Little boxes made of ticky tacky

What’s with all these new shiney boxes in our data centres ?   Trendy coloured appliances big and small…   Look you can even have different coloured doors !

Well, it never hurt to have pretty flashing lights. I remember someone telling me a story of people getting a tour of a datacentre and wanting to see the purchase of their big new system (a midrange system at the time).  They were impressed with the big new system, it’s flashing lights, it’s hum as it crunched through thousands of transactions per minute. Techhhnnnooolllooogggyy !!  Well, after they were suitably impressed and had left the room,  the tech guys looked at each other with bemusement.  “Why were they looking at the new airconditioner unit?”    Their new midrange system was less than 1/2 a rack in size on the other side of the room.

Seriously, there seems to be a renewed acceptance of pre-packaged appliances in the data centre. Both physical and virtual. For example:

Virtual Appliances
So many applications are being increasingly offered as virtual appliances – simply install them from OVF, start then up set an IP address and away you go.  In many cases the application configuration via a web browser can be done without reading a manual (is that bad?).  Applications like VMware vCenter, VirtualBox, IBM Service Delivery Manager (ISDM), Antivirus VMs, VMware VASA… the list goes on.  If they are not already available as a virtual appliance, you can rest assured that most application roadmaps will have some consideration for virtual applicance packaging.   This is occuring not only for small one or two VM appliances.  Some of these applications listed above aren’t exactly  ‘light’ resource applications!

1-2 RU (rack unit) physical appliances
These small form factor appliances are now common place in the datacentre.  Workload tuned for specific needs – such as Citrix NetScaler, IBM WebSphere DataPower SOA Appliances and even for VDI solutions from companies such as Nutanix.   These more complex appliances again take away the need to care about the OS, the server, the storage and focus on the application.

Enterprise Application Appliances
Increasing numbers of enterprise application appliances such as SAP HANA.    Large Intel appliances for running “in memory” components of SAP.

Big Iron appliances
Such as IBM Nettezza (oh, those coloured doors) are increasingly being wheeled into datacenters, so that within days (I’m realistic that most datacenters don’t like too much change – grin) and not weeks, they can be up and running.  Or as marketed, reducing the time to value for organisations.

I don’t expect these shiny appliances to change the tradtional core server/storage/tape back-up architecture in the near term.   In time, what might this mean for IT components we use today?

I care less about the operating system
If I have my application I don’t really care about the operating system (OS) inside of the appliance.  So in most cases given the licensing implications,  I expect that OS is probably Linux.  Although I’m sure Microsoft will continue to also provide their own appliances with Windows OS’s as well.   They’ll be more Linux in organisations, however they’ll be less objections from organisations that new OS’s are deployed since they won’t have to manage them anyhow.

Intel Intel Intel
In most cases these appliances will be powered by Intel systems, given their low cost and relatively high performance.

It’s web browser delivered
Most appliances are accessed via a traditional web browser.  So it provides rapid delivery to workstations, tablets and phones.  So I don’t need to package client applications and deliver them to users workstations via traditional deployment technologies.

In time, I’ll probably ‘rent’ this capability when I need it
Organisations will rent some application services over the web (Software as a Service (SaaS)).  Which from a client perspective, is really the ultimate appliance of sorts.   Oh, check out pictures of one of Google’s containerized data center.   Do they take out the award for the largest appliances using shipping containers ? 🙂

What are your thoughts on the future of appliances?  What other appliances are you seeing in your organisation?

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  1. #1 by Ward Christensen on February 28, 2012 - 8:04 am

    LOL, Darryl.

    I was introducing a new “SE” around the Chicago datacenter in ’68. I said “This is the model 30”, etc. He then asked “which is this” and I had to break it to him, it was the air conditioner.

    Second: When we got our new (I think it was) 155 @ Bethlehem Steel, I tried to “open the cover” to see all the blinky lights. Uhh, Ward, this model has it all in a “console” now.

    So as a result, I am now a “blinky Tech” (go to sci fi con’s, etc, helping people “build a blinky”) e.g. http://www.musecon.org/blinkie.html – from my buddies who run http://2dkits.com

    Much fun! Wish I’d had some magnetic blinkies to attach to the old 155!!!

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