Back at LogicBlaze, we had a product idea for a SOA and messaging appliance with management and monitoring software that could be installed at a customer site. We called this idea LogicBlades because we were talking about using blade servers. I still think this would be a compelling solution for small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) for a lot of reasons. But it would probably require an operations team for offering a service on top of the appliance for monitoring, software updates, etc.
Well, call it a missed opportunity because there are already a bunch of companies in this space including Forum Systems' Forum Sentry, Dajeil XML Acceleration Hardware, Vordel XML and SOA Appliances, IBM WebSphere DataPower SOA Appliances (is every product at IBM somehow linked to WebSphere?!) and Cisco's SONA product line just to name a few.
The even hotter portion of this space involves the inclusion of virtualization with the SOA offering. Vordel is in this space as well, Layer 7 Technologies, TIBCO and IBM is also here with virtualized partitions on servers. Suffice it to say that this market is being attacked.
(I don't have the time to comprehensively research all companies in this space so I'm sure I've missed a few.)
Now, British Telecom is throwing its hat into the ring with a slightly different offering. BT is providing integration as a service with its new managed application and data-integration service in the UK for a 'pay-as-you-grow' service. The solution consists of a hardware appliance running a hardened Linux with the Sonic ESB and iWay connectors. But the BT product not installed at the customer site. Instead it's installed in a BT ops facility where BT handles all the management and monitoring. So this solution is really a hosted service instead of something that customers install on-site. From the BT point of view, this is certainly an easier product to manage. Trying to manage remote appliances at customer sites can be an utter nightmare. Still, an on-site solution seems like a larger opportunity if you offer the customer the management and monitoring software for their own use along with training and professional services.
It still seems like there is lots of opportunity in this space, especially for customers who are not willing to bet the farm on big dollar products from big companies and for companies who can innovate further.