Utility computing is an unassuming term for a big idea: an architecture in which network management has been reduced to the smallest practical units of measure. At the extreme, individual operations would bid for the resources they needed and pay for only those resources consumed?all automatically. Resource distribution would become more efficient, and management time would be conserved.
This would work best in an environment in which resources are freely convertible, and at the moment nothing is further from the case. One way of getting some of the benefits of the idea is to have services delivered on-demand over a network. Another is to dedicate an internal machine to a utility computing environment. A third is to break off a specific service, such as storage or Web serving, and operate those on an on-demand basis. Whichever road is taken, the long-term effects on the nature of the CIO’s role will be to move the office away from a focus on hardware to maintaining markets, both internal and external. One source of developing news on the topic is the online magazine Grid Infoware, found at www.gridcomputing.com.