Intel is beefing up its family of "server appliances" today with a
storage device for small businesses, a product that also seems to push the
chipmaker deeper into the business of being a computer maker.
Intel's new product, called the
Storage Station, joins the giant chipmaker's line of servers aimed at the networking needs of small businesses.
With the so-called server appliances, Intel is building and selling an entire
computer, complete with chip, motherboard, box, and operating system. That's
significant, given that, traditionally, Intel has strayed from competing
directly against its customers. Historically, Intel has supplied chips and
other building block components for others to build computers, not, as with
these new devices, the computers itself.
While server appliances have existed for several years, led mostly by
start-ups, heavy hitters such as Compaq and Hewlett-Packard have only recently embraced
the market that is expected to grow from $1.1 billion in sales in 1997 to
$16 billion in 2002, according to Merrill Lynch.
Although several different types of server appliances exist, they are all
designed to be simpler to install and simpler to use than the
general-purpose servers that
prevail in today's market. Today's new product from Intel falls into the
"network-attached storage," a box that's designed to easily increase the
amount of storage space available to relatively small groups of individuals.
Kimball Brown, a server analyst with Dataquest, predicts that competition in
the low-cost server appliance space will be fierce. First,
companies will be pitting their own products against each other, with
general-purpose server lines competing against server appliances. Second,
companies will be competing against Intel.
Compaq and HP, following in the footsteps of companies such as Network Appliance, Cobalt Networks, Auspex, and Mirapoint plan their own storage server
appliances, though they likely will be fancier, faster, and more costly
than the Intel devices. Dell also has embraced server appliances, selling Dell-branded Network Appliance file servers and licensing Novell operating system software for Internet caching servers that speed up Web surfing.
IBM, in contrast, is focusing on the
In today's announcement, Intel executives say they are filling a hole in
their family of small business products. In addition to its printer sharing
and peripheral sharing appliances, the chipmaker offers an email server
appliance, as well as hubs and switches.
Analyst Shannon Pleasant, of Cahners
In-Stat, said the product makes sense for small businesses that need a
central storage system for some of its data.
"Your traditional high-end server that needs oodles of software is not
something that would appeal to small businesses, not to mention the price,"
Intel's storage product will appeal to small businesses who don't want to
save similar files on each user's hard drive. "They don't want to keep
emailing each other back and forth with updates. This storage option keeps
common files in one central storage location and helps them better manage
bandwidth and the network."
Nortel Networks' NetGear
recently released a similar network hard drive for small businesses. The
fact that two companies have created two new products for small businesses
shows that they can't simply repackage enterprise products for smaller
companies, Pleasant said.
The networking companies, including 3Com, are fighting for part of the $9
billion that small businesses are expected to spend on networking products
this year, she said.
Barb Jones, product marketing manager of Intel's small business networking
operations, added that its storage appliance also serves as a backup to
laptops' and PCs' hard drives.
The Intel InBusiness Storage Station, which runs on Windows 95, 98, and NT
with a 266-MHz Pentium processor, comes in two models: a 12 GB version
that costs $999 and a 24 GB model that costs $1,399. The 12 GB model
is available tomorrow, while the 24 GB version will ship in September.