It’s a good question: Yes, “cloud computing” is certainly the flavor of the month, might even be here to stay, but why use a virtual appliance in the first place?
Cloud computing and Software as a Service are viable options for businesses today, and enterprise software vendors need a scalable platform solution for deploying cloud-ready applications. According to a recent white paper from NEI (News - Alert), Gartner estimates that the cloud computing market will grow to $126 billion by 2012 and up to $150 billion in 2013.
But is there any compelling reason why you should switch, just because a lot of other people are? This growth, the NEI paper finds, “will stress many software developers who seek a reliable platform technology to help them succeed. Appliance platforms offer software vendors a great way to deploy their applications as either physical, virtual or hybrid solutions for private, public and mixed environments.”
Virtual data centers and cloud computing models share and use resources, software and information delivered via the Internet to servers, computers and other connected devices, as NEI explains: “With the use of cloud computing, users can avoid the fixed capital expenditures associated with hardware, software and services by paying a provider for only the resources or services consumed.”
So there’s that. On the other hand, you have to decide if security issues are overriding for your company. Plus, lots of people sleep better at night knowing their software’s in their hands, not somebody else’s.
Virtual appliances do offer a natural progression, an enhanced model for software delivery and maintenance for both application providers and their customers. As a result, the NEI paper finds, “it’s an effective way for enterprise software vendors to blend and expand their physical and virtual deployments as private and public clouds become mainstream over time.”
As the NEI paper rightfully emphasizes, the main difference between a software and hardware appliance deployment is resource sharing versus dedicated hardware: “A hardware appliance uses fixed processing, memory and storage capacity – all tuned to the product’s requirements. A virtual appliance, by contrast, operates in an environment where processing, memory and storage are shared resources.”
The drawback here is that this can introduce I/O latency and other performance-related issues if the virtual data center or cloud structure does not have timely access to necessary compute resources -- your employees might be disgruntled that their Facebook (News - Alert) pages are running a bit slow.
But as the paper notes, “designing and building an appliance solution that is versatile enough for both physical and virtual appliances can easily be achieved by analyzing the various options and making choices based on the application and market needs.”