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IBM Refreshes eLiza

When IBM Corp. announced the latest member to its iSeries family Monday, it offered a sneak peek of what it had in store for its self-managing systems architecture with the inclusion of Enterprise Identity Mapping (EIM), a tool that makes secure transactions possible.

Thursday Big Blue took the wraps off of a slew of upgrades to the self-healing technology, known as Project eLiza, whose main function is to bolster operating performance across eServers and computers dynamically, and as though they were on one system. IBM calls the practice "autonomic computing," and said it's analogous to the nervous system of the human body. While humans regulate breathing and the heartbeat through the autonomic nervous system, eLiza calls for intelligent systems that self manage and regulate themselves.

While existing features under the eLiza umbrella, such as Intelligence Resource Director, Software Rejuvenation, and IBM Director, have been garnering attention for the past year, the Armonk, N.Y.-based company has added to the mix. The jewel of this is perhaps the Enterprise Workload Manager (eWLM), which learns and improves in real time. eWLM actually gauges Net traffic and software usage patterns across a group of servers to improve performance. eWLM can operate across connected systems -- from mainframes to servers running Unix, Linux and Windows operating systems.

Van Symons, a global executive in IBM's eLiza Project, told InternetNews.com that the fact that the eWLM extends to servers other than IBM's own was a big attraction in the eyes of customers. Those customers, such as Panasonic, estimated as much as a 20 percent cost in saving on their overall IT budget because IT managers are freed up to tend to other tasks with eLiza features in place.

"Customers like the fact that these are not fixed products," Symons said. "It eliminates a huge element of complexity."

While eLiza is on schedule, Symons said more improvements will be made, and features added. "Customers are just starting to get it," he said. The fact that we have been so quickly able to extend these capabilities to servers other than our own [products by rivals such as Sun Microsystems or Hewlett-Packard, for example] is refreshing."

Symons said IBM won't stop pushing eLiza until the machines can "self-learn," or become as smart as possible.

While IBM is excited about eLiza, analysts have also taken notice of its potential, albeit more subdued. James Cssell, who tracks Unix and Midrange strategies for Gartner Group, said eLiza's technology was promising, but that IBM "needs to keep its promise of delivering new functions every six months to make headway against tough competitors."

To that end, Cassell told InternetNews.com that Big Blue has succeeded.

"They have made progress since the last splash [in October 2001, with the Regatta p690]," Cassell said. "They added features they said they would with the eWLM, and have succeeded as far as applying features from the mainframe to its other 3 server families."

Where IBM fell short, in Cassell's view, is in its policy-based computing offerings. Policy-based computing is written into service-level agreements. An example of these would be a pledge for IBM to maintain a specific response time to fix a problem in the system.

Cassell said Hewlett-Packard Co. offered a similar solution to eLiza in November with its Utility Data Center, of which he said HP was very clear when explaining its policy-based computing endeavors. Another question Cassell has for IBM is about its pricing for eLiza, which has yet to be disclosed. All in all, he said eLiza is very much in line with what IBM pledged to provide to this point a year ago.

Next up? Cassell said implementing grid computing protocols into eLiza wil raise the bar, and represents the next step for Big Blue.

Among the new additions to the eLiza family are an Electronic Service Update, which provides proactive service monitoring and key information about the customer's systems. For instance, when a problem is detected the software collects data and transmits it back to IBM where the problem is analyzed and fixed. eLiza now also addresses blade servers with "Racquarium," technology being added to IBM Director that will help customers troubleshoot hundreds of blade servers easily and remotely from a graphical console.

eLiza also proposes new autonomic features for storage, such as a Linux-based virtualization engine; a Storage Tank file system optimized for managing files on storage networks; and P2P Remote Copy eXtended Distance (PPRC-XD) software for data backup.

IBM plans to deliver a beta version to select customers and developers in late 2002.