Utility computing, computing on demand, e-business on demand — call it what you like, it’s not new.

“”It’s re-branding the old,”” says David Senf, analyst with IDC Canada in Toronto. “”IBM has been playing with technology for many years,”” says Senf. “”What is new is it is becoming standardized.

That is significant.””

For the last few years there’s been talk of pay-as-you-go computing power, but the concept has been around for much longer.

It’s also nebulous — computing on demand can refer to software or hardware.

“”If you take the software layer and pull out Web services for example, only five per cent of organizations are starting to deploy Web services and using standards such as SOAP and WSDL,”” says Senf. “”They’re using it as middleware . . . as opposed to using it in this grand vision of a service-oriented architecture where I can have any application or any component of application on-demand when I want to switch it on as a utility.””

When it comes to IT as a utility, the focus is on hardware, but regardless, it will be standards that make this grand a vision a reality, says Senf.

“”It’s all very nascent right now. The concepts are certainly not new under one vendor’s umbrella; the concept is new insofar as being able to work interoperably among these vendors.””

Ron Reinders, general manager of securities industry services at IBM Canada, says true e-business on demand is “”integrated across the organization and with customers and suppliers.””

National Bank Correspondent Network (NBCN) in Toronto provides the back-office infrastructure for independent securities firms in Canada. In 2001, it processed more than 1.2 million transactions on behalf of clients, all handled by IBM’s Security Industry Services (SIS).

SIS, a division of IBM Global Services, has provided a front- and back-office shared processing environment for the Canadian banks and brokerage firms since 1967, and has become a model for IBM’s e-business on demand approach to utility computing, remotely delivering standardized applications, infrastructure and processes over a network.

NBCN’s transaction volume fluctuates depending on the season, markets and financial products being offered by its clients, says David Burnes, COO.

“”Every time a new product is introduced, it has new challenges.””

It may be called utility computing or e-business on demand now, but Burnes regards it simply as a service bureau model.

“”The growth of the Internet has played very well into (IBM’s) and our hands in terms of the ability to distribute services,”” he says.

But NBCN wanted to take the model of brokerages sharing services one step further — to enable clients to share the environment with their users.

“”IBM had to build flexibility into their system that would allow me to make clients of mine feel they had that flexibility,”” he says, including a new pricing model which reflects actual use.

It was a challenge for IBM initially, says Burne

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