For the fourth year in a row, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison used his Oracle OpenWorld opening address yesterday to showcase his vision for delivering software inside pre-configured and optimized hardware. Much has changed since he first stood on the stage at the Moscone Center in 2008, to introduce Exadata on HP hardware. While his choice of hardware may no longer be HP, his interest in merging software and hardware into something that delivers more than its constituent parts has not diminished.
Now some will snicker that software inside a “pizza box” seems more like a decade-old vision than a foundation for the next ten years. Today, after all, the action is in the Cloud. But it’s never been an either/or situation. Larry Ellison probably knows more about Cloud than most, having funded Cloud pioneer Salesforce.com before launching its primary competitor, NetSuite. So his embrace of appliances doesn’t conflict with the adoption of Cloud. Quite the opposite – modularized software/hardware combinations will become the bedrock for those building Clouds, as evidenced by the EMC-Cisco-VMware joint VCE (Virtual Computing Environment) venture. The accelerated introduction of new appliances this week also demonstrates a larger truth: the enterprise will never be completely in the Cloud.
While the Cloud is great for delivering shared services or consuming specific types of application functionality without IT, it will never 100% replace an organization’s need for traditional software. Despite the whirlwind of innovation in the last 40 years, enterprises rarely replace what isn’t broken. For that reason, mainframes still underpin many of our everyday interactions with banks, insurance companies, travel sites and other enterprise entities. Moreover, companies will always have the need to own select internal information infrastructure and incrementally add new components to this infrastructure. Appliances for some software tasks let them do this with less cost and complexity.
At Layer 7, for several years now, we have been actively selling appliances to simplify integration, security and governance of applications shared with other applications both inside and outside enterprise boundaries. When we started, these appliances were primarily physical and the sharing was primarily internal. In the intervening years, the sharing has moved outside the DMZ and to apps residing on a mobile tablet like the iPad or in a Cloud like AWS. Moreover, our definition of “appliance” has evolved to reflect changing views of hardware virtualization. Today, we sell more “appliances” on VMware and AWS than we do hardware but the idea remains the same: remove the cost and complexity of application integration, application security and application governance with appliances. One plus one sometimes can equal three!