Reviews

Celestix Aries Server: Small and Powerful




Elware Celestix Aries Server $1,500

http://www.eiwww.com

In a Nutshell

Rating:4 Penguins

Pros:


  • Small and attractive
  • True network appliance
  • Good Linux services
  • Good network connectivity
  • Easy administration by the Web or front panel

Cons:


  • No printed manuals
  • Firewall not fine-grained enough
  • VPN/Secure Tunnel requires Windows clients
  • Supplied hard disk a little small
  • A little pricey

Review (Aries)

Additional Resources

Web Server/Appliances/ Applications

Network Appliance Opinions


Web Servers and Network Appliances have been called many things, but “cute” is not a familiar adjective. The Celestix Aries Server will likely add it to your networking lexicon though — it weighs in at less than a kilogram, measures about 5x7x8 inches. Don’t let its diminutive dimensions fool you though.

Within its trim form rests a Pentium-class Cyrix 200 MHz CPU, 64 MBs of high speed RAM, a 6 GB hard disk, 2 Ethernet ports, both serial and parallel ports, two PMCIA card slots, and 2 USB ports. Additionally, the server sports an IRDA infrared port on its front, so transferring data from/to compliant devices, such as an infra-red equipped PDA, is easily accomplished. The Linux 2.2.5 kernel drives it all and enables services such as print sharing, DHCP, DNS, NAT, VPN, and — a favorite in these cowboy Internet times — an embedded firewall.

Safe and Secure

The firewall allows you to filter packets to or from the configured Web, FTP, telnet, mail and domain name servers, but unfortunately the scope of the allow/deny does not allow for any specificity, being an “all or nothing” approach. Normally, this box would be set up as the gateway between your LAN and the Internet, so more precisely controlled IP firewalling is a must for the next release.

The disk in this Lilliputian server might at first appear to be a bit smaller and perhaps slower than a server requires. However, if the Aries is used as a gateway, the disk appears to be just what the doctor ordered. In that situation, the other machines on the network function as the data storage workhorses, providing both the capacity and dispatch first thought lacking from the Aries.

System Administration

The Aries does not require a keyboard or screen. Most administrative tasks can be accomplished through an provided LCD display (about 3″ x 1.5″) with its accompanying configurable keys. There are four of them, allowing you to perform functions such as turning the various services on or off, or shutting the entire server down in an orderly manner. The display and keys can also be custom programmed, if you so desire.

Administrative functions not easy to accomplish through the 4-key keypad can be easily accessed via a secure login across the LAN to the Aries’ admin Web pages (which is how we configured the firewall, for example, and also the way in which DCHP parameters can be set).

Since this server is actually running Linux, there really are no surprises when it comes to system administration, although the Aries configuration and maintenance screens will take a little while to get used to.

There was very little to dislike about this Mighty Tyke. We did find it a little too Windows-centric for our tastes, but mostly in the more esoteric areas, such as the Virtual Private Networking arena. Only Windows-based VPN network clients are installable and compatible, for example, but nothing prevents Linux-based secure tunnels from being installed.

The Aries installation process was a no-brainer; its capabilities and functionality were remarkable for its size and comparatively modest price. (Although you probably pay a premium for its innovative and unique design!) It’s quiet too, as it has no fan. And it’s cute.

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