Web sites may be as diverse as snowflakes, but administrators generally agree on one thing: Web servers are difficult to set up, install, and administer. Cobalt, however, hopes to relieve the stress of these tasks and make Web server administration a breeze. The device that promises to bring this simplicity to Web administration is the RaQ 3i.

Presenting the Cobalt RaQ 3i—possibly the only Web server you will ever need.

What is the RaQ 3i?
Cobalt defines the RaQ 3i as a device aimed at Internet service providers (ISPs) to provide multiple specific, Web-based services for clients. However, the RaQ 3i features a twist that sets it apart from most servers today: Like its sister unit, the Cobalt Qube, the RaQ 3i doesn’t require an interface. You don’t need to hook a keyboard, mouse, monitor, or any other equipment to this machine to get it up and running. Instead, you set up the RaQ 3i like you do the Qube, via a user interface built into the machine with connectivity provided by an Ethernet port. Once you have the RaQ 3i set up and running on your network, you can access it through a Web-based interface simply by typing in the IP address of the machine in your browser.

The specs
The RaQ 3i is powered by RedHat Linux version 6.2, with the ability to update the machine to newer versions of the OS by installing a package file (.pkg). You can install this file directly by using the Web interface. The version of RedHat included on the RaQ 3i unit is modified to accommodate the machine, so you may find that specific options are not available to you through Telnet, such as Linuxconf.

The machine itself is quite a surprise when you take a look at the hardware specifications. Here’s a list of items the RaQ 3i contains and/or supports:

  • LCD panel for easy setup and administration
  • Standard AMD K6-2 processor
  • 512KB L2 cache
  • Support for up to 512MB of PC-100 SDRAM DIMMS
  • Internal ATA hard drive
  • Dual 10/100BaseT network interfaces
  • Serial interface
  • Ultra-wide SCSI interface running at 40MB per second
  • One PCI slot for expansion
  • UPS support
  • USB port

The physical specifications of the RaQ 3i are as follows:

  • Dimensions: 17 x 12.5 x 1.75 inches
  • Weight: 9 lbs 3 oz
  • Max power consumption: 50 watts
  • Operating environment: 32 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit

Software support
The RaQ 3i’s software support for Web hosting is equally outstanding. The RaQ 3i contains and/or supports this software:

  • Apache Web Server
  • Virtual hosting services, both name- and IP-based
  • Full CGI support
  • Perl scripting
  • Full e-mail support with SMTP, IMAP4, POP3, and APOP mail protocol support
  • FTP access, both user and anonymous
  • Full Telnet access
  • DNS server
  • Secure Socket Layers (SSL)
  • FrontPage 2000 Extensions
  • NTP client support
  • Bandwidth management
  • Java runtime environment
  • Legato Network client with Arkeia backup support

The user interface
As I mentioned, the RaQ 3i has a Web interface that users and administrators can access to set up users, clients, and IP addresses. As the figure below shows, an administrator can operate specific services, such as e-mail, FTP, Telnet, DNS, and SNMP, directly through the Web-based interface. TechRepublic’s Qube review offers more information on how a Web-based interface works.

By using the Web-based interface, an administrator can operate services such as e-mail and FTP.

The RaQ 3i keeps its cool
Cobalt has accomplished an amazing feat with the RaQ 3i units. Because their power consumption is so small (50 watts), the amount of heat they produce is minimal. What does this mean for ISPs? The RaQ 3i runs so cool, you can stack the units without having to worry about excessive heat melting the machines. It also means that you can have a rack full of RaQ 3i units without any outside cooling, which is a must for most servers today. As a matter of fact, the only cooling needed is provided by a mini-fan located in the back of the RaQ 3i to dissipate heat from inside the machine.

More than a Web server
Cobalt has released several different variations of the RaQ 3i units, each aimed at specific ISP functions:

  • The CacheRaQ 3i
    Cobalt explains that the CacheRaQ 3i is a server appliance that offers a solution to a common problem: too much network usage when there is not enough network to go around. The CacheRaQ 3i eliminates a bottleneck in performance of Web servers by caching information from Web servers, which keeps a server from having to reload the same functions over and over again and saves precious bandwidth.
  • The NASRaQ 3i
    The NASRaQ 3i is a massive amount of space that can be added to a company’s network to provide storage that can be shared by everyone connected to that network. Cobalt recommends this solution to organizations that maintain large files, such as publishing companies.
  • ManageRaQ 3i
    How do you administer over a hundred RaQ 3i, CacheRaQ 3i, and NASRaQ 3i units? Simple: You add a ManageRaQ 3i to the mix. ManageRaQ 3i enables you to add software to every RaQ 3i unit on your network through one user interface. It also lets you manage specific RaQ 3i units using the Web-based interface.

Final thoughts
I’ve been running two RaQ 3i units in my office for almost two months now, and I have to admit that I am quite impressed with their performance. These machines have been on continuously since I received them, and other than a CAT5 cable going bad, I haven’t had any problems with them since day one.

I know many people are going to ask about the difference between this machine and the Qube. The answer is that they’re built for two completely different jobs. The Qube is designed for office intranets or Internet networks, while the RaQ 3i units are designed specifically for ISPs. And while each machine can run a Web server, only the RaQ 3i was designed specifically for that function.

Is it worth a look? In my opinion, a machine that’s this easy to set up and install should be in every ISP. The fact that the machines are designed to be Web servers—along with the fact that they run Linux—only increases my desire to have these machines hosting my Web sites and providing Web services to my clients.

What do you think?

Does your company use the RaQ 3i to provide Web services to its clients? If so, we want to know what you think about it. Feel free to leave a post below or send us a note with your thoughts.