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Linux Leaps Into Server Appliances

More and more we hear about how the Linux operating system is going mainstream, penetrating the core application stack to do such things as run a company's accounting system. All that is true. But the place to find truly flourishing, time-tested Linux lies further on the edge of the network in the world of appliances.

Server appliances dedicated to such functions as firewalls and SSL/VPNs are swimming in Linux, usually a version that has been tweaked, tuned and tailored by the individual box vendor. Sun has its iForce VPN/firewall appliance, whose Linux core it credits with enabling subsequent server reprovisioning. EmergeCore Networks has built its business around an all-in-one networking and security appliance that happily counts Linux as its foundation. And Aventail's security units run a component-created breed of Linux that CEO Chris Hopen likens to a Debian distribution of the OS.

Why Linux? Unanimously, vendors say it's priced best--free--is most malleable and is not dictated by the scheduling of security patches and updates so common to Windows.

"I think Linux gives us, in the embedded world, the ability to control the operating system without it controlling us," says Dave Brown, CEO of EmergeCore Networks, Boise, Idaho.

The appliances offer a low-cost, turnkey solution to sway customers, especially those in the SMB market.

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