There has recently been a public debate about the \u201ccommoditization\u201d of IT. Is IT a commodity? And if so, what does that mean? What, in turn, would that mean for management of networks, systems and applications?If IT is becoming a commodity, then the infrastructure is becoming a utility, and the role of management is to achieve that utility-like status. That would mean a generally lights-out, hands-off level of automation. In some respects, possibly in many respects, this utility-like goal is praiseworthy - even if it seems a long way out in reality.However, I would argue that viewing IT as a commodity may be a fundamental misperception that nevertheless could become a self-fulfilling prophecy if the industry proceeds along less-than-imaginative lines.The argument for IT as a commodity was articulated a couple months ago by Nicholas Carr in the Harvard Business Review. The article is compelling, thoughtful, provocative and well worth reading. However, some of the assumptions are worth reexamining.Carr suggests that the \u201cIT buildout is much closer to its end than its beginning\u201d - an extraordinary opinion for someone like myself, who views current high-tech applications and delivery systems as basically \u201cOld Stone Age\u201d at best. (I confess, this is built upon a significant amount of personal frustration.) Carr says about 50% of corporate spending is directed at IT - actually a rather astonishing number - with data to suggest that the biggest spenders are not likely to be those with the greatest return on investment.This last data point, however, is well in line with expectation. Anyone investing in high tech because of a love of technology in and of itself - or else because they view \u201cInternet\u201d real estate as finite as Rhode Island - is bound to re-experience the blunt weapon of \u201cdownturn economics.\u201dMore telling and fundamental to Carr\u2019s argument is the focus on high tech as infrastructure, in the same way railroads and electric utilities are infrastructure. Carr shows three incredibly aligned graphs reflecting upswing in investment among these areas. Food for thought, indeed.However, he goes on to equate \u201chigh tech\u201d with \u201cdata storage, data processing and transport\u201d - of which, conveniently, he views \u201ctransport\u201d as the leading definer. It is here where the argument for IT as a commodity begins to go awry. While \u201cdata storage\u201d and \u201ctransport\u201d are clearly infrastructure-like enablers, \u201cdata processing\u201d is a rather questionable term for a universe of largely still unexplored possibilities. If \u201cdata processing\u201d is analogous to number crunching, then the perspective on high tech is about 50 years out of date.In all fairness, Carr goes on to posit the notion that most \u201cbest practices\u201d for off-the-shelf software have already been defined by effective monopolies or standards, in areas ranging from word processing to supply chain management. In this case, \u201cdata processing\u201d becomes a convenient, if not terribly satisfactory, vehicle for standardizing human and software behavior in a number of business activities, and by implication much of this standardization has already been done or is about to become complete.For those of us who still view virtually all applications as primitive, this is an extraordinary notion. It suggests two tracts for high-tech evolution. One in which both application software, and by association - human behavior - become quickly standardized and commoditized; and another in which application software evolves towards a level of responsiveness and intuitiveness that truly fulfills its promise as an extension of human behavior -\u00a0 in business and in personal realms.This latter path reflects my view - and it opens the door to new perspectives on management software. The management of applications, networks and systems is clearly evolving, towards automating basic tasks to enable other, more \u201cstrategic\u201d tasks that so far don\u2019t get much IT attention. Such strategic tasks involve planning, optimization, and ultimately increasing the alignment of IT with business priorities and business dynamics. As IT becomes an integral part of \u201cbusiness behavior,\u201d it becomes an instrumented and intelligent voice that can reflect back on business practices and contribute to business growth. This is far from a commodity, like the railroads - moving mass through space. It is an evolving mirror, reflecting back on who we are and how we think.