The Economist writes that the grand and fuzzy vision of utility computing is what all the vendors see, built around web services and grid computing.
The potential for a computing infrastructure such as this to boost efficiencyand even to save livesis impressive. Irving Wladawsky-Berger, an in-house guru at IBM, pictures an ambulance delivering an unconscious patient to a random hospital. The doctors go online and get the patient’s data (medical history, drug allergies, etc), which happens to be stored on the computer of a clinic on the other side of the world. They upload their scans of the patient on to the network and crunch the data with the processing power of thousands of remote computersnot just the little machine which is all that the hospital itself can nowadays afford.
At the core of the vision is flexibilitya firm must be able to make its operating costs, and therefore its computing and information costs, totally variable so that they go up and down with business volumes. Firms can improve cost flexibility today, says Mr Sood, but only if they stick with one vendor, such as IBM, or if they make only one of their many computing functions (data storage, say) flexible. But for computing to be bought and sold as a utility, firms must be able to switch vendors, to do it for all their computing functions, and with meter-based pricing. All of this will take a few more years to get right.