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Appliance Deployment 101
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July 08, 2009

Appliance Deployment 101

By Jeff Hudgins, VP of Engineering, NEI, Inc.

The benefits of appliance platforms are more prominent than ever today as the demand for innovative IP telephony services increases.
In response to this, IT professionals are turning to apps delivered on a COTS-based appliance platform - not only because it requires little or no customization or post-deployment tuning, but also because of the cost and performance benefits offered by the platform.

What IT departments need to remember when considering these devices for their mission-critical telephony applications is that not all appliances are created equal. If the software vendor hasn’t followed certain best practices when building the appliance, the benefits can be easily diminished.

For IT managers responsible for evaluating how to introduce new IP-based telephony services into their enterprise and considering an appliance ecosystem, there are several critical attributes to look for. First, you should understand the potential pitfalls of applications delivered on open servers.
This model allows unfettered access to the application and increases the possibility of modifications that may cause the appliance to under perform, fail or increase security exposure. Alternatively, a well-constructed appliance will feature a tuned and “locked down” operating system — optimized for its reduced footprint and maximum performance. This tuning process can be done for both Linux and Windows environments.
It’s also important to consider that routine auditing of the operational condition of core appliance elements, including CPUs, power supplies and disk drives can help ensure proper performance over the life of the box. Appliances that can “phone home” and automatically generate a maintenance request in the event of a hardware or software malfunction, crash, runtime error and system boot failure will save the enterprise time and money.
Any appliance worth its salt should be able to manage its software application as a holistic image and not just a collection of software parts. In the event of device failure, appliances that feature this capability can be rolled back to a complete pre failure image and quickly restored for proper operation.

Final Score Make sure you’re using appliances that can successfully automate the process of remotely tracking and managing the delivery of updates, patches and other upgrades to boxes deployed in the field, including the OS and all peripheral applications. Evaluating prospective application partners on these criteria will help future-proof your IT infrastructure.

Jeff Hudgins, Vice President of Engineering at NEI, writes the Tech Score column for TMCnet. To read more of Jeff’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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A computing entity that delivers predefined service(s) through an application-specific interface with no accessible operating software
Definition of an Appliance
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