Interview: Rob Enderle on Plug-and-play Appliances

One of the can’t-miss enterprise trends is the increasing use of plug-and-play, special-needs appliances in the data center. These appliances handle tasks ranging from networking to storage and deliver data processing capabilities for business intelligence, virtualization and security.

The ease of use of these devices, combined with the growing need for storage, networking and security, means these modular, plug-and-play machines are a trend to watch. To get the pulse of plug and play, we spoke with Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

Q: What are the hottest trends in the plug-and-play appliance arena?

Enderle: The midmarket appears to love these devices, because that market lacks deep IT skills and the IT staff they have are often spread too thin. For example, they just don’t have the bandwidth to learn large new storage systems, and as a result, have taken to these appliances like ducks to water. Enterprises like them for remote offices and contained projects for similar reasons.

Q: Why are these appliances gaining so much traction? Is it because appliances come equipped with software pre-installed and there’s no futzing around with app servers or operating systems?

Enderle: Yes, they contain both the costs and the overhead for the related technology, so they are easier to initially configure, vastly easier to run and lack the complexity of traditional products. This is very attractive in deployments where there isn’t any overhead to handle complexity.

Q: IT services have consolidated. Have appliances grown into devices that are capable of handling data center chores?

Enderle: These devices are clearly moving up-market. The financial downturn caused massive downsizing in support roles like IT, and many are hesitant to hire heavily on the economic upswing for fear it will be short-lived. This makes appliances a great choice for IT organizations that are now overwhelmed because they can’t or won’t staff up yet.

Q: Virtualization means new servers and applications can be quickly delivered, and many tasks can be handled with special-needs servers. But are we fully at the point where special-needs servers can take over most of the IT workload?

Enderle: Far from it, we are still in the early days of appliance adoption, and I doubt this will mature fully for decades. Appliances remain a growing exception to the more traditional highly customized approach to IT back-office technology. This adoption will take some time, and plug-and-play applications like these are still years away from becoming the default standard across the broad market.

Q: Vendors ranging from IBM to NetApp are looking for new, innovative ways to combine these technologies. Is this trend going to grow?

Enderle: Certainly! This approach has not only proven
lucrative, it has led to increased customer loyalty and strong market share
growth. Success tends to breed a new IT approach that others want to copy,
and appliance development programs are breeding like bunnies at the moment.

by Tom Dunlap