Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The commoditisation of IT

One of the precursors to the industrial revolution was the development of mankind's ability to harness nature to provide energy that was then used to power the machinery that drove the huge advancements seen during this exciting era.

© sergeevspb -
Factories, mills and the like had vast teams who were dedicated to the harnessing of the energy that was needed, coal fired boilers, water driven wheels, windmills...all these allowed the industrial revolution to take hold. Very quickly industry relied on the harnessing of  energy to exist, if anything went wrong and this energy was interrupted, everything ground to a halt.

Does this situation sound familiar? Today's IT is the modern equivalent of this energy, we have large teams of technology experts working within businesses keeping the IT services that power the business up and running. If these services fail, then the business cannot work.

We are now also seeing the same shift that happened in the latter years of the revolution where energy production was outsourced with the establishment of power generation stations. Today very few organisations generate their own electricity. Power supply is a service that is almost exclusively outsourced.

IaaS, PaaS and SaaS options are seeing the commoditization of IT in the same way as it occurred for the provision of power to industry. Specialised energy workers of the 19th century would probably have found it difficult to conceive of a time where electricity would be routinely outsourced rather than handled in-house, but now we would find the idea of generating electricity to meet our own power needs to be a novelty. In 10 years' time will we feel the same way about a business that supplies its own computing power?

Is it time for us to relinquish the ownership of our IT infrastructure in the same way that our ancestors had to accept that electricity had become a commodity that they would purchase rather than create and manage themselves?

Just as the workers of the industrial revolution were able to take the power that was supplied to them, use it, manipulate it and produce unique end products from their use of the same resources, we are now able purchase the amount of computing power that is sufficient to drive the production of the end products and services that our businesses produce.

© Greg Blomberg -
In most countries the generation of electricity, and supply to consumers, is reliable with impressive availability statistics. Modern data centres are able to provide businesses with IT services that meet, or even exceed these availability levels. This leaves the 21st century IT department free to concentrate on innovation and improvement to their proprietary services, leaving the "vanilla" underlying infrastructure to external suppliers.

Yesterday I spent my afternoon touring a data centre, with a very inspirational and knowledgeable professional, Te Aroha Morehu of Vocus Communication in New Zealand. Getting a glimpse of how essential IT "energy" is generated and supplied to end users was very educational and opened my eyes to the future of our industry. It is exciting, as long as we are willing to treat the underlying IT infrastructure as a commodity, and accept that IT capability is the 21st century equivalent of 19th century electricity and is currently going through a similar paradigm shift.

Letting go our ownership of the basics opens up doors of possibility...the future is exciting!

No comments:

Post a Comment