Toolkit, Heal Thyself

IBM is rolling out an update to its Autonomic Computing
Toolkit featuring more operating system support and the latest
Eclipse platform.

The update is part of Big Blue’s software
development platform and is being used by ISVs such as Hitachi Software Egineering, Zero G Software and Macrovision to create software that is self-managing and self-healing.

Terms such as self-managing and self-healing — along with self-configuring and self-diagnostic — are the core tenets of autonomic computing, an approach IBM coined in 2001 to prescribe a computing system that is self-sufficient.

Computing systems that regulate themselves are key ingredients in IBM’s e-business on-demand strategy for freeing up customers to develop other aspects of their business.

Adel Fahmy, IBM autonomic computing program director, said the toolkit has been downloaded hundreds of times from its Web site since its launch
in February and is being implemented by a number of companies. The
software, he added, handles one of the two types of problems that beset software applications within a complex system — the problems caused by isolated incidences that will always require human intervention, and the problem of repeatable errors, which can be automated and taken out of the hands of technicians.

“The research we’ve done shows that up to 70 percent of problems are
basically repeatable, meaning you can programmatically address them, and that’s the thing we’re looking at here,” he said.

With the toolkit, developers set characteristics the network should display when operating correctly, then automate administrative functions when they exceed those pre-set characteristics; when the network doesn’t display the preset characteristics — for example, the log files exceeding a certain size — it executes a program designed by the programmer.

The IBM autonomic computing utility comes with resources like embeddable components, usage scenarios and documentation to help the developer program new characteristics, plus the tutorials and help to be found on IBM’s developer site, developerWorks.

For the IBM update, developers included support for the OS/400 and Solaris runtimes to go along with existing AIX, Linux and Windows operating system support. Also updated was its support for the Java-based Eclipse 3.0, IBM’s preferred software development framework. Support for Eclipse 3.0 allows IBM to include some of the more recent tools developed by the open source community.

The toolkit is broken down into four components: the Autonomic Management Engine (AME), which does the monitoring and execution of automatic processes; the Integrated Solutions Console, providing the interface for IT administrators; the Solution Installation and Deployment technologies, a set
of technologies used to describe prerequisites and interdependencies; and
Problem Determination, which finds and diagnoses problems found in network.

Version 2’s biggest code improvements come from the Problem Determination
component. Fahmy said the Generic Log Adapter for autonomic computing, a
sub-component of Problem Determination, has been beefed up to handle the
large-size log files the first version couldn’t address efficiently. Also,
internationalization support for nine languages has been added to the
adapter, letting the translate log files in different languages into the
Common Base Event format without having to re-write them.

Fahmy expects to release the next version of the toolkit within the next six
to nine months, with point releases before that time if business partners
and customers ask for some improvements.

Toolkit version 2 gives developers a sneak-peek at some of the upcoming
technologies. While he wouldn’t exactly what technologies are incubating
right now for the next major release, the latest version includes
demonstrations of work with dependency information, using an XML format,
during the pre- and post-install process. IBM is also working with
Macrovision and Zero G to create a dependency manager and a common
repository to keep an inventory of hardware and software from different

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