What Makes Something An Appliance


  • Service Provider

    From another thread we wanted to narrow down some OS counts and realized that appliances were not a standard, shared definition. So what really is an appliance?


  • Service Provider

    My feeling on it is not that an appliance is not general purpose, not that an appliance is a purpose built system meant for a single task (probably by a third party but not necessarily.)

    So FreeNAS is an appliance, but in no way limits you from doing anything. It is just set up with the intention of being a NAS or a SAN device and comes with an interface option designed around that purpose. But it isn't limiting, it is still a full server. Just one with an intended purpose.



  • One aspect to consider is the intentions from the manufacturer/developer of the product. Is the product being used as intended or been modified to fit another purpose?


  • Service Provider

    Another way to think of what I just proposed is that an appliance can be open or a black box. Being an appliance doesn't imply one or the other.

    FreeNAS is an open appliance.

    NetApp is a black box appliance.



  • How about OS agnostic in this definition and just talk about the product itself?


  • Service Provider

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    One aspect to consider is the intentions from the manufacturer/developer of the product. Is the product being used as intended or been modified to fit another purpose?

    But then.... who is the vendor?

    Take FreeNAS. It's based on FreeBSD.... all of FreeBSD. FreeBSD is a general purpose server.

    The a second vendor adds a GUI for doing storage on top of that.

    So which vendor do we use as the guide? FreeBSD and it isn't an appliance. Or FreeNAS and it is an appliance?

    And how much does the second vendor need to do before they take over as the one that matters? Just by stating the purpose? By making an interface? By adding functional code?


  • Service Provider

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    How about OS agnostic in this definition and just talk about the product itself?

    Not sure how to do that. Most products in this category are just OSes with window dressing.



  • @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    My feeling on it is not that an appliance is not general purpose, not that an appliance is a purpose built system meant for a single task (probably by a third party but not necessarily.)

    Then I would go back to this definition in that the product was purpose built for a single task and not general purpose.


  • Service Provider

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    My feeling on it is not that an appliance is not general purpose, not that an appliance is a purpose built system meant for a single task (probably by a third party but not necessarily.)

    Then I would go back to this definition in that the product was purpose built for a single task and not general purpose.

    But how do you define who built the product?



  • Going back to your FreeNAS example, FreeBSD would be the OS, of course. FreeNAS would be the product. Anything else that was created and meant to work with or on top of FreeNAS would be considered an add-on/expansion because we are expanding the usefulness of the original product.


  • Service Provider

    Let's say that I take Windows and resell it without modification as a NAS. It has a GUI for managing storage. It has loads of storage technology and tools built in. It's as good for storage as any NAS.

    As long as I call it a NAS.... is that all that it takes?


  • Service Provider

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    Going back to your FreeNAS example, FreeBSD would be the OS, of course. FreeNAS would be the product. Anything else that was created and meant to work with or on top of FreeNAS would be considered an add-on/expansion because we are expanding the usefulness of the original product.

    So just slapping on a web GUI is enough to change "who makes a product"?

    That's a little like saying a car changes makers when we paint it.



  • @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    My feeling on it is not that an appliance is not general purpose, not that an appliance is a purpose built system meant for a single task (probably by a third party but not necessarily.)

    Then I would go back to this definition in that the product was purpose built for a single task and not general purpose.

    But how do you define who built the product?

    Okay, lets go back to the Unix/Linux storyline.

    Bell Labs built Unix for a purpose. Time goes on, Linus Torvalds takes the source code and repurposes it into Linux. He took it and made something else out of it.


  • Service Provider

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    My feeling on it is not that an appliance is not general purpose, not that an appliance is a purpose built system meant for a single task (probably by a third party but not necessarily.)

    Then I would go back to this definition in that the product was purpose built for a single task and not general purpose.

    But how do you define who built the product?

    Okay, lets go back to the Unix/Linux storyline.

    Bell Labs built Unix for a purpose. Time goes on, Linus Torvalds takes the source code and repurposes it into Linux. He took it and made something else out of it.

    Well. None of that happened.

    Bell Labs made Unix for general purpose.

    Linus made Linux separately with nothing from Bell Labs to also be general purpose.

    Two independent products, same goals.



  • @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    My feeling on it is not that an appliance is not general purpose, not that an appliance is a purpose built system meant for a single task (probably by a third party but not necessarily.)

    So FreeNAS is an appliance, but in no way limits you from doing anything. It is just set up with the intention of being a NAS or a SAN device and comes with an interface option designed around that purpose. But it isn't limiting, it is still a full server. Just one with an intended purpose.

    Another example, Dell KACE appliance. Yeah it's just some software running on FreeBSD... but you can't do anything with it. They have you locked out, and if you mess with it, they'll throw boiling oil on you and refuse to support you.

    I do consider that an appliance. Not because I'm locked out, but because it's purpose built. Not because it's from and supported by a vendor, either. It's hard to word it they way I'm thinking it.


  • Service Provider

    Here is my problem with the FreeNAS scenario, or my Windows NAS example..... all of the "building" is done by FreeBSD or a Microsoft. When FreeNAS adds a web page on it, that's all they are doing.... adding a web page. FreeBSD is still there, made bun freeBSD in all of its general purpose glory made to do anything.

    How do you define simply adding a web site to a server as shifting it from general purpose to specific when all of the general purpose-ness remains?



  • Perhaps an 'appliance' isn't what it is, but how it's used. Take the same exact thing, give it to two different people/organizations... one may consider it an appliance, the other may not be 'using' it in that way.


  • Service Provider

    @Tim_G said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    My feeling on it is not that an appliance is not general purpose, not that an appliance is a purpose built system meant for a single task (probably by a third party but not necessarily.)

    So FreeNAS is an appliance, but in no way limits you from doing anything. It is just set up with the intention of being a NAS or a SAN device and comes with an interface option designed around that purpose. But it isn't limiting, it is still a full server. Just one with an intended purpose.

    Another example, Dell KACE appliance. Yeah it's just some software running on FreeBSD... but you can't do anything with it. They have you locked out, and if you mess with it, they'll throw boiling oil on you and refuse to support you.

    I do consider that an appliance. Not because I'm locked out, but because it's purpose built. Not because it's from and supported by a vendor, either. It's hard to word it they way I'm thinking it.

    At least there there is actual technology added to FreeBSD. With FreeNAS there is not.

    And there is a lock out step. With FreeNAS there is not.


  • Service Provider

    @Tim_G said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    Perhaps an 'appliance' isn't what it is, but how it's used. Take the same exact thing, give it to two different people/organizations... one may consider it an appliance, the other may not be 'using' it in that way.

    True. For most businesses everything is seen as an appliance for sure.



  • @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    My feeling on it is not that an appliance is not general purpose, not that an appliance is a purpose built system meant for a single task (probably by a third party but not necessarily.)

    Then I would go back to this definition in that the product was purpose built for a single task and not general purpose.

    But how do you define who built the product?

    Okay, lets go back to the Unix/Linux storyline.

    Bell Labs built Unix for a purpose. Time goes on, Linus Torvalds takes the source code and repurposes it into Linux. He took it and made something else out of it.

    Well. None of that happened.

    Bell Labs made Unix for general purpose.

    Linus made Linux separately with nothing from Bell Labs to also be general purpose.

    Two independent products, same goals.

    Okay, maybe I don't remember my history very well, but none the less.

    Lets say you build a product to solve problem A. And it works great, but then problem B comes along and you allow me the right to modify the design of your product so that I can develop a new product to solve product B. You would be the originator of product A and I would be the originator of Product B. If somebody comes along and creates an Add-on to my product B, its still product b, but with an add-on.


  • Service Provider

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    My feeling on it is not that an appliance is not general purpose, not that an appliance is a purpose built system meant for a single task (probably by a third party but not necessarily.)

    Then I would go back to this definition in that the product was purpose built for a single task and not general purpose.

    But how do you define who built the product?

    Okay, lets go back to the Unix/Linux storyline.

    Bell Labs built Unix for a purpose. Time goes on, Linus Torvalds takes the source code and repurposes it into Linux. He took it and made something else out of it.

    Well. None of that happened.

    Bell Labs made Unix for general purpose.

    Linus made Linux separately with nothing from Bell Labs to also be general purpose.

    Two independent products, same goals.

    Okay, maybe I don't remember my history very well, but none the less.

    Lets say you build a product to solve problem A. And it works great, but then problem B comes along and you allow me the right to modify the design of your product so that I can develop a new product to solve product B. You would be the originator of product A and I would be the originator of Product B. If somebody comes along and creates an Add-on to my product B, its still product b, but with an add-on.

    Is adding a web page "modifying the design" though?


  • Service Provider

    Is painting a car or putting a seat cover in or installing GPS "modifying the design" of a car?



  • @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    My feeling on it is not that an appliance is not general purpose, not that an appliance is a purpose built system meant for a single task (probably by a third party but not necessarily.)

    Then I would go back to this definition in that the product was purpose built for a single task and not general purpose.

    But how do you define who built the product?

    Okay, lets go back to the Unix/Linux storyline.

    Bell Labs built Unix for a purpose. Time goes on, Linus Torvalds takes the source code and repurposes it into Linux. He took it and made something else out of it.

    Well. None of that happened.

    Bell Labs made Unix for general purpose.

    Linus made Linux separately with nothing from Bell Labs to also be general purpose.

    Two independent products, same goals.

    Okay, maybe I don't remember my history very well, but none the less.

    Lets say you build a product to solve problem A. And it works great, but then problem B comes along and you allow me the right to modify the design of your product so that I can develop a new product to solve product B. You would be the originator of product A and I would be the originator of Product B. If somebody comes along and creates an Add-on to my product B, its still product b, but with an add-on.

    Is adding a web page "modifying the design" though?

    No, I'd consider it an add-on. The original design of the product is still there and functioning as designed. Some marketing just decided to rebrand it to something else.



  • @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    Is painting a car or putting a seat cover in or installing GPS "modifying the design" of a car?

    No, because it still gets you from point A to point B. By adding the seat cover or the GPS, you just made it more comfortable for the commute.


  • Service Provider

    Here is another way to look at it.... when I support FreeNAS for customers, it's just FreeBSD to me. It's just another out of date FreeBSD box. Unless I look to see if the web server is running, you can't tell at all.


  • Service Provider

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    Is painting a car or putting a seat cover in or installing GPS "modifying the design" of a car?

    No, because it still gets you from point A to point B. By adding the seat cover or the GPS, you just made it more comfortable for the commute.

    Right. So the appliances don't change by adding window dressing either. No functional changes.



  • There may be some tribal knowledge going on within the industry as to why its called an appliance. Just a term with really no meaning, but sounds cool.


  • Service Provider

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    My feeling on it is not that an appliance is not general purpose, not that an appliance is a purpose built system meant for a single task (probably by a third party but not necessarily.)

    Then I would go back to this definition in that the product was purpose built for a single task and not general purpose.

    But how do you define who built the product?

    Okay, lets go back to the Unix/Linux storyline.

    Bell Labs built Unix for a purpose. Time goes on, Linus Torvalds takes the source code and repurposes it into Linux. He took it and made something else out of it.

    Well. None of that happened.

    Bell Labs made Unix for general purpose.

    Linus made Linux separately with nothing from Bell Labs to also be general purpose.

    Two independent products, same goals.

    Okay, maybe I don't remember my history very well, but none the less.

    Lets say you build a product to solve problem A. And it works great, but then problem B comes along and you allow me the right to modify the design of your product so that I can develop a new product to solve product B. You would be the originator of product A and I would be the originator of Product B. If somebody comes along and creates an Add-on to my product B, its still product b, but with an add-on.

    Is adding a web page "modifying the design" though?

    No, I'd consider it an add-on. The original design of the product is still there and functioning as designed. Some marketing just decided to rebrand it to something else.

    Right. So appliance is marketing?


  • Service Provider

    @NerdyDad said in What Makes Something An Appliance:

    There may be some tribal knowledge going on within the industry as to why its called an appliance. Just a term with really no meaning, but sounds cool.

    I think "purpose" can make sense. But I wonder how useful the term remains.


  • Service Provider

    Appliance starts to overlap with "supported".


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