Ask the IT Consultant

Apr 2 2010   3:30AM GMT

A New IT World Order – IT as a Utility

Beth Cohen Beth Cohen Profile: Beth Cohen

Question:  It seems to me that IT is so for granted that it is rapidly becoming a commodity.  How will that trend affect the future of IT and business?

IT services have turned into commodities.  Hardware platforms are close to completely interchangeable, operating systems are virtual, ubiquitous networking insures that we can connect from anywhere and at anytime and data exchange standards are moving closer to the day that we can move information effortlessly between applications without worrying about expensive conversions and integration.  This vision might not be completely true yet, but this reality is close enough to see where IT services are heading for the next few years; they are rapidly turning into utilities, reliable, invisible and cheap.

Moving IT services to the nebulous cloud means business owners no longer need to worry about IT support for costly data centers and expensive systems.  The services are available only when they are needed.  From a business perspective, outsourcing all IT services and infrastructure to cloud vendors who have specialized expertise in their domains makes eminent sense.  IT has always been the largest unrecoverable expense in the average company’s balance sheet anyway, so moving it entirely to the expense side is going to make the bean counters happy.  It is clear that in the not too distant future, companies will pay for their IT service like they pay their electric or gas bills.

Most people see this trend as something good, but there is a catch.  While I generally support this trend, I am also somewhat nervous about its implication for continued IT innovation.  Nobody cares about where their gas and electricity comes from.  Nobody has a burning desire to improve or question the current system.  There was a time when people were looking at other options for generating and delivering electricity, but the semi-monopoly enjoyed by the utility companies has effectively cut off any serious interest in developing distributed alternatives.  I fear the same thing will start happening in the IT services arena.  As IT becomes a ubiquitous commodity, the services will be delivered by a few large semi-monopoly vendors.  Since the vendors are more interested in maintaining the status quo, there will be a steep drop off of interest in developing non-standard IT systems, which ultimately starves all IT innovation.  If this scenario becomes a reality, it will be a sad day for the IT business.

About the Author

Beth Cohen, Luth Computer Specialists, Inc.

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