Choosing Computer Hardware for Appliance Development

Choosing computer hardwareOne of the biggest mistakes software companies make when creating an appliance is rushing the hardware decision. For convenience, developers often load their software onto existing servers or hardware not optimized for their applications. During the inevitable rush to market, this can result in appliances that don’t perform efficiently or require a hardware refresh early in their life-cycle.

Software developers and hardware engineers must work together to design an appliance that is customized for the application and can be installed and maintained with limited IT involvement. Taking time to design or choose the best computer hardware from the beginning will enable the best price to performance ratio for the appliance, maximize product lifecycle (thereby reducing engineering support costs), and provide a product with a unique user experience that is easy to maintain.

Things to Consider when Choosing Computer Hardware Components

When building an appliance, it’s important to take cost, production volume, product longevity, lead-time, compatibility, and driver support into consideration. These factors are critical when confirming everything from operating system support, market competitiveness to the best supply chain model to use. Every choice has an associated trade-off so your specific requirements must be considered. Your target market, warranty plan, price point, and feature set will help to determine whether or not to use custom or off-the-shelf components.

Custom vs Commercial-Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Components

Deciding whether or not to use custom hardware requires evaluation of production volume, target price, initial investment, and market flexibility. Customizing a solution can be as simple as removing a connector or painting the unit and can also be as complex as custom boards and enclosures. The goal should be to select the minimum customizations that achieve your product performance goals while minimizing the non-recurring engineering (NRE) costs, minimum order quantities, and lead-time. The advantages of customization can range from lower material costs to unique features that enable market differentiation. Typically, volume and time-to-market considerations are the driving factors when making COTS versus customized decisions.

Operating Systems

Operating systems should also be another major consideration when choosing computer hardware. Some companies make the mistake of choosing a less expensive operating system without taking hardware options into consideration. Older or open source operating systems may not be compatible or fully supported by major hardware manufacturers. This can limit your appliance platform options. So before you decide on a final configuration, check for any compatibility issues that may arise.

Benefits of Using a Manufacturing Logistic Partner

Independent software vendors (ISVs) can benefit greatly from using the capabilities of an experienced manufacturing logistics partner. In general the relationship can enable new lines of review and elevate the ISV’s position in their marketplace. The ISV can benefit from the knowledge, relationships, and capabilities that the manufacturing partner has spent years developing and tuning to support product development, fulfillment, and service. This enables the ISV to focus on their core competency and bringing value to their customers.

Sourcing the necessary parts for an appliance and building the actual hardware is challenging, especially for software companies not familiar with the process. Many hardware vendors operate overseas, making language barriers, customs, and financing difficult for software developers who are new to the world of hardware engineering. Partnering with a manufacturing and logistic provider can take the stress out of finding hardware vendors and eliminate the risk of choosing the wrong hardware for your application.

Patriot Technologies is an experienced manufacturing and logistics company that has successfully enabled many ISVs with physical products that expanded their market penetration and increased the value of the business. Patriot provides software and hardware consulting, design, integration, and management services that lead to faster time-to-market and increased profitability. Contact us today to speak to our experienced hardware engineers about your next virtual, storage, network or security appliance.

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