Is Power Worth a Buck An Hour?

By Bob Violino  |  Posted 2005-05-04 Print this article Print

Should you opt for "utility" computing? First, figure out how much you spend in-house for computing power.

Sun Microsystems soon will offer computing power for $1 per central processing unit per hour. Its by-the-buck Sun Grid "utility,'' announced in February, is scheduled for commercial availability later this year. The move means information-technology managers don't have to build out their own systems any further. They can just buy the computing power they need, by the hour. But will enterprises really come out ahead ?

With Sun Grid, companies will have access to Sun's facilities, systems—both Sparc and Sun x86 platforms—and software. They can use the utility for, say, Monte Carlo simulations (trial-and-error calculations to find solutions to mathematical problems), protein modeling, mechanical computer-assisted design simulations and other power-hungry operations. Sun says several companies are conducting trials of the service.

One potential benefit is reduced costs; any enterprise considering Sun Grid should analyze its own computing costs to determine if it's spending more or less than $1 an hour per CPU for processing power.

An assessment should include depreciation on servers and other hardware, maintenance, application hosting, training, salaries for administrators, and even costs related to travel to industry conferences, says William Hurley, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Portland, Ore.

Other factors to consider:

  • Which projects are best suited to the grid computing model?

  • What are the corporate risks of relying on a service to handle computer processing for certain applications?

  • Does the grid computing service meet corporate security and government regulatory requirements?

    "Large companies can phase out some of their capital expenditures through the retirement of equipment or repurposing equipment to other business applications," Hurley explains. "Smaller companies ... can avoid capital expenditures and gain access to comparable resources on a demand basis."


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