My Headless Laptop (picture in a previous posting) could be considered an example of such an appliance. Not a particularly good one, but it has the following features, all in the same box :-
- An operating system (Linux Fedora 9)
- A database management system (choice of MySQL or PostgeSQL)
- Storage for data (a 40Gb hard drive)
Doesn't sound like a big deal, but traditionally in database systems you need to buy these separately and get them talking to each other, which doesn't always end well. For example,
- A big Hewlett-Packard server running Unix
- An Oracle database with lots of whistles and bells for working with big databases
- A shed-load of connected storage
There's a lot of debate about how much it actually costs. It's reminiscent of the "free holiday offer", where once you've paid taxes, arrangement fee, compulsory insurance, airport transfer etc it doesn't look terribly "free" any more.
In the case of the HP-Oracle appliance, the quoted price is $650,000, which is actually very reasonable for a system of that size. However, this price does not include er ... most things. For starters it doesn't include the Oracle whistles-and-bells, which at around $100k per processor adds $3.2m to the price. Then add on the storage software costs (around $1.6m) and now instead of $650,000, we're looking at a real-world price of $5.5m. Quite a difference.
If you're not in that financial league, I definitely recommend the Stan Headless Laptop, where the costs are more modest :-
* Broken laptop - around £100
* Fedora Linux 9 - free
* PostgreSQL and MySQL - free
* Storage - free with the laptop - can easily be expanded with external disk drive(s). These will cost money but there is no software cost associated.
Very reasonable, I'm sure you'll agree.