Five years ago, in early 2005, I wrote an article for the MIT Sloan Management Review called “The End of Corporate Computing.” The article, which predicted an imminent shift to “utility computing,” was the seed for my book The Big Switch. Usually, the article lies behind the Review’s paywall, but for the moment it is freely available to read. Here’s a bit from the beginning of the piece:
[Information technology] is beginning an inexorable shift from being an asset that companies own in the form of computers, software and myriad related components to being a service that they purchase from utility providers. Few in the business world have contemplated the full magnitude of this change or its far-reaching consequences. To date, popular discussions of utility computing have rarely progressed beyond a recitation of IT vendors’ marketing slogans …
The prevailing rhetoric is, moreover, too conservative. It assumes that the existing model of IT supply and use will endure, as will the corporate data center that lies at its core. But that view is perilously shortsighted. The traditional model’s economic foundation already is crumbling and is unlikely to survive in the long run. As the earlier transformation of electricity supply suggests, IT’s shift from a fragmented capital asset to a centralized utility service will be momentous. It will overturn strategic and operating assumptions, alter industrial economics, upset markets and pose daunting challenges to every user and vendor. The history of the commercial application of information technology has been characterized by astounding leaps, but nothing that has come before — not even the introduction of the personal computer or the opening of the Internet — will match the upheaval that lies just over the horizon.
A little breathless, maybe, but I was looking in the right direction. Here’s the rest of it.
Also out from behind the Review’s paywall is Andrew McAfee’s influential 2006 article “Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration.”