Within minutes of arriving on the Interop show floor this morning and beginning my search for something cool to videotape for publication here on ZDNet, we found Plat' Home's booth in the back of the exhibitor's area with two very cool products -- both of them tiny Linux servers, one of which fits in the palm of your hand. One is called the OpenBlockS 266 and the other is the OpenMicroServer.
One of Plat' Home's design principles for both was "no moving parts." As such, neither server has a hard drive in it. Both have a Plat' Home-derived distribution of Linux known as SSD loaded into the on-board memory and, according to Martin Killman who I interviewed in the video, expanding either device to have more "hard drive" space happens in one of two ways. For the OpenBlockS 266, an internal CF card can be added to grow the memory by as much as 8GB. For the OpenMicroServer (which is actually way larger in dimensions than the OpenBlockS), a CF card cannot be added internally. Instead, you would add an external hard drive through one of the two USB 2.0 ports on the edge of the device. The OpenBlockS does not have any USB ports.
In terms of adding additional applications to the standard SSD distribution (if it doesn't include a Linux app that you want... like Apache Server), the OpenBlockS only has about 3.6KB of remaining memory. So, a CF card would most certainly be needed if the SSD distribution doesn't include the applications you're looking for. In the case of the OpenMicroServer, there's a bit more room to work with: 2MB. I didn't get a list of the standard palette of applications that come in both servers, but IP Chains is most definitely one of them for people thinking of using one of these as a firewall. The OpenBlockS has two Ethernet ports in it rated for 10 or 100 mbps and the OpenMicroServer has three ports, each of which supports the Power-over-Ethernet standard (PoE) and each of which is rated for 1 GBit/sec.
Processor-wise, the OpenBlockS uses a 266 MHz PowerPC chip and the OpenMicroServer runs on a 400 MHz AMD Alchemy au 1550 chip. Both devices, according to Killman can be reconfigured to work with NetBSD or Debian.
According to Killman, the tiny Linux servers are getting used in a variety of circumstances, many of which involve closed circuit video monitoring (both have RS-232 serial interfaces) or in settings where Linux server functionality is required but there's little room for space or tolerance for machines that produce excessive heat. Neither one of the boxes had any ventilation as far as I could tell. They obviously are designed to run very cool.
The OpenBlockS weighs 225 grams and retails for $400. The OpenMicroServer weighs 445 grams and retails for $500. Personally speaking, I've actually been looking for something exactly like this to prototype an idea for an appliance that could one-day be the basis of a startup I've been contemplating. Check out the video!