Building the intelligent grid will require less technical innovation than it does strategic innovation—a characteristic not typically ascribed to U.S. regulated utilities. But the utility culture...
see radical overhaul and automation in four key areas: networks, storage, software, and processors. Those changes, the company predicts, will mean vast improvement-and overall lower ownership expense-in three areas:
Utilization. Organic IT will scale up, and down, to match computing demand load, without sudden failures of business capacity. For example, server space could be allocated to accounting during a quarterly closeout, then reallocated to a trading desk during a bid week. Right now, companies must buy enough server capacity to handle peak demand for each software application, and they cannot shift server space between applications.
Integration. Organic IT will quickly and easily connect dissimilar technologies, both within firms and between firms, with the ease of sending e-mail or surfing a Web site. In other words, supply chain management could become easier, because firms could talk to one another without installing a custom integration (see Fig. 1).
Manageability. Organic IT will automate installation, load balancing, failover, and recovery, leaving IT staff to manage unusual events. For example, instead of hovering over server load data every hour of the day, IT staff will be alerted only when there is an unusual breakdown (see Fig. 2).
Several technologies on the market fit into the Organic IT vision, says Frank Gillett, a principal analyst with Forrester. Companies can see significant savings almost immediately from implementing an Organic IT approach, he claims. The key is to focus on two areas that are already organic-compatible: storage and servers.
P.O. Boxes for Computer Files
Currently, storage allocated to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system can be used only for that ERP system. It's wildly inefficient, Gillett says. Companies buy the storage they think they will need for a specific application for the next three years and then essentially stick those extra storage disks on a shelf until they're needed, he says. But Gillett says storage virtualization technology can change all that by allowing storage to be centralized and managed much more efficiently.
The payoff for moving to storage virtualization could be as high as a 30 percent savings on what companies currently spend on storage, according to Forrester.
Storage virtualization, Gillett explains, is the equivalent of a post office box address for storing data. A file name for locating specific data (e.g., e://users/johndoe/2003 3Q projections) becomes abstracted from the physical location of that data, so that data can be moved around onto different storage disks if overall storage needs dictate that change.
Forrester predicts that leading storage vendors like Network Appliance and EMC will soon deliver networked storage products that will make direct attached disks obsolete. But for now, existing storage architectures like SAN (storage attached network) and NAS (network attached storage) can be virtualized with products from FalconStor Software and Z-force, allowing companies to cancel expensive storage upgrades. (See box for additional Organic IT vendors).
At TXU, Crenshaw and his team have chosen the latter course, using a Hitachi product in conjunction with TXU's SAN environment to pool its storage. That approach has allowed IT to utilize 80 to 90 percent of its storage space, instead of the