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Note: Many topics at this site are reduced versions of the text in "The Encyclopedia of Networking and Telecommunications." Search results will not be as extensive as a search of the book's CD-ROM.
The idea of a "network appliance" conjures up images of network-attached coffee pots, toasters, and pop machines. See "(CPCP) Coffee Pot Control Protocol)" for some amusement. In reality, network appliances are devices that are designed to serve up information to end users with the speed of a short-order cook. They are designed to minimize the overhead imposed by server operating systems by being optimized to handle a specific task. Network Appliance, a company, specializes in NAS (network attached storage) devices, which are off-the-shelf, preconfigured filers (not to be confused with file servers) that connect directly to networks without the need for a front-end server. The devices are plug-and-play, meaning that they can be plugged into a network and offer services immediately with minimal configuration. See "NAS (Network Attached Storage)."
The general description of a network appliance is a single-purpose device in which all nonessential functions are stripped away. What remains is an inexpensive device with a simplified embedded operating system and an Ethernet network interface.
Perhaps the best example of a network appliance that has been around for years, but never really called a network appliance, is the printer-specifically, a network-attached printer. It does one thing really well-it attaches to the network with ease-and it is ready to use immediately. It also does not need to be connected to a server, which is often overburdened with excess tasks.
This topic continues in "The Encyclopedia of Networking and Telecommunications."
A new class of services is evolving to support network appliances. Service advertising and discovery protocols define standard methods for users and devices to find out the capabilities of other devices and for devices to advertise their capabilities. See "Service Advertising and Discovery."
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Copyright (c) 2001 Tom Sheldon and Big Sur Multimedia.