James Governor's Monkchips

Language is a Utility: so use it!

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At Sun’s 2004 analyst conference this morning Executive VP of Services Patricia C. Sueltz took the opportunity to knock competitors for their use of language. A search of ibm.com or hp.com under the heading “utility computing” apparently leads to the respective company’s leasing businesses.

Sueltz argued that utility is far more than a leasing model. Which is certainly true. Rhetoric aside–and it must be pointed out that HP and IBM both use different terms for “utility computing,” adaptive management and On Demand respectively, Sueltz had a good point. Utility computing is not just a pricing model–it is also a technical and operational approach.

The ability to buy computing and applications in a usage-based model is very appealing to IT shops, but also C-level executives. Utility computing is about standardized service delivery–plug in and go.

The smart thing about Sun’s use of language in this case is that, just like there is no need to reinvent the wheel in technology, so there is very little point reinventing terminology for its own sake. The fact is- CIOs, data center managers, networks ops folks, and so on already know what utility computing is-it doesn’t require explanation.

HP has tied itself in some terrible knots trying to explain what adaptive infrastructure is. Carly Fiorina is taking regular hits from the likes of News.com and the Register on this issue.

Similarly when IBM talks about Autonomic the ratio of explanation to understanding is fairly low. To be fair to IBM, however, the company is putting all its marketing muscle behind On Demand, which is a clear and compelling narrative. For example, we all know what video on demand is, and most can work out what that could mean in an IT context.

The fact is we live in a sound bite driven 30 second culture. This is as true of the IT business as the MTV business. That means using snappy language that folks understand fast.

Utility computing has been in the IT lexicon for more than ten years. Ironically, HP was using the concept and language back then. Now, however, HP’s marketers have chosen to try and define a new term.

By not trying to coin a fashionable new term, but rather employing language that folks understand, Pat did us all a favor. And Sun sales to its core constituency, data center folks, will likely benefit as a result.
Communicating clearly can certainly help relationships with clients and prospects.

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