Rafe writes about the trend I’ve been seeing (and experiencing): service appliances. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get a handle on this and even talked with a friend who runs a business about how to exploit it.
A large part of my day job is (was) managing spam. That is, I set up and installed a few SMTP relays to scan email for spam and viruses and managed the boxes on a day-to-day basis. I was about to implement SpamAssassin when I found that the boxes I built were going to be replaced with an appliance from CipherTrust: IronMail. These boxes are built on FreeBSD and use many of the same features that SpamAssassin has (I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, in fact, run on SpamAssassin). In addition to all the spam-blocking that is done on the box, CipherTrust sells maintenance for the boxes so that they are actually updating the rules themselves remotely.
As I learn more about what people want from their systems, I’ve come to the realization (a difficult one for a geek like me) that people don’t want to know about the machines they have: they just want them to work. The management of the boxes is something they’d rather not worry about. Companies like CipherTrust (and others) will find a niche when they develop appliances from which they can generate a decent service income.