Irish start-up keeps watch with Sentinel net appliance

As start-up fever turns to dot-com doom, one Irish start-up is bucking the trend, flush with venture capital and the Sentinel 1, which launches this week
Written by Matt Loney, Contributor

An Irish start-up plans to take on the Ciscos and Alteons of the world with a firewall and load-balancing appliance built on the Linux operating system.

Antefacto's Sentinel 1 appliance squeezes a firewall, load balancer and power manager into a single 1U high rack-mount device that has no moving parts -- not even a hard disk -- and stores the operating system in flash RAM.

The launch of the Sentinel 1 was helped by funding of 635,000 euros (£500,000) from a group of investors lead by Campus Venture Capital and Trinity Venture Capital, which was only secured this week. Also this week, the first Sentinel 1 shipped to a customer.

Despite having shipped a unit, chief executive Fergal Murray said that a final price has not been set yet, "but it will be around the £10,000 mark". Murrary said that savings in training, power consumption, rack space and service contracts over established manufacturers such as Cisco and Alteon should make big long term savings for customers.

All administration of the Sentinel 1 is done through a Web browser, but there is also a command line interface. "Secure Shell is built into the interface," said Murray, "and if you mess anything up you can download a new image of the operating system, because it only takes up 32Mb in the flash RAM." System administrators can also back up and restore system settings in the same way.

Aside from load-balancing servers, the Sentinel 1 can also monitor them for disk space, temperature and changes to a Web page. If any changes fall outside pre-set limits the system can send notification by email or -- with the addition of an SMS card that will be available in two to three months -- by phone. Chief technology office Connor O'Kelly said the SMS feature was supported "because when the network is down you cannot be notified over the network that there is a problem."

Unlike some network appliances the Sentinel 1 is built on a standard motherboard, but Murray said future versions may use a dedicated motherboard.

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