If all goes according to plan, this is the last week you'll receive this missive in its traditional format. As I mentioned earlier, I'll be launching the VORTEX blog, which will enable me to cover issues on a more frequent basis, as well as keep the dialogue going among fellow Vorticians. Everything is simpler than you think and at the same time more complex than you can imagine.GoetheDear Vorticians,If all goes according to plan, this is the last week you'll receive this missive in its traditional format. As I mentioned earlier, I'll be launching the VORTEX blog, which will enable me to cover issues on a more frequent basis, as well as keep the dialogue going among fellow Vorticians.The blog will be found at http:\/\/www.networkworld.com\/weblogs\/vortex\/index.html and I hope you'll add that to your favorites list, taking the place of that Web site with the Deep Throat theories. Just so you won't suffer any Digest withdrawal, you'll continue to receive a weekly e-mail containing capsules of the week's blog entries and links to the full discussions. I hope you'll let me know how you like this new approach, and I hope you'll continue to share your thoughts on what you read, either while perusing the blog or the e-mail alert.Recently, I learned about something new - at least the concept was new to me. I'd love to know if this is something that you've already heard about and whether you believe it will get any traction in the marketplace. (If this is really obvious stuff, resist the urge to tell me that I'm losing touch with reality.)I was having a discussion about investment opportunities with a seasoned VC, Amos Barzilay, and the topic turned to enterprise applications. I explained that my question about that market is not so much around what applications opportunities exist, but more around what form-factor future enterprise applications will take.I wonder if customers will continue to buy traditional packaged applications, with all the deployment issues that weight them down. With all the concern about compliance and the loss of customer data, will the ASP model be stunted? How will apps vendors deliver products in a services-oriented world?Tough questions, in response to which Barzilay suggested I look into the model of "software appliances." And to get a better understanding of what that term means, he directed me to Peter Relan, the CEO of a company called Business Signatures that helps companies manage, and get more profit from, their Web business operations.Relan, who's worked in senior positions in Oracle and as the CIO of Webvan, explained that applications in enterprise environments are bogged down by three different types of complexity (remember: complexity is the killer app):* The complexity of dependent technologies, meaning all the other stuff you need to make sure an enterprise application actually works. Relan cites the fact that he had to go out and buy COBOL compilers to make one ERP system operate as promised.* The complexity of data management - getting information structured and into warehouses and other repositories, all requiring the hiring and maintenance of expensive DBAs.* The complexity of integration, meaning all the work that goes into getting an application integrated into the overall IT ecosystem.All of these forces conspire to complicate the deployment of enterprise apps and, thus, slow down the market and limit the opportunity for entrepreneurs and existing apps providers. So, when Business Signatures (http:\/\/www.bizsigs.com) developed its products it embraced the software appliance approach.Essentially, each of BizSigs applications is a self-contained software unit that includes the application logic plus an entire open source software stack - operating system, Web server, etc. - designed to run on 'bare metal,' meaning any server you want. The software contains its own database and data management tools and uses XML for all data import\/export. You simply plop this 'software appliance' into your environment and it runs. It's very simple, according to Relan, to link it to other systems, thanks to XML.Not only does the software appliance sound clean and simple, it seems to me to be a terrific way for apps developers to capitalize on the open source opportunity. Thanks to the LAMP (Linux\/Apache\/MySQL\/PPP) stack, you can build the underlying support infrastructure right into the app and, voila, applications become like an appliance that you plop into the data center.When something sounds that simple, I get suspicious, however. So, what's wrong with the software appliance story? Or what's right with it? Who else is doing this? Is it the beginning of a trend?So many questions. So many readers. What do you have for answers? Let me know at mailto:email@example.com.