Back to the future: the return of appliance-based computing

There was a good article on the Enterprise Systems website this week about the increase in popularity of purpose-built appliances on many fronts across the datacenter.

The points it makes will be familiar to readers of this blog:

IT organizations like the model for the same performance and security reasons vendors do, but also because deployment is a breeze and the initial and on-going costs of appliances are considerably less than software-only solutions or SaaS-based solutions. With the appliance model, gone are additional hardware and software prerequisites because the black-box approach of hardware appliances bundles everything needed into an all-in-one, turnkey solution.

Also gone, and far more considerable, are the professional services costs of the integrator needed to handle the complicated task of installing and integrating new software into an existing environment. Finally, and although varying by solution area, the inherent focus of most appliances is to hide complexity from its end user and thereby simplify its installation, integration, and use. This simplification usually has the added benefit of reducing training time so administrators can be productive more quickly, further reducing the overall cost of the solution.

As well as it’s conclusion:

These examples promise to make 2010 the year of appliance-based computing. As technology continues to mature, innovation is becoming less about coming up with new types of technology than it is about taking existing technology and making innovations for its deployment and use. Appliance-based computing exemplifies that innovation and in doing so offers a lower cost solution versus traditional software solutions.

How can an appliance be lower cost than a server? Easy, you’re not really buying a server. You’re buying a server, an operating system, software licenses and hiring an army of people to install, configure, maintain and run them. When you scale, you buy more servers, more software and add more complexity that could have been handled by that first appliance. By these measures, appliances are lower in cost by 50% or more.

This goes back to the topic of our last blog post on Liquidnet and hedgehogs. What do you want to be good at, fiddling with middleware software or making your business more competitive?