-of-use functions, administrators can simply plug the appliances in and have them up and running in about 15 minutes, company officials said. Quick, simple installation means that companies can receive fairly immediate return on their investment and not need to shell out money on "rocket scientists" trying to install the new hardware, officials said.

"You don't need 15 people around to manage this stuff; it just drops right in," said Randy Smerik, general manager of the network equipment division at Intel.

The appliances built on Intel software can also help administrators cope with some of the more computing-intensive functions businesses must handle. For example, transactions requiring SSL (secure socket layer) technology require a great deal of processing capabilities, especially with heavy Web traffic. By installing a traffic appliance, administrators can provide a safeguard for handling a sudden increase in these types of secure transactions on the fly, officials said.

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