IBM, Cisco Team on ‘Self-Healing’ Standards

IBM and Cisco broadened their
partnership Friday by agreeing to work together on open “self-healing”
software technologies and a corresponding standard to boost the performance
of computer infrastructure.


Autonomic computing is the expression Armonk, N.Y.’s IBM has used to characterize
computing infrastructure that regulates, or manages and “heals” itself in
the face of network glitches or problems that arise from unexpected traffic
spikes. This presents a time-crunch problem as some IT professionals said
that one-quarter to a half of their IT resources are spent figuring out
network problems, which typically span many disparate hardware and software
pieces.


The latest advance in its autonomic computing efforts, which represent a key
aspect of IBM’s e-business on-demand strategy to grant customers greater
control over the cost and availability of their foundation computing
products, is a set of technologies and corresponding standards for crafting
a common language to detect and system problems.


IBM and San Jose, Calif.’s Cisco will outline the initiative next week at
IBM’s annual CIO conference in San Diego, CA. Other vendors working on
similar on-demand computing environments, such as Microsoft, HP, Sun
Microsystems, CA and Veritas are all adding self-healing, or management
features to their platforms to combat network issues.


IBM will integrate the new technologies into its broad portfolio of
software, storage and enterprise hardware products right away in the first
phase, said Dave Ogle, autonomic computing architect at IBM.

Cisco, who Ogle said was chosen to participate in this endeavor because of
its leadership position as a top networking vendor, will jump in in Phase
II, integrating the technologies into its products and services.


The new technologies deal with a another degree of autonomic computing
functionality — problem and fault determination technologies to “figure out
exactly what the problem is and determine the next course of action,” Ogle
said.


“We aim to take a specific approach to fault determination where is a
problems occurs, there ought to be common way of formatting data and
defining the content of messages,” Ogle said. “When a problem occurs in an
environment, there is often a lot of finger-pointing to find out what or who
went wrong. But with a standards-based approach, everyone is reporting same
kind of things and you can start trying to correlate fixes in a more ad-hoc
way.”


Moreover, Ogle said IBM doesn’t want this to be perceived as a proprietary
technology set, so it has submitted a schema, Common Base Event (CBE), which
the companies hope will serve as the basis for standardized, interoperable
exchange of problem determination data via Web services, to the OASIS Web
Services Data Management technical committee.


Ogle said problem determination is troublesome because of the multitude of
ways that different parts of a system report events, conditions, errors, and
alerts. Logging mechanisms contain a variety of content formats because
systems are built using disparate pieces and parts with products from
multiple vendors.


“The hygiene has to be done,” Ogle said, explaining the need for an open
standard. “so we don’t 15 different ways to express the same thing.”


IBM, who has also worked with Toshiba and Peregrine on autonomic
implementations, has updated a number of technologies that are part of the
mix, which may be examined on the company’s AlphaWorks development site.


  • Log and Trace Analyzer for Autonomic Computing, a tool based on the
    Eclipse project that enables viewing and correlation of log files generated
    by IBM WebSphere Application Server, IBM HTTP Server, IBM DB2 Universal
    Database, and Apache HTTP Server. A practical example of a problem
    determination tool, the software makes it easier for developers to debug and
    resolve problems by converting disparate data into a common event model.

  • Generic Log Adapter for Autonomic Computing, a tool that transforms
    software log events into the situational event formats in the autonomic
    computing architecture. Consisting of a “rule builder” and configuration
    tool, and an adapter run-time environment, it provides a plug-in
    architecture for customization external to the user’s software.


IBM’s foray into open autonomic computing began in April with a blueprint based on open standards.

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