Skip to main content

Computing as a commodity

There is a key concept that links Utility Computing, Grid, Service-Oriented Architecture, Virtualisation and several more slippery terms as well. That concept is of computing as a commodity. This is not the same as computers being a commodity - we're all used to that, whether we're buying a home PC by mail order or building even mid-range servers from similar machines. Commodity computing lets us use computing resources or services when we need them and only when we need them. It takes several forms.

The most obvious example is Utility Computing, where a vendor (such as Sun or Amazon) provide you with CPU cycles or storage space and you pay for what you use. Web hosting companies operate on a similar basis, just slightly higher up the software stack. But other examples show that the same basic idea can operate within a company.

Trader Media are a classic example of how computing can be a virtual commodity within a company. They started with the classic setup of separate servers for web, database, business logic & development for each web product, with a complete set of duplicates for backup and failover. They now have a common set of servers with services deployed over them as necessary. Their server utilisation has risen from the industry average of 10% to about 50% and they are aiming for higher rates still. Larger industries can supply services to whichever departments need them, using internal accounting mechanisms much as in the inter-enterprise cases. So we can have a separation between servers and services.

Similarly, companies can provide services themselves as commodities. These can become parts of larger systems stretching across multiple companies. This is a small market as yet but there are enough examples out there to prove the concept.

All these scenarios are underpinned by common technological ideas. So although one term may become unfashionable and another take its place, or while one vendor's system may lose favour and another become more popular, we can see that the key concept that links them all remains the same. Computing is becoming a commodity.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Changing Principles

In EA, architecture principles set a framework for making architectural decisions.  They help to establish a common understanding across different groups of stakeholders, and provide guidance for portfolios and projects.  Michael Durso of the LSE gave a good introduction to the idea in a webinar last week for the UCISA EA community.

Many organisations take the TOGAF architecture principles as a starting point.  These are based on the four architectural domains of TOGAF: business, information/data, applications, technology/infrastructure.  These principles tend to describe what should be done, e.g. re-use applications, buy in software rather than build it, keep data secure.  See for example the principles adopted at Plymouth University and the University of Birmingham.

Recently though, I encountered a different way of looking at principles.  The user experience design community tend to focus more on how we should do things.  E.g. we should start with user needs, use iterative developm…

Why the UCISA Capability Model is useful

What do Universities do?

This may seem a strange question to ask and the answer may seem obvious.  Universities educate students and undertake research.  And perhaps they work with industrial partners and create spin-off companies of their worn.  And they may work with local communities, and affiliation bodies for certain degress, and they definitely report on their activities to government bodies such as HEFCE.  They provide student services and support.  The longeryou think about it, the more things you can think of that a University does.

In business, the things that an organisation does are called "capabilities", which is a slightly strange term.  I think it is linked to the HR idea of a combination of the CAPacity and ABILITY to do a task.  Whatever the name, it is a useful concept.  A capability is more basic than a process: a University may change the way it educates students but as long as it remains a University it will educate them one way or another.

A capability …

A new EA Repository

One of my goals since starting this job two years ago has always been to create a repository for architecture documents.  The idea is to have a central store where people can find information about the University's applications, data sources, business processes, and other architectural information.  This store will make it easier for us to explain our plans, to show the current state of the University's information systems, and to explain what Enterprise Architecture is all about.

It's taken a long time to reach this goal, mainly because we're often had more pressing and immediate work to be done.  The creation of a repository is one of those tasks that is very important but never quite urgent.  So I'm now very happy to say that we are in the process of deploying a repository and modelling tool.


This is the culmination of a careful process to select the most appropriate tool for our needs.  We began by organising several workshops to gather requirements from a rang…