Utility computing. The utility model. On-demand computing (note the presence of the hyphen). On demand computing (note the Zen-like absence of hyphen). Darwinian architecture. Adaptive enterprise architecture. Autonomic computing. And of course, the mysterious N1.All of these (and more) are names that the leading storage providers use to describe the initiatives they have undertaken to move us further down the road towards an automated, self-managed enterprise IT environment. The purpose of all this, no matter what "this" is called is to remove as much of the human element from computer management as possible. Removing the human element, of course, is all about efficiency.Take some comfort from the fact that "efficiency" in this case has little to do with eliminating jobs, but has a lot to do with improving storage operations. By taking most of the simple, repetitive tasks out of the hands of humans (who typically do such things poorly) and placing them in the automated hands of computers (which are very good at doing stupid, niggling, repetitive tasks), the opportunities for human-induced error are greatly reduced.In cases where IT storage sites are run by policy-based management techniques - and as a consequence, are less reliant on scripts that must be maintained by IT personnel - costs invariably go down. The staff has no need to keep testing scripts every time the topology changes, which means they are available to direct their efforts elsewhere. Often, this means working on more high-value projects, developing rather than maintaining and making strategic decisions rather than reacting to whatever unplanned event has caused something unexpected to hit the fan.In some cases, this may result in job reductions. In most situations however, with the total amount of data increasing continually, this will mean improved opportunities, less scut work, and greater responsibilities for IT staff who are willing to refresh their skills.More on this next week. In the meanwhile, a quick contest: FIVE NETWORK WORLD BONUS POINTS each for those among you able to identify the vendors who are marketing their automated utility environments using the following terms (plus an extra 20 points if you can successfully identify the difference between the last two):1. Adaptive enterprise2. Autonomic computing3. Darwinian architecture4. N15. On demand6. On-demandIf this topic interests you, you might also be interested in knowing that Enterprise Management Associates is conducting its periodic review of automated system and storage management services. We welcome IT personnel to participate in this research. If you are interested in participating in a 10-minute Web survey, please click on either of the two links appearing below. Participants will receive a copy of the final report.For the "Automated Storage Management" survey.For the "Automated Systems Management" survey.Also, remember to send in your suggestions for this year's storage wish list for Santa. In the best of circumstances, the annual wish list can be a useful way to be an activist and let the vendors know what you need. In less positive conditions, it can be a good way to blow off steam.