Utility Computing: And What’s In A Word?

June 4, 2009

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I believe that computing will become more utility oriented. That there will be less reliance on what we currently look at as internal technology infrastructure.

My belief in this came about in the mid 80’s when I read that every automobile manufactured in North America had more computing power built into it than the NASA moon shots.

If you have read Nicholas Carr’s IT Doesn’t Matter you will notice one key difference, I never saw it as the world of software that we currently have, the way I saw it back then was along the lines of intelligent hardware devices. Similar to the “smart” thermostats in most new homes.

This type of Utility IT has often been compared to electricity – just plug it in, and pay by the sip. I have used that analogy myself.

But there is an excellent warning by Andrew McAfee, formerly at Harvard, now MIT. He argues that we should not try to simplify this concept down to the simplicity of an analogy like electricity.

His argument is that even in a more utility environment, IT is not as simple as 110 or 220 volts (North America) coming out of a socket. There is no decision to made there, no decisions or management is required around an electrical socket.

So using terms like electricity may overly simplify, or “dumb down” our thinking of IT.

And that is dangerous.

When was the last time you talked about electricity at a management meeting?


And even if get your IT through a wall jack (eg Salesforce.com)  There are still management decisions that must be made. We use technology to create or consume information. To do that there are work flows, business processes and certain business metrics and capabilities.

All of these will still demand management attention, demand decisions, and need to be top of mind for all businesses.

So, you can consider me a convert!

Will more and more of our IT resources continue to come from outside our walls? Yes,

But will you be able to plug in a cable and by magic have exactly the information, processes and work flows just appear? No!

It will still need management attention – lots of it.

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3 Responses to “Utility Computing: And What’s In A Word?”

  1. IT resources are becoming more and more valuable. If you are trying to operate a successful business, you are going to need to optimize your IT functions and most business owners would have trouble doing that. When you still have a small business, you may not have enough money to hire your own IT person so outsourcing IT services is a good option. Some office spaces have IT services readily available for you.

  2. elliotross Says:

    I know, if you type ‘supplier’ or ‘vendor’ into the search box on this blog, you will see dozens of references

  3. A lot of these business technologies are difficult to understand, especially for those not so technology savvy business owners. However, there are companies that can handle your IT services for you. these IT services are increasingly important in today’s time so you need professionals to handle these services for you.

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