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What about the appliance?

Mar 04, 20042 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMessaging Apps

* Appliances vs. traditional messaging systems

Many vendors of messaging servers, anti-virus and anti-spam systems, directory servers and other messaging-related systems offer self-contained appliances or appliance versions of their software products.

Appliances offer a number of advantages, chief among which is the ability to be up and running very quickly after an installation period that often involves little more than plugging the appliance into a messaging infrastructure.

The concept is used heavily in the consumer PC market just about any PC you can buy these days comes preloaded with an operating system and lots of applications, meaning that you simply have to plug the system components together and switch it on.

A messaging infrastructure based on appliances can be deployed very quickly, yet provide impressive performance at relatively low cost. For example, Mirapoint’s 45-Series Message Server offers SMTP processing in excess of 600,000 messages per hour, Webmail capabilities, calendaring and network-attached storage. The appliance-based Archive Server and Message Director can be connected to a network to provide a complete messaging system that offers sophisticated messaging capabilities, but at a relatively low cost per seat in volume. All three systems together have a base price of about $45,000.

My question is this: Why would you not choose an appliance in favor of more conventionally architected systems in which software is installed on a separately purchased server platform? The plug-and-play aspect of an appliance is certainly an appealing draw, particularly for smaller enterprises that don’t have as much IT bandwidth to spare for the hardware and software purchase, installation, troubleshooting and maintenance processes. The single-vendor aspect is another appealing attribute of appliances.

That said, why would you not choose a software-only approach instead of an appliance? Software offers more flexibility than appliances because hardware, operating systems and software can be chosen and optimized separately. Further, software-based approaches allow you to use existing hardware rather than having to purchase it new.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on the pros and cons of the appliance and software-based approaches to deploying messaging and related systems. Please drop me a line at