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Utility computing comes to the desktop

EDS is bringing on-demand to the desktop, but will this announcement "compute" with customers or just confuse them?

The desktop just got a little more demanding. Or at least "on-demanding."

EDS Corp. claims that it is the first company to plant a flag on the utility desktop frontier.

The Plano, Texas-based outsourcing service provider's new myCOE (my Consistent Office Environment) package offers on-demand computing power for the desktop, meaning you pay only for what you use. You don't waste money on the resources you aren't using -- kinda like you wouldn't expect to pay for water you don't use.

The idea behind myCOE is to let customers, whether they're entire businesses or individual workers, pick which applications and services they need and use them when they need them.

EDS claims that myCOE will help CIOs prove the business value of IT by wiping out the cost of unused and unnecessary capacity -- savings that are hard to miss.

Jeff Kaplan, managing director of Wellesley, Mass.-based ThinkStrategies and a utility computing expert, said that the targeted customers -- small and medium-sized businesses -- could save up to 20% of what they're paying now.

Customers will pay for myCOE like they would a utility. EDS will bill based on a combination of committed baseline service bundles, monthly subscription pricing for applications that are used less frequently (project or collaboration tools), and a per-service incident or capacity rate structure for storage, help desk, online training and other applications.

MyCOE gets by with a little help from its friends in Redmond, Wash.

Microsoft worked with EDS to help myCOE interact with Windows XP, Office and other desktop application deployments, although the product is StarOffice-friendly as well.

Utility, or on-demand, computing is one of the uber-trends of 2003. Analysts with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. have said that the pay-as-you-go model will go mainstream within the next couple of years.

EDS' expansion of its on-demand offerings to the desktop shows how the utility computing market is growing, albeit somewhat awkwardly.

Kaplan said that, while EDS' announcement is another validation of the utility computing services market, the firm made a couple of "major mistakes."

For one thing, EDS needs to show myCOE's relationship to other inroads it's made in the on-demand market, namely its "agile enterprise" utility computing strategy.

"Trying to create a new utility computing solution brand will only confuse the market and EDS' own people," he said.

Kaplan also thinks EDS goofed with the timing of its myCOE message.

"Making an announcement in the last two weeks of August will fall on deaf ears," he said.


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