• United States
by Tim Wilson

Next-generation computing will require provisioning services

Oct 15, 20033 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsWeb Development

* Why provisioning is important to the deliver of new services

Concerned about falling behind, many enterprises are calling upon outsourcing providers to help with the implementation of next-generation technologies such as Web services and on-demand computing. But the dirty little secret of these technologies is that they won’t work without another key capability that outsourcing providers can deliver: enterprise provisioning.

“Provisioning,” a term coined and popularized by telecommunications service providers, refers to the process of identifying and constructing the infrastructure required to deliver a particular service. It is actually a series of processes and technologies that enable the provider to get the customer up and running.

When a business orders a new telephone circuit, for example, it kicks off a complex process that includes the determination of the speed and location of the circuit, the order and installation of the circuit, and the appropriate means for servicing and billing the customer. Often, the customer already has some services in place, so provisioning might also determine the impact of the new circuit and the opportunities for consolidating multiple circuits to lower costs or improve service.

Enterprises today may not use the word “provisioning” in their own environments, but they are increasingly called upon to establish this same sort of integrated process as they deploy new technologies. Like service providers, they must find a way to automatically evaluate, configure and initiate infrastructure services in order to support next-generation computing paradigms.

Web services is one example of this trend. Under Web services, enterprises are attempting to make applications accessible to a wide variety of other applications, including those operated by other business units and/or external trading partners. But without the means to automatically provision the links between two applications – the physical infrastructure they will use to communicate – Web services becomes a slow, manual process that delivers only a fraction of its potential.

On-demand computing presents a similar problem. In an on-demand environment, applications should be able to call up all the processing resources they need to execute a task, then drop those resources when they are no longer needed, freeing them up for use by other applications. Yet, without the means to automatically and dynamically provision servers and networks, on-demand computing cannot be achieved.

As they are called upon to help with the implementation of these new technologies, outsourcing providers have an additional opportunity to help enterprises establish the underlying dynamic infrastructure required to deliver them. Building a provisioning process, and the automated systems to support it, will likely be a lucrative business for outsourcing service providers in the future.

The key elements of a provisioning system are largely administrative. There must be a way to trigger the need for provisioning – such as the initiation of a new service, a change request from a user (or group of users), or an alert which indicates that an existing service is not functioning adequately. Once the provisioning process has been triggered, the system must provide the means to evaluate the new need and initiate the request for additional infrastructure.

Once the system has put in the “order” for new services, the provisioning system must ensure that the required infrastructure is available and configured properly to support those services. It may also automatically initiate those services so that the applications can begin operating immediately.

Without this sort of provisioning capability, emerging technologies such as Web services and on-demand computing likely will not be widely adopted. Enterprises that contract with outsourcing providers to help with the implementation of these new computing paradigms should make sure that their outsourcing providers offer a full range of enterprise provisioning services as well.