Appliance futures: Private cloud to drive use of integrated systems

Stephanie Mann

Middleware and SOA appliances are viewed as a way to address integration complexity and performance issues. Experts predict their use within the enterprise will grow in coming years, driven by interest in private cloud. In particular, multi-function integrated systems like IBM PureSystems and Oracle Exalogic may gain traction as more enterprises look to build internal clouds.

"More and more organizations want to standardize their infrastructure; they want to deliver software and solutions to their internal users as a service, very much like a cloud internal service provider," said Massimo Pezzini, vice president and fellow at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. "These systems provide a good platform to implement an internal private cloud type of architecture."

That's because integrated systems -- also called engineered systems -- are essentially private cloud environments in a box, Pezzini explained. They automate functions such as messaging, scalability and integration, and provide configurations that allow for updates to accommodate fast-changing workloads. Best practices are also built in as expertise patterns.

"This is really the future," said Judith Hurwitz, president and CEO of Needham. Mass.-based technology consulting firm Hurwitz & Associates Inc. "People are starting to get the idea that they can buy a system that's prepackaged with elements. [Single-function] appliances are hermetically sealed; what you see is what you get. These new [multi-function] models are designed so workloads are really optimized." 

Private cloud demands such flexibility, according to Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst John Rymer.

"The variations that we have today in our configurations and platforms are just not working," Rymer said. "I predict that when enterprises hit the end of their service-level agreements [the next time around], they will look to buy these systems."

At the same time, said Rich Ptak, co-founder and managing partner at IT strategy consultancy Ptak, Noel & Associates, a shortage of IT talent -- and tight IT budgets -- may contribute to the rise of integrated systems in the near future.

"The emphasis will be on using IT resources in the most effective way," he said. "There will be a move away from implementation and maintenance toward leveraging the power of these systems."

While overall adoption of SOA and middleware appliances is on the rise, the use of integrated systems is curbed by their high pricing -- which ranges from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars, according to Pezzini. "There aren't many organizations that can afford to buy them," he said.

But pricing will come down eventually, Ptak predicted. And despite the current cost, "they can still be an attractive purchase today for the enterprise that wants to have a cloud-in-a-box very quickly," he added.

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