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"Rambo" to battle for a share of the server-appliance market

Mirapoint on Monday will release its "Rambo" line of so-called server appliances, specialty servers that are designed to handle specific tasks.

Mirapoint, a maker of single-purpose servers, will unveil its new "Rambo" products Monday, raising the stakes in the market for specialty computers known as server appliances.

The company will announce three products designed to let companies add email capabilities quickly and easily, said Mirapoint marketing executive Cheena Srinivasan. Mirapoint plans to sell the machines directly to companies and to Internet service providers that will rent access to the servers to other companies, he said.

Several companies offer server appliances--computers that are configured in advance to do a specific job on a network. Proponents say they are easier to install, use, and administer. Despite having limited functions, server appliances aren't necessarily cheaper than general-purpose servers.

The server-appliance market is expanding, although some of the growth is coming at the expense of general-purpose servers, said International Data Corporation analyst Amir Ahari. Preliminary IDC research indicates that server-appliance sales will account for almost 10 percent of the $89 billion server market in 2003, he said.

Mirapoint's products cost between $10,000 and $30,000. Most of that expense covers customized software, not the relatively ordinary Intel-based hardware. Mirapoint has about 60 employees, 30 of whom write software, Srinavasan said.

Mirapoint's machines use a customized version of various flavors of BSD Unix. The software is easy to manage, and its protection against hackers and crashes is "bulletproof," he said.

The company faces competition from heavy hitters such as Sun, Microsoft, and IBM, all of which have "huge marketing resources," Srinavasan said. In addition, smaller players such as Technauts are emerging.

The new products will join Mirapoint's M1000. Networking giant Cisco has standardized on Mirapoint email servers, Srinavasan said.