IBM Appliances, Powered By Novell

When we hear the word "appliances", we tend to think of things in the kitchen — blenders, mixers, juicers, espresso machines. When IBM thinks of appliances, however, they think of something else: Quick and easy software stacks, ready to run right out of the box.

That's exactly what IBM, in partnership with Novell, announced today: A new line of software appliances aimed at simplifying the tech needs of small and medium business — with Linux under the hood.

IBM has developed several appliances, applicable to a variety of business needs, from email to performance monitoring and analytics to collaboration. These appliances combine a base operating system — Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server — the necessary middleware, and the application in question into a single stack, pre-configured to work out-of-the-box. The new offerings, as described by IBM, are:

  • IBM Lotus Foundations. A complete technology and collaboration solution for small and medium sized businesses. Using software appliances provides faster access and adoption of solutions, from accounting packages to a local network infrastructure.
  • IBM Lotus Protector for Mail Security. Protects IBM Lotus® Domino® and mixed email infrastructure from spam, viruses and other threats originating on the Internet. Using software appliances means protection can be installed and running in a matter of hours.
  • IBM WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition Hypervisor Appliances. Offers all of the robust features of the WebSphere Application Server Family for virtual environments. By configuring and packaging as an appliance with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, customers can activate an optimized instance of WebSphere quickly and efficiently.
  • IBM Cognos Now!. Delivers operational dashboards for real-time monitoring of key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics across disparate data sources.
  • IBM Smart Analytics Optimizer. Enables a new class of high speed business intelligence and analytic queries.

We spoke with IBM's Director of Linux Strategy, Jean Staten Healy, and Novell's Director of Alliance Marketing Josh Dorfman, about the new appliances and what they offer small and medium businesses. Healy spoke of the companies' longtime partnership: ""Working with Novell in support of their SuSE Appliance Program is one of the more recent examples of collaboration between our two companies, but we have a 20+ year tradition of teaming together to better serve our mutual clients."

Asked about the appliance program itself, Dorfman told us that "since the SUSE Appliance Program started in July 2009, we've seen 70,000 registered users build over 310,000 appliances. We're experiencing great momentum and this announcement with IBM is an example of the support behind this emerging trend."

What, we asked, can these appliances do for the IT staff? More so, what can these appliances do for IT staff on shoestring budgets, working against managers who still believe in manual typewriters?

After some chuckling all around, Healy pointed out the benefits the appliances bring, and what can make them attractive to even the most tightfisted technophobe. Among them is the cost, which applies not only to the price tag, but to the cost of the time and manpower spent implementing the appliances and keeping them running. That the devices are ready to go out of the box, and in some cases can be set up within thirty minutes is also attractive, both to the overworked IT professional and the business owner without a tech presence.

These appliances are not just for the server room, however. The appliances — which refers to the software stack itself, not any specific hardware — can also be deployed virtually, or — floated? — into the cloud. Independent Software Vendors — including GroundWork Open Source, Ingres, and Zmanda — can utilize these appliances to further their own work.

"Our comprehensive approach helps ISVs to simplify appliance creation, reduce development and support costs, and enter new markets. With just a few mouse clicks, ISVs can build, test and deploy a software appliance that is flexible enough to meet any customer need: software, virtual or on-demand", said Dorfman.

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