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Here's a hat-trick of network server releases from yesterday - with a trio of vendors vying for a place in the forecasted $16 billion market.

Dell is pitching itself against Cisco with its first ever load balancing servers. There are three PowerApp.Big-IP models and these cost from $7,900 to $30,500. The machines are designed to catch Net traffic on e-commerce Websites and divide the work between several back-end servers. They use software from load balancing specialists F5 Networks.

California-based CacheFlow's latest devices are aimed at speeding up information delivery for high-traffic Websites. According to the press release: "The CacheFlow Server Accelerator family enables web sites to serve five to ten times more content through existing server and network infrastructure and reduces user response times by 50-80 per cent". The servers hold content in memory instead of on the hard disk.

The Server Accelerator line costs between $9,995 for the entry-level 700 series to $84,995 for the high-end 5725.

Meanwhile Maxtor, traditionally in the less lucrative hard disk manufacturer field, has released its $4,499 MaxAttach NAS 4000 server. It can store up to 320GB of data, is just 1.75 inches tall and is compatible with Windows, Linux or Unix, the company said.

The device has four hard disks, and is designed to be idiotproof. It mirrors data on each of the two pairs of hard disks to protect data, has separate power supplies in case one fails, and if the device breaks Maxtor promises to send a replacement within two days.

All these server appliances are designed to be bolted into racks.

According to Merrill Lynch, the server appliances market will be worth $16 billion in 2004, and $12 Billion according to figures by IDC. ®

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