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Standardization does not rule out specialization, however. In whitebox arena, the lack of brand tie-in often lends itself to easy customization. For example, the “IT in a Box” solution from EmergeCore, enables SMBs without IS organizations to custom build servers. EmergeCore President and CEO Dave Brown cites “ease of use” as the server’s strongest selling point.
“There’s no software to install and limited technical experience is required to set up or run [these servers],” Brown said. EmergeCore’s custom Linux-based CoreVista product abstracts server management to the level of a browser-based GUI. “Most users of the IT in a Box don’t realize they’re using a Linux product at all,” Brown said.
More bang for the buck is perhaps the biggest selling point for whitebox vendors. The 15-inch fanless IT-100, for example, features an x86 Transmeta Crusoe TM5600 533 MHz processor, 128 MB of RAM, a four-port hub, a wireless 802.11g access point, a 20 GB hard drive, and the CoreVista operating system, a customized abstracted Linux-based operating system — for $1,395. The IT-100 is designed to function as an edge server (i.e., as a Web, proxy, VPN, or file sharing server), and is aimed at the “small business owner, home office user, and the corporate telecommuter.”
For about $1,000 more, an organization can purchase the more robust IT-500. The x86-alternative 733-MHz VIA processor, which is known for its low-power consumption, drives the $2,450 system. It also boasts 256 MB of SDRAM, a 16 port hub, a wireless 802.11g access point, and a WAN 10/100 MB Ethernet uplink. It, too, is CoreVista based.
Brown noted that this ease of use does not mean lock-in. “The IT in a Box is completely plug and play, but the setup options offer complete customization,” via the box’s custom GUI, Brown said, “For example, some companies decide to have the IT-100 host their network and to provide a VPN but decide not to host their own Web site.”
In general, whitebox systems provide an inexpensive and flexible way to meet entry-level computing needs. They are a legitimate and less expensive alternative to brand name commodity servers. However, enterprises looking for high-end scalable servers should evaluate their purchase from many angles and not immediately rule out paying extra for the insurance of totally standardized hardware, robust support, and vendor viability that comes with branded servers.