March Networks SME Server 5 Free (ServiceLink $175/month)
In a Nutshell
- Easy to install and manage
- Free, as in beer
- RAID-1 support out of the box
- Enterprise-class network monitoring and auto-update service available at additional cost
|Roll Your Own: March Networks’ SME Server 5 allows you to customize your own network appliance.
- Product name lacks sex appeal
- Still based on older 2.2 kernel
Developer site with free download
Compaq site with ML300 SME Server 5 preloads
We’ve reviewed quite a few Linux-based network appliances over the past few months, in- cluding Cobalt’s Qube 3/RaQ4, Technauts’ eServer.net, Dell’s PowerApp, and the Celestix Aries. While many of them are easy to use and install, they all have one minor problem: they cost money.
Sure, you could go down to your local CompUSA or Fry’s and pick up a disposable PC for $600-$700 and install Red Hat or another distro on it, but it would actually require time and effort to configure properly. And, your average small or medium-sized business with minimal Linux (or even computing) expertise is not able to easily do that. Plug-and-play appliances like the Qube 3 are ideal for that kind of environment; however, those devices tend to be underpowered and can’t be easily upgraded. For those of us who like to roll our own solutions, it’s annoying that Cobalt has never made its software available to the public.
Enter March Networks SME Server 5 (the SME stands for Small/Medium/Enterprise), a free, easy-to-install appliance Linux distribution with a lousy name. We preferred e-Smith, its name before the Mitel acquisition, but that’s not going to stop us from recommending SME Server to anyone looking for a quick and easy way to put a Net appliance on their LAN.
Aimed at system integrators, SME Server 5 can be easily downloaded as a 300 MB ISO CD image from the e-smith. org Web site and burned onto a CD-R; it can also be ordered in nice red-and-white cardboard boxes from Mitel if you sign up as an integrator partner. Installation is a breeze; simply pop the CD into any old PC, boot, follow a few simple prompts, and in minutes you’ve got a server on your LAN. No kidding.
SME Server may be free, but it still has the same features you’d expect of an expensive Linux appliance like the Qube; it supports RAID-1 disk mirroring right out of the box, and as long as you have two hard disks (IDE or SCSI) installed, the installation program will automatically prompt you to enable RAID. Additionally, SME Server can be used as an Internet gateway, and like other plug-and-play appliances, all of its functionality is manageable via Web interface.
So how does Mitel make money on this? Simple: while the base software is free, Mitel (March Networks) offers an update and monitoring service called ServiceLink; they charge on a subscription basis if you want their 24×7 network operations center to take care of your customer’s box for you. This includes virus scanner updates, automatic software updates, point-and-click IPSEC Virtual Private Networks, DNS services, and guaranteed e-mail. Major software updates such as bug and security fixes are free, but if you don’t elect to use ServiceLink you’ll have to install them manually with their Web interface.
SME Server 5 with ServiceLink is already starting to get significant attention. Compaq is now offering pre-loaded SME Server Proliant ML300s with ServiceLink through one of their distributor partners, PC Connection.
If you’re looking to roll your own Net appliance for either yourself or customers on a shoestring budget, but don’t want to sacrifice ease-of-use or performance, definitely give the March Networks SME Server 5 a spin.
Linux Magazine /
December 2001 / REVIEWS
SME Server Is Five Star