The name of the first executive who used the term "appliance" to describe an IT product is lost in the annals of IT history, but the concept of trying to make complex processes simple for the user -- pretty much as simple as a toaster -- lives on.
It's an interesting idea, but have we gone too far? What appliances promise today definitely stretches the definition of simple. Database administrators, for example, would hardly use the term "simple" to describe what they do. But data warehouse appliances are on the market. Security appliances are doing as well or better than security software. And some vendors are arguing that appliances are a cost-effective alternative to much-touted SaaS approaches.
And now, we have the application integration appliance. The very idea strains credulity, much in the same way as do book titles like "Calculus for Dummies."
Simon Peel, senior vice president for Integration Strategy at Cast Iron Systems, admitted as much in the warm-up for a recent IT Business Edge 3 Questions interview, commenting that his company started out pitching the idea that it made integration simple. The IT community wouldn't swallow it, arguing that integration is inherently complex. Now, Cast Iron merely claims to hide the complexity of integration from users, not make it go away.
Only time will tell whether Cast Iron (and the competitors that will surely emerge) will enjoy long-term market success. But the company has certainly raised the question of just how far into the realm of complexity appliances will go. Frankly, we'd be happy if we could find a toaster that doesn't burn the toast.