Another vendor I spoke with in my research into appliances is Blue Coat, who offer systems that help with caching (not a recent emphasis), proxy, “performance enhancement,” and/or “WAN optimization.” Details differ, but their story is generally consistent with what I’m hearing elsewhere.
- They use pretty generic computer parts. The biggest exceptions are specialized but still off-the-shelf cards for networking (fail-to-wire capability) and encryption. They think – as do I – that this is pretty typical for appliance manufacturers. However, different appliance vendors in the same market differ greatly in the mix of parts they use. (This is also true in data warehouse appliances.)
- They wrote their own OS. With fewer services than general operating systems, it’s inherently more secure (they fondly and credibly believe).
- They think there’s a general trend for specialized appliances to merge into more general ones. In the security/networking space, I’ve seen this too, but I don’t know whether the point has broader applicability.*
- Their maintenance fees as a percentage of purchase price are a lot lower than those typical for packaged software.
*But then, the vast majority of enterprise computing appliances are in the security/networking space. Data warehouse appliances are probably the biggest exception, at least if we define “appliance” loosely enough to include Teradata.