The catch in on-demand computing

What is wrong with the idea of on-demand computing? On-demand is a relatively new concept that has gotten a lot of press in the last several months. In theory, on-demand computing means that computing, storage and other IT resources are brought online and made available to you (or to a process) on an as-needed basis. What you don't need is kept in the general pool of resources and made available to others.

The concept of "on-demand computing" can be applied both to the resources and services supplied by a third-party service provider and to the sharing of resources among the internal users of a single company's IT shop. Either way, the value delivered from this sort of arrangement is that no one process locks up too many of the finite amount of resources that are available within the overall system. Once resources are no longer required they are fed back into the general pool.

If this sounds a bit like time-sharing to some of you old timers... well, it is, but only a bit. Time-sharing was at heart a batch process, and on-demand is developing toward the point where resource allocation can be done on the fly, in real time. Automatically.

And there lies the problem.

The vendors are driving the on-demand environment to a point where resources will be allocated and de-allocated ("provisioning," a word borrowed from the telecom industry, is often used to describe this process) automatically. Ignore for the moment that the reality at present is that automated on-demand computing is still in its very earliest stages, and that the vendors have a long way to go to deliver on the promise of fully automated on-demand provisioning. Ignore that, but keep in mind the following: automation still seems to scare people.

Many of the users I speak with still don't trust it. When Enterprise Management Associates carried out a survey on storage and systems automation in May of this year, the results clearly showed that while users believe in automation and like what it can do, they still want to be able to control the final commitment of any resource.

And that's not the worst of it.

For reasons I leave to your own imaginations, users still don't seem to trust the vendors either. Why this should be the case, I can't imagine, but it is. As a result, IT managers are about to be asked to think about automated on-demand environments... which is to say, they are being asked to let vendors they may not trust install systems that automatically provide (and bill for) resources they may not be convinced they really need.

You all know I am a vigorous advocate for automation, and that I really do believe on-demand resource allocation has much to offer. But the vendors are doing a lousy job of explaining things.

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