You might notice the lack of Windows NT in this product. However, Sun specifically designed the Solaris kernel to seamlessly integrate into NT (and other OS) networks to eliminate the need to select an OS. The elimination of an OS and the associated connection licenses provide a financial benefit that will help Oracle keep the price of its product low. By my estimation of the bundle's value, when you buy the Oracle8i Appliance, the base uniprocessor departmental server is essentially free. Oracle estimates that the prebundled Oracle8i Appliance can save 25 percent of deployment costs. However, the cost savings aren't the only reason to consider this appliance.

Server appliances are snap-on tools. You plug an appliance into a power source and attach an Ethernet connector to a hub, then the server grabs an IP address from your DHCP server. You can get a correctly configured server appliance running almost as fast as you can get it out of the box. Some people call these appliances thin servers, but these appliances are anything but thin. You get a fully functional OS that has been tuned for your application of choice. For more information about network appliances, see the sidebar "Vendors Embrace Appliances."

Lab tests have yet to show whether Oracle has achieved any performance benefits with the Oracle8i Appliance. However, as a packaged product with improved manageability, the concept is a winner. The Oracle8i Appliance is likely to let Oracle move its database product into smaller organizations that can't afford the company's enterprise solutions. The appliance will also provide customers (e.g., ISPs) a convenient package, remote server monitoring, and maintenance services.