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Intel-Inktomi Web cache box runs Sun Solaris

The twin CPU Web appliance is an appliance Jim, but not as we know it...

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Intel will be using Solaris as the base OS for a new and decidedly more upscale "appliance" early next year. The Intel Web-caching appliance was announced last week at ISPCON, is aimed at small to mid-range ISPs, and is effectively an Inktomi Traffic Server box which was co-developed by the two companies. Intel doesn't ordinarily make much noise about the operating system used in its appliances, or indeed even about the spec of the base hardware. Communications products group general manager John Miner certainly doesn't seem to have mentioned either of these when making the Web appliance announcement. But the appliances rolled out so far have been largely cheap and cheerful networking and connectivity boxes from small business, typically running on VXWorks. The decision to go for Solaris for the Web appliance signals that it's going to be rather beefier (twin processor), and its positioning in one of Intel's key target (want to buy a server farm?) markets probably means the company expects high volumes. Interestingly enough, Intel could conceivably have decided to go with NT for the range, as Inktomi has implementations of Traffic Server on Solaris, FreeBSD and NT. Neither Intel nor Inktomi spokesmen could comment on why Solaris was chosen, but Inktomi European product marketing manager Joe Frost told The Register that 90 per cent of the company's business, which is currently largely ISP-driven, is on Solaris. And Intel's initial policy statements on server appliances made it crystal clear that it intended to sell hardware that didn't have complex and expensive per seat licensing fees attached to it. This ruled Microsoft out at the time, and probably still does. Intel is still currently talking of the Web appliance as going into the ISP space, and Andy Powell, European product marketing manager, says that the ISP is the number one target. "But caching server could equally well be installed in any corporate type environment." Inktomi meanwhile has just launched itself into the enterprise market with the Traffic Server E-Class, the market can clearly be seen as being a lot broader. Traffic Server makes sense for ISPs as a smart caching system, but the company sees E-Class as extending this into businesses for purposes like streaming media, traffic filtering, content delivery and management services. The company has also produced an API into Traffic Server, with the intention of creating a whole industry around it. Inktomi also, according to Frost, saw a role for a hardware/software solution, but as it doesn't want to get into hardware, teaming up with Intel made sense. The prospect of selling stacks of appliances into all sorts of new and upmarket areas will also have made sense to Intel. Neither company absolutely rules out NT in the future, and Frost comments that he expects the OS to play a larger role, but nevertheless this looks like a race Microsoft is getting set to lose. ®

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