This is part 2 in a 10 part series: 10 reasons for the growth in middleware appliances. The series summarizes what we’ve learned from our clients about what they value in appliances and why they selected Solace.

One of our customers once told us that they judge everything they do against the “Hedgehog Concept”, an insight borrowed from the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. which says that you should focus on the few things you can be the best in the world at and waste as little energy as possible doing anything else. With the exception of companies like the former EDS (now HP), virtually no company’s hedgehog concept is “to be the best in the world at managing enormously complex IT infrastructure”.  For most companies, every minute spent configuring and tuning middleware is time not spent improving trading strategies, getting travelers to destinations on time, getting product from factory to distribution, or improving national security.

Appliances simplify complex tasks

That idea of keeping your eye on what makes you most competitive is a big part of the rapid acceptance of appliances, as well as cloud-based applications and outsourcing of non-essential business operations. Appliances deliver a turnkey experience at a level of performance and simplicity that software running on general-purpose servers simply can’t match. You can see the pattern over and over again. In the 1980s, Cisco moved UNIX software that handled IP packet routing into routers and switches (turnkey network appliances) enabling the internet revolution. More recently F5 and NetApp simplified  application delivery and storage respectively using appliances to make operations faster and easier.

At Solace, we believe that distributed information sharing should be as easy and transparent as IP networking. Most large companies have ten or more different kinds of messaging deployed, each segrated and consuming their own pockets of datacenter resources. It’s really the hedgehog principle again: If you can save money, and get rid of a major time-sucking headache so you can focus on what’s truly important to your business, why wouldn’t you?

It’s (way past) time for easier to use middleware

To take the conversation from the conceptual to the practical, let’s look at some of the ways Solace makes life simpler when managing distributed information flow:

  • Consolidation: A single Solace appliance does the work of 10-30 servers running middleware software. So instead of managing hundreds or thousands of different kinds of servers with different kinds of software, you manage a much smaller number of pre-integrated, purpose-built appliances. That’s a huge reduction in complexity, permutations and moving parts.
  • Turnkey operations: Solace is a “rack-it-and-run-it” experience—you plug it in and it works. Software, which is dependent on an operating system, which runs on one of hundreds of models of servers is an integration exercise before you get to the starting line.
  • One-step upgrades: Upgrading Solace is akin to upgrading a Cisco switch or an iPhone. You issue one command and all firmware and software is updated, already QA’d and ready to go.
  • Actual operational visibility: Almost all messaging middleware can generate performance statistics, but turning it on degrades performance so much that most customers leave it off in production. So monitoring systems and debugging problems is performed by 3rd party tools that try to understand what the middleware is doing without slowing it down. Solace, on the other hand, captures finely grained insights into connections, queue sizes and which applications are consuming which resources, and executes it all in a parallel hardware code path so you never have to choose between performance or scale and operational visibility.
  • Built-in relibility: With Solace, high availability and fault tolerance are built into the appliance. Most software middleware deployments rely on add-on tools and complex configurations to allow true high-availability.
  • Inter-appliance routing: Every Solace appliance knows about every other Solace appliance, and a set of routing protocols lets publishers and subscribers of information find each other across application and geographic boundaries. Solace automatically deals with best routes, working around network problems, optimizing for the WAN and more. Most software middleware operates an autonomous broker, and it’s up to the customer to figure out how to bridge or scale them to work together.
  • Converging messaging and content routing: Solace has made content-based routing part of message delivery, not something that is done in a special content broker off to the side. That means end users or applications can inject business rules into the appliance that can be applied to the message stream to pick the needles out of the haystack. Using distributed middleware software and content brokers, this is an enormously complex configuration that works out of the box with Solace. As an extra bonus challenge, we also tackled making streaming content routing geospatially aware.

All of these attributes of Solace appliances are designed to make your life easier, to let you put your attention on something more central to your own mission and trust that our hedgehog concept—being the best in the world at building fast, reliable, easy to use distributed information appliances—lets you focus on your hedgehog concept.

Two down, eight to go

The first two reasons in our list of 10 have focused on big picture issues that virtually every customer values. We have a couple more of those to cover off, then we’ll get into some of the more specific things that get our customer’s eyes to light up. You can keep up with the list by subscribing to this blog, or following us on Twitter.

On to Reason #3…

Larry Neumann

Mr. Neumann is responsible for all aspects of strategic, corporate, product and vertical marketing. Before Solace, Mr. Neumann held executive marketing positions with TIBCO and Oracle, and co-founded an internet software company called inCommon which was acquired by TIBCO. During his tenure at TIBCO, Mr. Neumann played a key role in planning company strategic direction relating to target markets and candidate acquisitions.