The market for emerging servers that are easy to install and maintain, and that are used for a specialised server function, is set to boom over the next few years, according to market research firm Dataquest.
Thin servers, as defined by Dataquest, are PCs used mostly by large businesses to perform specific tasks such as print management or data storage. Increasingly, they are finding homes in smaller businesses, which use them to perform groups of tasks including Internet access, firewall management and e-mail.
Global revenue from the thin-server market is expected to balloon over the next few years, from just over $US1 billion in 1997 to $US16 billion in 2002, according to Dataquest.
The machines are typically sold in a "closed box" form, offering easy installation and low maintenance, and can be managed from a Web browser. The low maintenance requirement makes them attractive for use in the remote offices of both large corporations and small businesses, said James Staten, an analyst for Dataquest's servers and advanced systems group.
The market for thin servers is an embryonic one, but its characteristics are already starting to change. Nine out of 10 thin servers sold last year were device-control products - the type used to manage single machines such as printers. But becoming more popular are higher priced machines that store data and allow groups of users to access it via a local area network, Staten said.
Another growth area is the small business market where revenues are expected to reach $US85 million in 1998, up from $US22 million in 1997.
"The small-business market and the emerging storage-area network concept will play key roles in the growth of the thin-server market, as these will serve as the proving grounds for these appliance-like devices in the near future," Staten said.
Among the prominent vendors of thin servers, according to Staten, are Whistle Communications, maker of InterJet - an all-in-one e-mail server, firewall and router; Meridian Data Systems, which offers a network-attached storage (NAS) box; and Swedish firm Axis Communications, which offers a variety of thin servers including a print server and an NAS product.
Further information on the thin-server market is available in Dataquest's report: 1997 Worldwide Thin-Server Market Statistics and Forecast.