System Administration Guide: Basic Administration

What Are Servers, Clients, and Appliances?

Systems on the network can usually be described as one of the system types in this table.

System Type 



A system that provides services to other systems in its network. There are file servers, boot servers, web servers, database servers, license servers, print servers, installation servers, appliance servers, and even servers for particular applications. This chapter uses the term server to mean a system that provides boot services and file systems for other systems on the network.


A system that uses remote services from a server. Some clients have limited disk storage capacity, or perhaps none at all. Such clients must rely on remote file systems from a server to function. Diskless systems and appliance systems are examples of this type of client. 

Other clients might use remote services (such as installation software) from a server. However, they don't rely on a server to function. A stand-alone system is a good example of this type of client. A stand-alone system has its own hard disk that contains the root (/), /usr, and /export/home file systems and swap space.


A network appliance such as the Sun Ray appliance provides access to applications and the Solaris OS. An appliance gives you centralized server administration, and no client administration or upgrades. Sun Ray appliances also provide hot desking. Hot desking enables you to instantly access your computing session from any appliance in the server group, exactly where you left off. For more information, see