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Even Santa could benefit from on-demand computing

Dec 13, 20053 mins
Data Center

* Santa's highly seasonal demands on his computing environment

The purpose of utility computing is to provide services to the user base when those services are needed (hence, the other generally used term for utility computing – “on-demand”). Costs for the hardware, management, infrastructure and other assets are shared across the various user groups, and when it comes to actually paying for the storage you use – as in the case with most utilities – you pay as you go.

Who is likely to benefit from such a scenario? If you are looking for an archetype for a likely beneficiary, consider storage environments that experience wide swings in usage over the course of time. For example, highly seasonal businesses or businesses that are cyclic in nature certainly fit in here. Santa’s workshop is going full blast right now, the database is being heavily accessed 24-7 (SELECT * FROM list_of_children WHERE behavior = “nice”), and every aspect of IT is likely to be maxed out during every minute of every day for the next few weeks. 

But what happens to all that storage on the day after the deliveries are made?  The elves are off to Aruba, Mrs. Claus is making plans to visit the grandchildren, and next to no-work ever gets done. Just like at your business – but at Santa’s place this situation may last from now until mid-summer. Even Santa’s fundamentally good nature is likely to be adversely affected if he has to pay for all those TagmaStors, Sharks and Symmetrix machines during the next six months when they are lying fallow and mostly just add to the workshop’s bill for power consumption

What’s a jolly old fellow to do?

The answer of course is that if Santa’s IT staff operates in a traditional environment they just keep paying the carrying charges and absorbing all other storage-related costs. If, on the other hand, they operate according to a utility model, once they no longer are using all that storage their costs drop precipitously. Data can be transferred from high-priced disk to lower cost tape or nearline storage, freeing up the high-priced assets and making them available to some other group in the company. Alternatively, if Santa outsources his IT to a service provider, what North Pole Enterprises no longer needs can be made available to another company. Perhaps the Easter Bunny?

But what about businesses whose demand cycle is faster than a seasonal or even a monthly shift? Admittedly, the case of Santa is a very simple example, but the general principle applies to more complicated situations as well, even to situations in which demand shifts may occur every eight hours.  More on that next time.


Speaking of the bearded one, it is almost the season for the storage newsletter’s annual letter to Santa (usually appearing – symbolically – the week after Christmas). There is still time to get your IT wish list off to me for anonymous publication, although there is no guarantee that Santa or the vendors you invoke in his name will necessarily respond. On the other hand, maybe that nice, new, easily managed tape library with understandable documentation actually will show up on your loading dock. You’ll never know if you don’t ask!