Appliances in the World of SaaS and Cloud Computing? Really?

Recently the buzz in the IT industry has been focused on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and the larger concept of “Cloud Computing.” In its most basic form, the concept of SaaS involves a company paying for software as it is used. The software runs on computers someone else owns, and the ongoing maintenance and support of the server infrastructure is handled by that company. It involves essentially leasing the application time for a specific period of time, typically month-to-month. In theory, the value proposition of SaaS is that only paying for computing resources when needed should reduce cost in the long run if an application is used in short spurts.

However, industry analyst firm Gartner recently released the results of a large survey on SaaS implementations still has concerns with broad, cross-enterprise adoption of SaaS. In the study, respondents had some concerns and reservations about specific SaaS solutions.  This suggests that there are some applications where SaaS is a bit ahead of its time. As a Technology Evangelist for Dell’s OEM Group, I don’t see SaaS as a panacea and know there are specific cases where hardware-based appliances should be leveraged or at least strongly considered.

A company needing to deploy a service, application, or IT capability has many options available including SaaS and cloud computing, self-built installations, and an ever-growing selection of appliances. While SaaS is definitely an outstanding choice for many of these applications, it is not for every solution as once imagined. Hardware-based appliances still have a growing role to play and in many instances can overcome many of the challenges that customers like those surveyed by Gartner are experiencing with SaaS.

For example, the third most common issue with SaaS implementations, according to the survey, was reliability and performance to technical specs, something an appliance solution will not have any issues with whatsoever since the solution is designed with dedicated hardware and carefully tested to provide the performance and capabilities for which it was designed. Similarly, the main concern of those surveyed — functionality for business users — is addressed with an appliance-based solution since a business need only find the most appropriate appliance for their needs and deploy it in the simple, appliance model (typically a fast and simple installation), and they are up and running with the new solution.

Of course, not every IT service or solution is offered as an appliance, but when they are available, they can be surprisingly simple and effective.

So, what do you think? Are there specific situations where an appliance plays more nicely than SaaS or cloud computing applications?

About the Author: Franklin Flint