Utility computing remains distant dream

Although analysts believe it will happen and vendors are already promoting it, utility computing will take time to become a reality.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  July 1, 2004

|~|jeanlouis_m.jpg|~|Meta Group’s Jean-Louis Previdi believes utility computing has to become a reality.|~|Veritas is ploughing millions of dollars into its utility computing campaign. At the beginning of May it created its utility computing customer advisory board (CAB), which is supposed to help shape the vendor’s strategy and technology development, while it continues to espouse the benefits of always on storage capabilities whenever possible. So far, the storage software company appears to be achieving a return on its investment, with its recent worldwide user conference attracting a record number of attendees, many of whom listened to key corporate spokespeople hammer home Veritas’ belief that it can provide users with the software building blocks they require to enable utility computing. “IT departments are spending too much time and money simply enabling their businesses when they could be differentiating their businesses to better serve their customers,” said Veritas’ chairman, president & CEO, Gary Bloom. “Veritas Software enables IT departments to drive down operational costs while delivering improved performance and availability on a low-cost shared infrastructure,” he added. Veritas is not alone in promoting utility computing, whereby end user organisations avail themselves of IT services as if they were any other utility, such as electricity. HP continues to tout its adaptive enterprise message, Sun its N1 initiative and IBM computing on-demand. Each vendor promises to lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) of IT and ensure users never again have to invest in systems that can cope with peak demand in terms of processing power and storage yet remain idle for the rest of the time. The computing model also promises to loosen the shackles many believe IT places on organisations and instead allow them to focus on running their businesses. “Utility computing is a major trend for the IT services industry. It is not just a vision. We believe utility is really important [and] we started forecasting in 1999,” says Claudio Da Rold, vice president & research director, Gartner Europe, Middle East & Africa. “The best term to capture this revolution is the industrialisation of IT services,” he adds. Meta Group also believes utility computing has started to arrive, as evidenced by the virtualisation of the network and the growing investments being made in storage area networks (SANs). Additionally, the analyst house flags more recently developed technologies, such as web services, as solutions that facilitate the provisioning of on demand computing services. “The IT model will not continue to fly as it is because it is costing way too much and we have under utilised technology,” says Jean-Louis Previdi, senior vice president of Meta Group Europe, Middle East & Africa. “The IT organisation will become more adaptive… It is about having the technical capabilities that allow the financial model to change and it is starting to happen. Everything will be in the cloud,” he adds. Despite the enthusiasm of the vendors and the rubber stamp many analyst houses are impressing upon utility computing, the model still faces challenges. For instance, it is still something that only the largest companies can take advantage of, due to the fact that tier one organisations tend to have the most complex environments and high demand for IT. “IT organisations need to have critical mass for utility computing because it is about using assets that you have again and again. If IT organisations don’t have critical mass then they will not achieve the economy of scale that utility computing brings,” says Prevendi. “[Utility computing] doesn’t suit all companies and just because it is something the industry is talking about at the minute does not mean that everyone is suited to it,” adds Ian Jagger, marketing manager, HP services Middle East. Another factor is that the support systems necessary for utility computing to work, such as centralised billing, IT savvy accounts and purchasing departments and widespread buy in from senior management, are not in place in many organisations, especially within the Middle East. Additional problems include security, internal compliance and risk management. “Although the market is on the path towards it [utility computing] and the Middle East tends to catch up very quickly with the rest of the world… We are someway from going towards computing on demand within the Middle East market,” says Jagger. However, despite the issues the model faces, Jagger is convinced utility computing will flourish in the region while Prevendi confirms it is an unavoidable trend. “Utility computing will not happen over night... It is a long journey but the key issue is that the financial model of IT is changing. Utility computing is there to change the way companies pay for IT,” he says.||**||

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