Toshiba jumps into appliance server market

Toshiba Corp. entered the fast-growing appliance server market last week with a system designed to reduce the setup and maintenance woes users face with remote offices and limited IT staff.

Observers say the Magnia SG10 is worth looking at for its price, which starts at about $1,300, compared with an industry average of US$1,600, according to consultancy Workgroup Strategic Services. A similar offering with more memory and horsepower from rival Cobalt Networks Inc., which was recently purchased by Sun Microsystems Inc., starts at about $1,800.

The Magnia SG10 features a preloaded Linux operating system, network management, e-mail, Internet connectivity software and network management for devices such as printers and PDAs. The server also works with Bluetooth and 802.11b-compliant wireless devices to accommodate mobile users.

Mark Melenovsky, an analyst with market research firm IDC, says Toshiba's appliance offering differs from more-specialized boxes that feature storage, Web hosting and caching - such as those offered by IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun - because it addresses more general-purpose remote office needs. He says Toshiba is looking to tap a hot appliance market and help users simplify the management and setup of servers.

"This server is preloaded with software and is simple to run and use," he says. "For a company with a large corporate office and lots of remote offices, it can save IT staff a lot of work because all software updates can be loaded and distributed over the Internet."

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