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Living, Breathing, On Demand IT

On Demand. Organic computing. Utility computing. It all adds up to one thing: a big shift under way in the technology industry to make systems more nimble and cost-effective. While internetnews.com has covered the trend for the past few years, the terms to describe the trend have grown, too.

In this installment of our ongoing series of executive summaries called In Focus, we'll provide a summary of the trend and what it could mean to you and your enterprise.

1. Overview:

What Is On Demand Computing?

IBM helped add currency to the term On Demand, which it describes as part of its business transformation approach to helping customers. HP uses the term Adaptive Enterprise. Sun's version is N1. In general, the term encompasses a utility-style approach that offers computing services that a customer can use "by the drink." But it's also more than that.

While the term and its meaning may be shifting all the time, one trend is constant: On Demand computing, as well as software On Demand, are trends that are gaining currency in the IT industry. The term and trend is at least two years old and growing in importance. But why?

When Forrester Research introduced Organic IT as a major coverage area in 2002, the firm called it the "third major revolution in data center architecture, after the mainframe and client/server."

Since then, the firm said, "eight major vendors -- CA, Dell, EMC, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Sun and Veritas -- have announced initiatives under various names that aim at Organic IT and more, along with countless smaller vendors."

Organic IT, or On Demand computing, can "deliver big IT cost savings -- and business gains," wrote Forrester analyst Frank Gillett. After all, if you're only using only what you need, or improving utilization on existing infrastructure, what's not to like?

And another attractive feature of the trend is that it doesn't require you to rip out existing investments or infrastructure. But the challenge, added Gillett, is to "get past the confusion of ideas and offerings" in the market in order to buy computing systems only as you need them. Doing so will help decision makers stay ahead of the shift to a next-generation data center architecture.

Indeed, some would argue that the over-investment in IT by major enterprises during the late 1990s, especially during the run up to the year 2000 rollover, has spurred the trend to just "buy it as you need it" in the IT industry.

The same could be said for the software industry, which is also spreading the term On Demand as more people shift to software as a service.

After all, software makers and customers alike are realizing that gone are the days when software providers would back up a truck to the company's front door and "dump as much software as possible," as Louis Blatt, chief technology strategist for enterprise software company Computer Associates explained a year ago when the company was unveiling its On Demand product lines.

Recently, ChainLink Research said the shift to On Demand software is a "fundamental, permanent shift in software economics." The firm recently released a major study about On Demand software and concluded: "The emergence of on-demand software is not an isolated trend. It is a fundamental, market-altering shift in how software is built, bought, delivered and used."

ChainLink said it defines the term in the software industry to mean three things:

1. Pay as you go
2. Instant Deployment
3. Single Instance

That would be no surprise to Salesforce.com , which is building a growing business selling customers individually tailored customer relationship management software, either by the seat or by subscription. Since its IPO last spring, the company has become a bellwether for how similar software by subscription plays will fare in the marketplace.

Next Page: Definitions from the Field