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The Art Of IT: Ultimate Outsourcing

In my first IT job, in 1983, I spent the summer cutting raised floor tiles to prepare for installation of three super-minicomputers--an IBM 4341, a Data General MV10000 and a Harris 800. The IBM system had lots of external storage, so I had to cut plenty of holes in the floor tiles. Once the machines were installed, I helped the systems administrators bring up their systems. While I was busy wiring in terminals, they were customizing the systems for my employer's needs.

Back then it was hard to imagine outsourcing most components of the data center. Physical access to the systems was critical for day-to-day management. But by the mid-1990s, we'd long since eliminated those systems and equipped the machine room for other uses. Our data center was in a different building from where the systems programmers and managers worked. Rarely did anyone need to enter the machine room.

Now, more than a decade later, it's reasonable to take that next step--let someone else run some or all aspects of your data center. Particularly for customer- facing applications, it makes sense to let someone else worry about multihomed Internet connections and whether the diesel generator will start quickly enough to cover the UPSs.

Today's outsourced data center services are often considered the precursors to a true utility computing environment. If you trust physical security and operational procedures to someone else, it follows that--with some technical advances in virtualization--you shouldn't worry about which machines host your applications. In theory, it'll become an operational detail to decide where and how applications run. When that happens, wanting to know exactly where your applications will run will make about as much sense as asking your bank to show you where it keeps your money.

Bypassing the Outsourcer

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