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I'm dreaming of a utility data centre

Nothing but a dream?

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For many users this will be as far as they ever get down the UDC road, but there are ways in which it can be developed that exploit the pay-per-use model by taking it into an open marketplace environment. For example, some users may realise that they have services that are marketable to others. But rather than sell a licence to the code, a revenue stream can be created for the IT department that built them by providing them as services run on the service provider’s existing datacentre.

The next step down this path would see the development of Service Aggregators, companies that bring together services from a range of service providers – both hardware and software - that meet customer needs. The chances are such aggregators will start life specialising in definable market sectors where they already have the expertise and the experience needed to identify the most appropriate services and tools for a market sector. Major IT vendors such as HP are already eyeing this potential market with some relish.

Tapping the technology

Long term, or so the theory goes, the majority of users will gradually shift towards utility-based service provision for all their IT needs. They will specify their basic resource and service requirements and be able to add short-term services and resources, at a cost, when required. This will be particularly important for small companies, for they would be able to pay as they use the platform resources and applications licences that otherwise they would not be able to afford to buy outright. That way, they could compete on level terms with much bigger rivals. And for any company aiming at the maximum in agility to meet changing market demands they could, so long as they could pay for its use, simply "open the tap" and there the necessary resources would be. A marketing campaign that generates more business than even the most wildly optimistic marketroid’s forecasts? Just open the tap and get the resources you need.

Is that final scenario a dream? Possibly, and it is almost certainly true that it will take longer to appear than many of the vendors hope and expect. But how many people can remember seeing factories with their own electricity generating stations, and how many factories are there like that now? How long before "IT" stops being a core interest to a business and instead the attention turns to what can be done with it for the good of the business. Then, it may not matter from whence the "IT" actually came.®

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