Appliances are Plug and Play

Sr. Technical Marketing Analyst, IBM

In my previous post, I defined a framework by which to evaluate the appliance claims of data warehouse and analytic vendors. These truisms, which I have come to refer to as the golden rules of appliances are:

  • Appliances are Plug and Play
  • Appliances are purpose-built
  • Appliances are easy to use

In this post, I will explore the first of these. Appliance ease-of-use starts from the acquisition of the solution and extends through initial deployment and ongoing care and feeding. The ongoing effort to run a solution is often referred to as "cost of ownership." It all starts with the initial acquisition. When I go and buy a toaster it arrives in a box ready to use. All I need to do is plug it in. Imagine if I had to go and find a heating coil, make sure it was compatible and bolt it on to my "toaster framework" before I could make toast? That is precisely what some "appliance" vendors require of their customers.

EMC Greenplum, HP Vertica, and ParAccel all require their customers to obtain hardware to run their applications on. That means that the customer is responsible for making sure that the hardware platform is sufficient to meet the requirements of the application -- not just for the OS configuration, but for the required storage and network communications as well! Indeed, they don't meet even Wikipedia's general definition of an appliance -- "pre-installed" and "pre-optimized."

IBM Netezza, Teradata and Oracle Exa* ship their own preconfigured hardware and software and are much more appliance-like in that respect, so I'll give them full credit for the Plug and Play category, even if it does take significantly longer than the 24 hours it usually takes to get an IBM Netezza environment up and running. (Some might consider it a stretch to refer to, say, an Exadata deployment as “Plug and Play,” but I’m feeling generous today!)

At one large financial institution that was deploying their first IBM Netezza solution, we spent more time discussing who was going to be responsible for the appliance, than installing it and deploying the first application.

For those of you who are keeping score, our scorecard now looks like this:


Plug and Play

Purpose Built

Easy to use


IBM Netezza










Oracle Exadata










EMC Greenplum





HP Vertica





I’ll continue to explore the golden rules of appliances in the next post!