FRAMINGHAM (04/21/2000) - Microsoft Corp. has been quietly preparing to snatch a piece of the fast-growing server appliance pie, a market that has become Linux's steady diet.
IBM Corp. and Dell Computer Corp. have announced Web-hosting appliances that use a modified version of Windows 2000. They are single-function servers that can be installed in minutes rather than hours.
Last month, Microsoft introduced Windows for Express Networks, an operating system for server appliances based on Windows NT Embedded 4.0. But the Dell and IBM units run a special version of Windows 2000. According to Ryan Waitt, Microsoft's lead program manager for server appliances, the enhanced reliability of Windows 2000 makes it better-suited as a Web server.
The operating system has been tailored to the hardware for faster performance, Microsoft claimed. The license won't allow buyers to run applications such as SQL Server.
Some users doubt whether Windows is a good choice for a server appliance. "It's going to be a lot less efficient than Linux or OpenBSD," because they are inherently more modular, said Fred Leakeas, information systems operations manager at Intermountain Gas Co. in Boise, Idaho.
But Jim Gargan, director of strategy and product marketing for Netfinity servers at IBM, said Internet service providers and application service providers demand Windows, partly because they already use NT to run Windows-based hosted applications.
Running Windows 2000 on an appliance is more expensive than running Linux. For instance, the top-of-the-line Dell PowerApp.web server model with a 700-MHz Pentium III processor costs $5,298 when running Red Hat Linux 6.2 and Apache.
The same model running Windows 2000 costs $5,698.