Users Mull Utility Computing

A survey from AT&T, and a poll from B&S, reveal the importance of this storage-related concept

May 28, 2004

3 Min Read
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Interest in utility computing is growing, and companies aim to spend on it, even though they seem to need a boost of real-world motivation to be specific about their plans.

In this month's Byte and Switch

poll, for instance, 68 percent of 65 respondents could identify utility computing as "the ability to provide users with storage, computer, and network resources as needed, without altering or reconfiguring hardware." But just 31 percent actually acknowledged having a strategy for utility computing in place.

Still, there's pain out there that utility computing is being sought to address. A survey commissioned by AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) of 254 senior executives worldwide, for instance, found that just 6 percent think their current data networks can handle everything they need to do.

Figure 1: How equipped is your network for the business challenges you face over the next two years?Source: AT&T and Economist Intelligence Unit

The survey, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a research group affiliated with The Economist magazine, revealed that even though utility computing ranked relatively low (14th out of 15 items) on companies' lists of current priorities, there was substantial interest in developing the technology over the next two years.Indeed, 61 percent of respondents reported they're willing to increase spending on their networks over the next two years, and 44 percent plan some type of utility computing strategy.

Storage networking will play a key role in all this, since it facilitates the kinds of features, such as data consolidation and business continuity, that are required to provide data services in a way that makes them seem as simple to access as other utilities. "Storage is a huge part of utility computing," says Scott Clavenna, Chief Analyst of Heavy Reading.

Clavenna says vendors such as Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), and Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) have well-defined messages about how utility computing based on their products can make better use of data center resources, storage included.

So far, however, it looks as though the rank-and-file are still mulling these proposals, not quite clear about how to move forward. In the B&S poll, for instance, 25 percent of respondents said utility computing doesn't really play a role in their organizations' storage network, while 18 percent said it "plays about the same role as our ongoing anti-gravity research" and another 18 percent simply didn't know if utility computing was a factor in their networks at all.

AT&T, for one, seems intent to hike up the enthusiasm for utility computing, primarily by releasing new services related to its Ultravailability line of content distribution and storage services, which are based in part on storage networking gear from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). The study summary released today encourages folk to view outsourcing as one avenue to utility computing.AT&T declined to give information, however, about how its Ultravailability services are actually selling, or when and how it plans to augment them.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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