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Sun to unveil rack-mount Cobalt appliance

Sun Microsystems will begin shipping a rack-mount version of its Cobalt server appliance next month. The product includes software that allows users to access some of their own business applications through the Cobalt management interface.

The Sun Cobalt RaQ 550 is a 1U (1.75 inches) rack server that will start from $1,699 (£1,171). The system comes with a version of Red Hat's operating system based on the 2.4 Linux kernel, a 1.26GHz Intel Pentium III processor, two 80Gbyte hard drives and up to 2Gbytes of memory.

Customers can add links to some of their own applications with the RaQ 550's preloaded software, said Vivek Mehra, vice-president and general manager of Sun Cobalt. He added that the software allows users to add an icon to the system's interface to provide fast access to internal corporate applications.

"A lot of the simple goodness remains, but we have opened [the software] up to be more applicable to some of Sun's markets," Mehra said.

Several vendors rushed to bring out server appliances during the Internet boom, hoping to attract customers with systems that handled specific tasks and came with software designed to make them easier to configure and use.

Just as the appliance craze reached its peak, however, hardware sales slowed dramatically and customers began to ask how badly they needed an appliance tuned specifically for e-mail, serving Web pages or running a database.

By allowing customers to modify its appliance software more easily, Sun has managed to avoid some of the pitfalls that caught other vendors and has emerged as the appliance leader, according to one analyst.

With the Cobalt software offered at present, developers can perform tasks such as setting up a new user account or checking for hardware failures by clicking icons in the management interface.

Users will now be able to extend this method to their own software and place a link to a custom firewall or e-commerce application, for example, into the Cobalt manager.

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