Will Intel’s attack on appliances work?

At the recent Gartner SOA show in London, I was surprised to see a stand from Intel.

Turns out Intel are striking back at the burgeoning SOA Appliances market. The Intel claim is that its ‘software appliance’ performs at least as well as Appliances, and is therefore a better option.

The Intel argument is based on the fact that when you buy an appliance, you are locked in to the platform eg the box. So, as time passes, your appliance misses out on latest hardware or chip developments since it is hard-wired. In contrast, if the same performance can be obtained in pure software, then this has the advantage that it can be moved onto a platform with more power if needed, or as platforms are upgraded it can benefit. And Intel claims that its sexy software can match or exceed appliance speeds because it is so highly optimized.This optimization is apparently all around the XML parser. This makes sense in the SOA Appliance space because most SOA Appliances are seployed to deal with high volumes of XML conversions. The Intel claim is that it has a super-slick parser and that is how it can beat the Appliance.

This certainly throws up a new consideration when looking at the case for appliances, but of course it should be remembered that performance is not the only reason people buy them. Off-loading from the production platforms is another reason, and not having to worry about the platform management is another (install, config, etc). However, the Intel argument is a good one. Perhaps the biggest worry I have, however, is that whatever one company has done in software, someone else can do too, and unless it is patent protected, there would be nothing to stop an appliance maker coming up with a super-fast parser, and then putting it into microcode. It seems to me that in the end hardware will always be faster than software.


Posted in best practices, EA, enterprise architecture, Imported, Industry trends, SOA, SOA development, Vendor news.

One Comment

  1. Thanks for taking the time to attend Intel’s booth and share your thoughts on our SOA soft appliance platform, SOA Expressway. Details supporting the performance claims can be requested through a whitepaper from http://www.intel.com/software/soae and my blogs at http://softwareblogs.intel.com/author/joseph-natoli/
    The platform’s heritage comes from a hardware appliance, so features of managability, ease of deployment, etc. are still present and have been extended yet are unbundled from a particular hardware build and can be effectively deployed on standard servers and/or in virtual machines.
    Finally, although patents offer some measure of protection they don’t guarantee differentiation. Our approach (in addition to legal options) is to leverage our deep understanding of multi-core systems and our ability to render its advantages in software as a means to continually innovate in meeting the needs of scalable SOA deployments.

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