Rise of The Appliance

Lately we see a trend of specialized appliance that combines hardware and software to do specific tasks very efficiently. We also hear the old-time phrase called “stack”. Bob Evans of Information Week  posted this article three days back. This is what he says the reasons for this trend:

Today’s next-generation enterprise software is bringing alive the promise of business analytics, predictive analytics, real-time analytics, real-time OLTP, staggeringly large databases, and the soaring volumes of queries triggered by many millions of mobile business users. In doing so, it has become so powerful and so complex that generic servers–even the biggest and gnarliest boxes–simply can’t exploit the full range of insights, foresights, and opportunities that today’s top software can deliver.        And in response, every single major IT company–hardware vendors, software vendors, and the crossovers as well–is rushing in with its own combinations (Oracle and IBM) or in partnerships (everyone else).

Oracle announced Exadata last year which is a Data Warehousing appliance on Sun hardware. IBM just announced its $1.7B acquisition of Netezza, which offers an appliance-based solution for data warehousing. It also provides Cognos BI on its Power System as a combo. EMC is trying to enter this business via its acquisition of GreenPlum. The article points out SAP’s intention to offer similar appliance on some OEM hardware soon.  Other vendors like HP, Microsoft, and Teradata are entering the fray.

The normal reason given for such need is to ease the administrative burden and labor and offer very high performance. High volume data analytics (both retroactive and predictive) for reel-time Business Intelligence is often the common application for this appliance.  With Cloud Computing being another trend, highly scale-out multi-core hardware boxes such as Oracle’s recently announced Exalogic are also entering the space. Oracle calls it “cloud in a box”. It’s broader slogan is “Hardware and Software, engineered to work together”.

We are certainly seeing a full cycle here. In the good old days, vendors offered the entire stack. Now we are back to that again. However, we will wait to see if the vendor-push matches the CIO-needs.


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