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Utility Computing: Short-Term Benefits and Implementation Guidelines

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Continuing his discussion of utility computing, Richard Murch reviews the short-term benefits as well as the requirements for successful implementation.
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The word utility, historically used for such industries as telecommunications, electricity, and gas, is becoming a common term in IT. Like previous computing models over the past thirty years (such as mainframe, client/server, object-oriented, and Internet), utility computing, a much-talked-about new approach to IT operations, has emerged as one of the next steps in the evolution of information technology (IT) for certain users and IT departments.

Is Utility Computing Right for You?

Since early 2002, many vendors have articulated a vision: enabling utility computing through software, hardware, and networks. They have laid out plans and a roadmap for providing availability and performance of applications and automation of IT operations. Early adopters understand that integration of a new platform, protocol, or innovative concept into the technology mainstream requires detailed planning, time, improvement, constant revision, and a dedicated user base. Industry-wide acceptance also requires developers and supporters who are pragmatic and realistic, and who understand at a sufficiently deep level what steps must be taken to ensure ultimate success. Utility computing is following this same evolutionary track.

Like other successful computing models, utility computing is attractive for its simplicity, power, and cost reductions. The utility computing model is based on a shift away from "technology for technology's sake" and a shift toward aligning technology with business requirements. More importantly, it should be away from proprietary approaches and toward interoperability and cross-platform solutions.

While the various utility computing models provide substantial and major benefits, utility computing is not right for every situation or IT department. Utility computing can be a good fit when an organization:

  • Wants to optimize its IT assets and reduce costs

  • Has unpredictable and/or rapidly growing computing needs

  • Needs to scale IT usage both up and down

  • Experiences project-driven workloads

Often, a combination of traditional (purchasing and/or leasing) and utility computing models coexist within data center operations. It pays to examine the options and determine which models are right for your organization. There are many utility models, and it's important to determine the best fit. IT departments shouldn't be concerned if a decision is made to defer the implementation of utility computing. Given time and growth, there may be an opportunity to review utility computing again in the future.

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