Veritas' approach to utility computing (UC) has been vindicated by a new report from UK analysts Dynamic Markets, the storage software company claims.

The report concluds that "a growing number of organisations are deploying service level agreements (SLAs) between their IT departments and lines of business."

UC is the generic term for processing and storage capacities, including applications, that are made available to users "on tap", rather like water or electricity are delivered by utilities. You pay for what you use.

But, while apparently simple from the endpoint, the complexity of provisioning specific resources to a particular application is masked from the user. UC has traditionally been the preserve of server manufacturers, including the big three of IBM, HP and Sun. Veritas began moving into the space with acquisitions last year in server provisioning and application tuning, while another storage-specific heavyweight, EMC, is moving in a similar direction since its December purchase of VMware.

As Chris Boorman, marketing VP of Veritas in Europe, explains the company has made SLAs the cornerstone of their UC strategy. They will set the performance requirements for each business unit within an organisation and be used as the basis for measuring the system’s success. The Dynamic Markets study shows that, of some 1,000 data centre managers surveyed, 59% have already introduced SLAs to drive efficiencies and reduce costs.

Of course, all the other purveyors of UC talk about SLAs too, since they represent the quasi-contractual relationship between business units and IT departments. The big difference, in Boorman’s opinion, is that the other players have "hardware or outsourcing agendas".

In other words, HP or Sun will deploy UC in a heterogeneous environment, but over time will seek to win business for their hardware, using the contract "as a Trojan horse to gain leverage for their hardware environments". IBM, Boorman argues, wants to be the service provider running the UC infrastructure as a truly outsourced service. Veritas, on the other hand, "is a pure-play software vendor that will deploy UC to manage your existing environment."

HP’s UC programme manager for the UK, Peter Hindle, disagrees. He claims that SLAs "are just part of utility computing," and that there are "financial and outsourcing elements that can give you the experience of UC, such as capacity on demand on our servers and managed services."

Hamish Macarthur, a director of storage analyst firm Macarthur Stroud, says that the Veritas UC offering is as much complementary as it is competitive to those of the server vendors. "With IBM or HP, the user has to be aware how much he’s playing to their service offerings and how much he’s putting in the infrastructure to provision IT resources to the various business units himself."

And in as much as these two companies’ UC strategy comprises services as well as products, they may actually be using some of the Veritas software to carry the service out. "For companies like IBM and HP, their UC offerings comes from a service-led mindset, whereas Veritas’s comes more from an infrastructure one."