Return of the Business Application Appliance?

Laurie McCabe wrote in her blog that Business Application Appliances provides a middle ground between traditional on-premise customer-run applications and pure SaaS applications.  She said, “… this hybrid model provides the best of both worlds for companies that want something easy to use and maintain, but are still uncomfortable with putting their data and processing power in the cloud.”  Having been involved in this Appliance business when Oracle was promoting the 8i Database Appliance back in 2000, it invokes quite a déjà vu feeling.

I feel that these Application Appliances have their place but they will forever be challenged by the sad fact that many business applications are not “finished” products.  They will require customizations, patching, etc before they are usable.  If you are lucky enough that you can use an appliance successfully without customization, then you need to worry about the vendor’s continued support for the patching and upgrading mechanism used by the appliance.

If the vendor (or vendors in the case of the IBM-Intuit Smart Cube Appliance) decides that this venture isn’t interesting enough to continue pursuing, you may be stuck with a migration project that you have to pay for.

Laurie provided a few examples of these Appliances, including the IBM-Intuit Smart Cube Appliance, Sage’s Applianz Solutions and IBM Lotus Foundations Start.  You can probably tell me Oracle is back into the Appliance business, having announced the Exadata data warehouse appliance with HP in 2008.

I remain skeptical that Appliance would be the right solution for TCO and manageability problems for most business applications.  On the other hand, the Google Appliance seems to be doing fine.  Maybe you folks can provide some examples of Business Application Appliance that are working well for you or rejected for specific reasons?

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