Rationalizing IT

Service-centric computing poised to reshape enterprise information technology infrastructure, IDC predicts

Boston — March 25, 2003 — Service-centric computing is gaining attention as a possible means to reduce the costs of, and rationalize, today's enterprise technology infrastructure, according to a new study from technology research firm IDC.

The IDC study, "Service-Centric Computing: An Infrastructure Perspective, Outlook and Analysis," which provides an overview of the concept of service-centric computing and examines early markets and applications that have begun to gain traction with users, concludes that service-centric computing is poised to reshape corporate infrastructure by reorganizing the data center and recalibrating productivity.

According to IDC, the past several years have seen an explosion in the number of servers deployed worldwide, but the costs to acquire, deploy and maintain this infrastructure are weighing down the productivity gains associated with introducing technology into the business process.

In order to reduce these costs and rationalize today's enterprise infrastructure, market attention is shifting toward various conceptions of service-centric computing. Fundamentally, the concept of service-centric computing is about shifting the focus from infrastructure (e.g., hardware and software) to the business services delivered to the user (e.g., e-mail, supply chain management, etc.).

In other words, service-centric computing describes the ability to deliver server, storage and network resources to the business unit or end users in a manner that is fully accountable, metered and always available irrespective of end-user demands and needs.

"We expect the idea of service-centric computing — or focusing on IT services and abstracting the complexity out of day-to-day infrastructure operations — to slowly build momentum throughout the next few years," said John Humphreys, senior research analyst with IDC's Global Enterprise Server Solutions Program.

Humphreys added that the service-centric concept holds deep potential to not only lower the capital and operational costs of a data center, but also to impart that infrastructure with the increased availability and agility to respond to an ever-changing business environment. "It is this powerful combination of cost reduction and a high-level focus on business services that will ultimately win over users, though we fully expect adoption to be incremental and proceed at a vigilant pace," the research said.

Other technology analyst firms have come up with similar predictions for the future direction of IT, including Forrester Research, which has focused on what it calls "organic IT." IBM has promoted a similar vision, which it has dubbed "e-business on demand."

As IDC sees it, part of what is bringing service-centric computing into focus is the emergence of three distinct product categories: monitoring/management, automation and virtualization solutions.

System monitoring and management functions are critical to the collection of system and application service-level statistics. Products in this category focus on providing system status through alert notification, event logging and reporting statistics on a particular node.

Automation focuses on streamlining mundane, routine manual operations so they can be completed with a minimum of human interaction. The automation function encompasses tools and concepts that range from simple resource provisioning to full automation and autonomic computing.

Virtualization refers to the ability to view and manage individual infrastructure assets as an aggregated pool of resources. IDC views virtualization as delivering the combination of automation and provisioning tools to enable users to experience a higher resource utilization rate at a lower capital and personnel cost.

"IDC's view is that the service-centric computing market will develop through an iterative, incremental process, starting with a foundation of basic monitoring and management tools and then evolving through provisioning to automation and virtualization solutions," said Humphreys. "While it is still unclear exactly how the market will unfold, IDC expects the total available market for service-centric computing to be somewhere in the range of $3-4 billion dollars by 2006."