Wednesday, 29 June 2016

5 Reasons for not Customizing Appliance Devices

5 Reasons for not Customizing Appliance Devices

As an IT Support Specialist I have seen many things that other support professionals do things on their environments that is not advised or suggested from support perspective. Appliance servers are servers however with a key different they are supposed to run only one software. Example would be like the google appliance or networking devices like the router switches from Cisco. This devices run on an OS that is customized for this purpose only so they do not run standard settings. Some System Administrator might want to run other software to save cost or play around or simply need to for what ever legitimate or illegitimate reason.

Here are 5 reason for not customizing appliance servers

Reason 1 : Break something that is critical for appliance Software

Appliance software is created for a purpose to be hosted on that appliance. So the software and hardware is designed for that in mind. So before trying to installing something or configuring something always check with vendors Support. Do not go to consultants only. There are some fantastic consultants out there but you want to make sure you know your options. Examples are like upgrading java to the latest version on an appliance that requires to have particular version or the appliance software will not work.

Reason 2 : unable to fix problems/upgrade the appliance software due to custom configuration

Sometimes the upgrade path breaks on the appliance because someone decided that they needed to customize the configuration to allow other things to run. Well you might just block the upgrade path to the latest version. Sometimes it is the vendors fault here but most of the time when you customize the software too much you will not able to upgrade you will have to migrate instead so you will have to spend more money to get a new appliance with newer software. So you will not get the same support from vendors for technical issues.

Reason 3 : Utilizing resources that are needed for appliance software

As previously stated the hardware and software on an appliance are created for a specific task and configuration. If you add more services to run outside of the box you run into the problem like lack of hard-drive or over utilizing RAM or over utilizing the network card. You are dealing with finite resources and the device is tested with thousands and sometimes even millions of dollars to do just what it was designed to do. Hacking it out to run multiple services will slow everything down including what the appliance was designed for. Performance is one reason you want a separate appliance if you start hacking to add more services that that was not intended for the device you just threw out an advantage that you had with the appliance.

Reason 4 : Warranty issues with vendors

Most vendors will only give best effort in some cases will void the warranty outright so when you need help when you call the vendor, they will not give the full support that you need. You have hacked and customized things that they are not trained or even experienced in so now good luck trying to get that quick fix you were hoping for since the Support tech first needs to learn what you did then learn how he can do it then see if that is supported. and If it is out of the warranty or paid support agreement well you are out of luck and you might even have to pay more for assistance now.

Reason 5 : Security loophole

What happens when you install software it can open ports that now increase the risk for a security breach. If you know someone in security they will explain this with more services running means more chances of security breach as you increase risk. It is simple if the device what security tested, only allows some services to use those don't add more. for example don't install ftp server on a network device because ftp is weak. You need SFTP or SCP instead however if the device does not support it, don't add any of that since you will be opening ports that are a risk to the network now, and not just the device.

Don't get me wrong sometimes the default configuration can have a security risk or have something that does not work for your enterprise network so It is a good idea to customize and hack out the appliance. Just know what you are getting into talk to your consultants and your vendor Support. You want to talk to Support specifically because they know what can go wrong with a custom configuration or can get the information what the risks are by adding a customization.