Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Computing Appliances versus Configuration Control

As both a CIO and a home user, I have long been frustrated with the trade-off that was required between accepting a computing appliance with limited capability, and the power and complexity of rolling your own.

Often, appliances have been from obscure manufacturers, and tech support is not something that can be counted on. This has led to most people avoiding appliances in favour of the tried and true process of selecting hardware, operating system, building the application, and configuring the parts to work as a whole.

OTOH, non-existant manuals shouldn't be a problem if the appliance is truly plug and play.
There are appliances for spam and virus prevention, firewalls, and web servers. But the first ones to pass the plug and play test were probably NAS appliances. Why go to all the trouble of building a full system when you just need a bunch of disk attached to your network? There are relatively expensive NAS appliances running proprietary operating systems from people like Netapps and EMC, mid-price NAS appliances running Windows from Dell, HP, and IBM, and cheap NAS appliances running various flavours of Linux such as the V-Gear which I reviewed previously.

The most interesting development has been in the all-in-one box that allows a SOHO user to have a complete computing environment without having to hire an IT team or pay big bucks for hosting. The folks at Axentra have come up with a neat little box that appears to do everything, with minimal initial setup handled through a web browser. The product is called the Net-box SOHO-400.

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