It has been a fun and very profitable couple of decades for upstart IT server and systems software makers. They have thrown new server technologies at venerable mainframe and minicomputer systems and blasted the data centre into a thousand shiny metal bits. Then they lashed it all together with networks running distributed …
A question of priorities...
In general, this is a good idea - I recommended something like this to my previous company about 5 years ago. The software we were selling was a bugger to install and maintain, so giving a 'pret a porter' solution to a subset of clients would be a good thing. The slowness of managerial thinking was one reason why the idea did not take, but also they were used to sending a 'consultant', billable for mega-bucks, for a week or two to set things up, so this would have meant a significant drop in revenue.
When is an appliance not an appliance?
The problem we have found in our company is that from an OS perspective many of these so called appliances are nothing more than app on top of OS on top of hardware. All three still need to be integrated in to company process & infrastructure in exactly the same way as if we had just put the bits together our self. For example an appliance we often be based on a RHEL/CentOS based distro which we ourselves have to patch & integrate. This is not truly an appliance! in my experience most appliances are like that, even things like Exadata from Oracle.
Re: When is an appliance not an appliance?
Well, a pre-configured and supported stack of commodity hardware and software is no bad thing, as long as it is properly configured and supported by the vendor.
An example would be the Erastore filers (http://shop.erastor.eu/), basically an x86 box running Nexenta. Nexenta is an OpenSolaris based distribution that runs ZFS. Rather than you building your own server and configuring a BSD on it, you get someone else to do it for you and pay them for support. If later you feel like doing it yourself, you can take over any or all of the stack. It's certainly cheaper than a NetApp if you want a NAS rather than a full blown SAN.
As for things like Exadata, if you push hard enough, quite often you can get some hefty discounts on the hardware if you wave a quote from Dell or HP for compatible boxes at them. Likewise with IBM (though not quite as effective) you can go get a quote for Mainframes or Power/AIX systems from Bull
I do agree though that there are vendors out there that just bodge stuff together with default configurations on a whitebox from SuperMicro, and charge and arm and a leg for the privilege.
I can't help but think...
....that my current role at a reseller will be very different in 5 years. Really good article and food for thought. I'm going to grab a cup of tea and research the appliances from the vendors mentioned, I could be recommending them (or their descendants) sooner than I think.
As for traction, the message will take time to sink in but we are already getting inquires for preconfigured systems such as Cisco & NetApp's FlexPod. Early birds could catch the worm here.
Re: I can't help but think...
True. What are the workloads customers are buying kit for? I still believe the Midsize guys are going to stay appliance-free as no one has been able to target that specific market with an integrated solution -- vStart 50 and 100 are a joke as is the low-end FlexPod requiring expensive Nexus and UCS FEX/FI gear. Something more contained is needed--SmartBuys from HP and SmartPlay from Cisco aren't cutting it just yet.