Consider Alternative IT Delivery Models

Not all application software comes on a CD-ROM, or Compact Disk read-only memory.

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Software companies serving the automation space have been developing a model of serving applications to users dubbed Software as a Service, or SaaS. This model, typified by salesforce.com, usually hosts the application on a remote server. The customer's employees access the service over the Internet. Another service that is gaining popularity is found at Amazon.com, and it has nothing to do with books. Amazon.com is offering huge amounts of data storage as a service over the Internet.

Gartner Inc., the Stamford, Conn.-based research firm, has identified 14 alternative delivery models that it says will completely transform the information technology (IT) market in the next five years. IT leaders must examine these new models, or business units may implement them on their own, Gartner analysts warn in a new report, titled “Alternative Delivery Models: A Sea of New Opportunities and Threats.”

“Traditional practices of technology life cycle ownership, where the organization buys, configures, manages, optimizes and retires technology for its own use, are being questioned as to their efficiency and effectiveness, so alternative delivery models for technology and services are emerging,” says Mark Margevicius, research vice president at Gartner. “Alternative delivery and acquisition models include new channels for acquisition, use and payment. In some organizations, alternative models involve only users and business units, bypassing the IT function.”

Market excitement over Web platforms, software as a service and other IT utility services will only intensify, and this will increase business buyers’ appetite for these new options and services, according to Gartner. During the next five years, a broad set of new and alternative IT delivery models—already used by aggressive Type A organizations—will become mainstream, the company predicts.

These models are approaches to ways to acquire, package and deliver IT. Traditionally, the IT department develops or acquires technology, then deploys, supports and retires it. New platforms with Web-based delivery, such as software as a service or other IT utility services, will offer viable alternatives. This is the first list of models that Gartner considers to be alternative in nature. The list will be modified as markets, technologies, processes and customers change.

Gartner analysts note that more aggressive customers may have already been using a given model for an extended period of time, and as such, may view that model as traditional. For the most part, these “outliers of adoption” are not mainstream, Gartner says, thereby warranting inclusion on the list.

Unprecedented modularization

 “Today’s environment enables a level of IT decoupling and modularization never before available,” says Claudio Da Rold, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Technologies such as virtualization and Web 2.0, as well as mobility and ubiquitous computing, allow for extraordinary changes in how IT and business services are delivered. This accelerated change and the associated market excitement will affect the business and technical spheres. Drivers in both areas are converging to create a new market order where traditional and alternative acquisition and delivery models coexist.”

The 14 alternative delivery models are: business process utilities (BPUs); infrastructure utilities (IUs); storage as a service; grid computing; communications as a service (CaaS); utility computing; capacity on demand; remote management services; SaaS; Web platforms; community source; software streaming; software-based “appliances” (SBAs); and user-owned devices.

IT leaders need to reconsider the traditional way of approaching technology deployments and their clients’ needs as they investigate these alternatives to pushing applications to client personal computers. Just as early PC pioneers found ways to circumvent a hidebound IT infrastructure in order to get tools they thought they needed to do their jobs, so too will today’s knowledge workers explore these innovative tools delivered quickly and inexpensively via the Internet.

Gary Mintchell, gmintchell@automationworld.com, is Automation World’s Editor in Chief.

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