March 30, 2007

When and why to virtualize

In one of the best Slashdot threads I’ve seen in ages, a number of posters chime in with their personal experiences of virtualization. (Usage hint: Set the general threshold = 5 to filter out the dreck, using Advanced Context Controls.) The rough consensus appears to be:

Makes sense to me.

January 29, 2007

Appliances — my conclusions! (For now, at least)

Network World today posted my column predicting a rosy future for computing appliances. A lot of the supporting research has been posted in this blog recently; here’s what was a preliminary summary and survey of appliance vendor strategies.

Subsequent to submitting the column, I developed a simpler taxonomy of computing appliance types, namely:

Type 0: Custom hardware including proprietary ASICs or FPGAs.

Type 1: Custom assembly from off-the-shelf parts. In this model, the only unusual (but still off-the-shelf) parts are usually in the area of network acceleration (or occasionally encryption). Also, the box may be balanced differently than standard systems, in terms of compute power and/or reliability.

Type 2 (Virtual): We don’t need no stinkin’ custom hardware. In this model, the only “appliancy” features are in the areas of easy deployment, custom operating systems, and/or preconfigured hardware.

Here’s what I predict for each of them.

Read more

January 22, 2007

IBM and Microsoft seeing a (virtual) appliance future?

Microsoft recently hired an IBM Fellow named Don Ferguson to be an office-of-the-CTO type. In his last blog post at IBM, he outlined the top ten issues he saw in his area over the next five years. #1?

Software appliances and SW configurations integrated with virtual middleware

You can see the whole list here. Here’s more about Ferguson and his role.

January 18, 2007

Guide to my recent research on computing appliances

My recent flurry of research into computing appliances was spurred by a column I just submitted to Network World. In that column there’s a URL – pointing to this post – promising a guide to more details on that research. Thus, here’s a set of links to my posts of the past few months on computing appliances, both here and on DBMS2.

Half or more of the computing appliance vendors I’ve looked into follow very similar hardware strategies: They use mainly standard parts; they include uncommon but off-the-shelf networking (and sometimes encryption) accelerators; and they of course optimize the mix of those parts and general hardware architecture as well. (EDIT: I actually gave names to three strategies — even if they were just “Type 0″, “Type 1″, and “Type 2″ — in this overview of data warehouse appliance vendors. And in another post I considered arguments about whether one would want a data warehouse appliance at all.) Examples I’ve posted about recently include – and I quote the forthcoming column – “DATallegro and Teradata (data warehousing), Cast Iron Systems (data integration), Barracuda Networks (security/antispam), Blue Coat Systems (networking), and Juniper (security and networking).” (ANOTHER EDIT: But I think DATAllegro’s strategy has changed.)

By way of contrast, there’s also a group whose stance is more along “hardware/schmardware” lines. Sendio and Proofpoint (in most cases) don’t really do anything special at all in their boxes; what’s more, Proofpoint actually has significant software-only deployments over VMware’s virtualization layer. Kognitio and Greenplum think their software-only data warehouse offerings are appliance-equivalents too; indeed, Greenplum’s software is sold mainly bundled with Sun hardware (to the extent it’s sold at all), and Kognitio is hinting at an appliance-like offering for competitive reasons as well. Check Point Software plays both sides of the field; it offers its own kind of “virtual appliance,” but also gets many of its sales through appliance vendors. Its most interesting such partner, if not its biggest, is Crossbeam Systems, which in my opinion may very well represent the future of appliance technology.

January 12, 2007

Proofpoint and VMware – an apparently non-trivial virtual appliance success story

I talked with Proofpoint today, and got a more positive view about VMware’s virtual appliance strategy than I’ve gotten from other appliance vendors. They cite over 500 downloads in the past couple of months, of which a significant fraction have turned into actual sales. Specific deployment scenarios they mentioned include:

Read more

January 3, 2007

Virtual appliances, virtual SaaS?

I chatted with VMware today about virtualization, virtual appliances, and so on. But first we covered some basics:

As for how this all plays with appliances and SaaS – that’s largely a future, but potentially a very interesting one. Here’s what I mean. Read more

July 15, 2006

Appliances are not dead yet

Nick Carr and Jonathon Schwartz are predicting the death (or at least decline) of special-purpose computing appliances. Their reasons, so far as I can tell, are pretty much threefold:

  1. Vendors have economies of scale making general-purpose computers.
  2. Users have economies of scale running homogenous, general-purpose computers.
  3. Virtualization will work.

But when one thinks a little bit about what’s really driving the use of appliances, those arguments fall apart.

Read more

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