Utility Computing Confusion

Vendors, analysts and IT must agree on what it is before anyone can buy in.

These days, all IT vendors ever want to talk about is utility computing. Research firm Gartner Inc. says utility computing will become part of the mainstream by 2005, and IDC research indicates theres strong interest in utility computing now.

Utility computing is a service model in which a service provider makes computing resources and infrastructure management available to the customer on an as-needed basis and charges for specific usage. Similar in concept to paying for electricity, utility computing is also called on-demand computing by some vendors. The point is to maximize the efficient use of resources and minimize associated costs.


Check out Baseline.coms primer on utility computing.

Industry heavyweights including IBM, Sun, EMC and Hewlett Packard, among others, are laying the groundwork for on-demand or utility computing offerings.

But do IT buyers even understand what their vendors are trying to sell? According to a study released last week by IT market strategy firm Saugatuck Technology [pdf], IT buyers are interested in utility computing but dont really understand the concept—at least not as well as they should.

Saugatuck found that although 48 percent of IT managers polled were familiar with the term utility computing, only 2 percent were very familiar with the term and understood what vendors were talking about when trying to sell them on utility computing services. By comparison, 19 percent of IT managers said they were very familiar with the concept of grid computing and 79 percent said the same of application hosting.

IT managers are also jumping the gun when it comes to the actual delivery of utility computing services. Vendors are talking about utility computing as something that will really emerge over the next three to five years, the survey found that most IT buyers believe pay-as-you-go IT will be available within the next 18 to 24 months.

"Vendors are trying to sell something—utility, or pay as you go, computing—and users simply do not understand what it is," said Mike West, an analyst at Saugatuck, in a statement. "This implies an exceptionally strong need—and opportunity—for vendors to educate their customers and prospects on the utility computing concept and to develop workable models that demonstrate the aspects of pay as you go computing and business processes."

I dont doubt that utility computing will lower costs and create efficiencies within the enterprise. But none of that will happen until IT managers truly understand what theyre getting.

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What is your impression of utility computing? Let me know at anne_chen@ziffdavis.com.