Simply Dell-icious: The PowerApp.web is one appliance that will solve your company’s Web hosting problems.
In a Nutshell
Powerful server that takes up a tiny amount of space
Comes with everything necessary to host a Web site
Web-based management scheme completely hides the operating system
Dual 1 GHz processors
1 GB RAM
Hard Drive Space
Three 9 GB hard drives
133 MHz system bus
Two 64-bit 66 MHz PCI slots
Dual Fast Ethernet network interfaces
Three-year next-day on-site warranty
1.75 inches (one rack unit) high
All the big hardware vendors (Compaq, HP, and IBM among them) have taken to slapping some remote-control software on their Intel-based servers and then labeling them appliances. While there’s nothing wrong with common, off-the-shelf hardware, to really be considered an appliance, you have to have a bullet-proof operating system (Windows NT/2000 won’t do), and the OS and applications must be completely and utterly hidden from users and administrators. For an idea of how to do it right, check out Dell’s PowerApp.web 120, a high-density Linux-based Web server built on top of the company’s general-purpose PowerEdge 1550 server.
The PowerApp.web 120 comes in two flavors, one built on Red Hat Linux 7.0, the other using Windows 2000 Advanced Server. According to a Dell product manager, the two product models are selling in about the same quantity, with the Windows boxes going mainly to Windows shops that wish to integrate the appliances into their Active Directory management schemes or leverage specific Win32 features or applications.
The hardware itself is solid and is contained in a 1.75-inch (one rack unit) high chassis designed for high-density data centers. The Red Hat-based system we tested contained dual 1 GHz Pentium III processors (it also comes in 866 MHz and 933 MHz flavors), a 133 MHz system bus, plus 1 GB of RAM, an embedded RAID controller, three 9.1 GB hot-swap Ultra160 SCSI hard drives, two 64-bit 66 MHz PCI expansion slots, and dual Fast Ethernet network interfaces.
It’s a hefty platform, marred only by its single non-swappable power supply. The coolest feature is a duplicate set of keyboard/mouse and video connectors located on the front, so if you do need to run the server directly, you don’t have to take the rack apart to hook up a console; however, if you want to hook it into a KVM (keyboard video mouse switch) for some reason, you can wire it up the traditional way.
The Linux software stack inside the server appliance isn’t anything particularly newsworthy; everything needed to host a Web site is included — Linux, Apache, Perl, and PHP. What really impressed me with Dell’s value-add is what they call their KickStart utility, which provides a full Web-based interface to administer the server’s OS, create virtual Web servers at various IP address or s port numbers, and enable or disable shared features for those sites. Best of all, it can assign different users various privileges for maintaining those sites or specific functions of the server, which makes the server good for service providers, large enterprises, or schools.
Equally as good as the appliance interfaces from Cobalt, Snap Appliances, or Network Appliance, Dell is to be commended for creating a Linux system built on an affordable and powerful hardware platform, which can be run 100 percent remotely, through the Web, without administrators having to know that Linux is the underlying operating system. The PowerApp.web 120 (well, the Linux version at least) is the right solution for businesses wanting to give their Web sites the proven security and flexibility of Linux, but who don’t ever, ever want to deal with the OS directly.
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