14 Delivery Models Transforming IT

The technology prognosticators at Gartner say the convergence of new IT delivery models will fundamentally transform the way businesses consume and interact with IT within the next three to five years.

"In and of themselves, discretely defined, things like Software as a Service, grid computing and virtualization are important in their own disciplines within IT," says Mark Margevicius, research director at Gartner. "But what is happening is if you combine each of these different approaches you actually get some very interesting and compelling ways to look at how IT can be delivered. What we’re postulating here is that over the next three to five years there’s going to be a huge preponderance of change due to this. It means IT, as it exists today, will change significantly."

Gartner identified 14 nontraditional ways to acquire, package and deliver IT they believe will contribute to a shift in IT responsibilities, which are listed below with definitions from the analysts.

  1. Business process utilities (BPUs): outsourced business process services based on standardized processes and a unified, one-to-many platform.
  2. Infrastructure utilities (IUs): shared IT infrastructure architectures offered on-demand and priced-on-service usage.
  3. Storage as a Service: storage capacity offered on a usage basis.
  4. Grid computing: a collection of computing resources with multiple owners coordinated to address a common problem.
  5. Communications as a Service (CaaS): a multiyear, annuity-based offering that bundles vendor-owned, managed and co-located communication applications with connectivity and IT services.
  6. Utility computing: the use of server virtualization, dynamic provisioning and dynamic workload management to provide transparent services to users.
  7. Capacity on demand: the availability of inactive components?processors, memory and input/output adapters?in systems that can be activated rapidly.
  8. Remote management services: outsourced operations and management capabilities offered over a networked infrastructure.
  9. Software as a Service (SaaS): software that is owned, delivered and managed remotely by a provider.
  10. Web platforms: Web 2.0 applications that take advantage of service-oriented architecture to access multiple kinds of services through the Web.
  11. Community source: shares elements from the open-source community, but is its own trend in that users coordinate the work of user IT organizations that have common requirements to solve business problems.
  12. Software streaming: solutions that do not use persistent storage to cache applications and data.
  13. Software-based "appliances" (SBAs): separate application and operating system logic from the underlying hardware.
  14. User-owned devices: devices owned and managed by employees responsible for providing technology to complete job-related tasks.

"What we tell customers is to recognize that not all the models are of the same maturity as others," Margevicius says. "There are different adoption rates depending on which technology and which offering you are really looking at, so some things like Software as a Service are fairly mature whereas grid computing is not nearly so. And so customers’ willingness to adopt should vary depending on their risk aversion."

The common thread running through each model, according to Gartner, is that they all limit the amount of responsibility and risk businesses must shoulder in acquiring and maintaining technology that enables core business functions.

"Right now we spend a lot of money and employ armies of people within IT to service and support internally developed apps, networks, PCs and infrastructures of data centers," Margevicius says. "Under new delivery models, a lot of that stuff moves to a more simplistic model."

Margevicius draws parallels between these future simplifications of IT with the evolution of other important infrastructure services once maintained by businesses at large.

For example, there was a time businesses used to concern themselves with generating their own electricity or providing their own telecommunications service. In each case, as new methods of delivery emerged, they were able to take advantage of the service without maintaining the requisite infrastructure.

"There won’t be so much importance in the plumbing now, but instead what we pump over the plumbing," he says.

Because the new IT delivery method will necessarily mean the reduction of IT staff within the typical enterprise, Margevicius recommends that career-minded IT professionals must adapt to survive.

"There always has to be a value-add differentiation for any employee," he says. "If it means that some of the functions I perform as an IT person go away, I’d better be able align myself higher up the food stack, aligning to more business directives than IT directives and learning to identify how to implement IT for that competitive advantage."