Red Hat kicked off and is closing its user confab in San Diego with virtual appliance announcements. One seems right up IT pros’ alley. The other one may be a bit of a stretch. The opening sally, a partnership with Intel on building desktop management appliances, seems a step in a good direction, according to users I canvassed today. The other, a Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) virtual appliance, may be taking virtual appliances further upstream than IT managers would prefer.
I talked to about a dozen Red Hat customers today, and most felt that virtual appliances should be relegated to management tasks. In particular, they feel comfortable with appliances that handle security.
Jim Klein, the director of information services and technology at the Santa Clarita, Calif.-based Saugus Union School District, said he believed a security appliance that you can deploy rapidly could be a good fit for some people, especially those who run firewall appliances anyway.
“A virtual security appliance could replace that appliance box that’s taking up space. In a virtualized environment you gain benefits of reliability and flexibility, and that would be a big plus. It would be nice to buy a firewall appliance in a virtual form, rather than having to buy another piece of hardware.”
However, firewall appliances took some time to mature, and virtual appliances will, too, said Vinod Kutty, lead engineer in the open systems Group at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange..
“What tends to happen, if you look at the model for firewalls, a new technology emerges and it takes many years for the software to get to the point where it’s mature. [Then] it’s easy to embed it in an appliance, but I wouldn’t trust a new product in a virtual appliance until the product had gone through several generations,” he said.
IT pros said that putting mission-critical apps in appliances doesn’t seem like a good idea for a different reason: It gives vendors too much control.
When users begin to move up the stack with appliances, however, then they must begin to rely on an appliance vendor
for optimization and updates, Kutty said. “We are essentially mechanics, and we want to get under the hood. We want to know what’s under the hood.”
Klein views virtual appliances as task-oriented tools meant to eliminate excess hardware, but they aren’t an IT manager’s panacea just yet. “On the other hand, I see virtual appliances as an opportunity for vendor lock-in in a virtualization setting,” he said.
It’s true that Sybase ASE is a proprietary product, and lock-in could be an issue. That said, Sybase has been Linux-friendly for years. Also, it could be called a management tool. It’s just a tad bigger than a firewall. Then again, ASE is not a new kid on the block, so there need not be fear, uncertainty and doubt about the product’s maturity.
Is a database virtual appliance too much too soon? Well, for Red Hat, it’s probably better to go that route too soon than watch Oracle waltz away with the market.
I can’t find any commentary on this deal on any blogs yet. If you do, drop me a link via the comment box below or my email box at firstname.lastname@example.org.