IBM Spruces Up Autonomic Computing Offerings

Computers that can think for themselves? It’s an old question, albeit
not a
fair one. Computers are programmed. They do what they are programmed to
do.
But IBM is looking to change some of that thinking with a philosophy
that
enables machines to manage and improve their own operations with little
or
no tinkering from humans. In a way, IBM is programming computers to think for themselves.


The Armonk, N.Y. firm calls this technology autonomic computing and the
systems vendor’s goal with it is to help
companies to turn their resources onto pressing projects to trim costs
and
boost productivity. Big Blue’s thinking is that more intuitive
computers
will provide a buffer for more complex IT systems. The idea has drawn
heaps
of praise from IT analysts and the practice goes straight to the heart
of
IBM’s company-wide push to sway enterprise customers to its e-business
on-demand products.


IBM Friday introduced
a
suite of autonomic computing software technologies that allow IT systems to react in
real-time to unpredictable surges in demand and deploy computing
resources
to handle them.


Meant to be employed together, the three technologies — “Adaptive
Forecasting,” “Rapid Reconfiguration” and “On-line Capacity Planning”
— can
tell systems administrators just how serious sudden increases in
workload
are, and add necessary server capacity to handle the volume. The tools
later
free up capacity as the demand dissipates.


So, how do these three software pieces work together? Ric Telford,
director
of IBM Autonomic
Computing, said the adaptive forecasting system can anticipate the
progression of an unexpected surge in demand. The online capacity
planning
technology offers estimates of the resources needed to defend the
customer
service levels for the projected demand. It then allows a hot swap of
resources from one workload to another with no noticeable interruption
to
the end user.


Telford said the rapid reconfiguration facility quickly add new nodes
to
WebSphere Application Server Version 5.0 when more resources are needed
and
removes them when demands subside. This takes minutes and there is no
downtime to set up new resources. When the surge is over, the system
will
shift resources back to the original workload.


Telford said the challenge was pulling the three technologies together,
gauging historic traffic patterns and getting them to operate in
real-time.


Simply, enterprises who use this technology might that discover that
some of
the more mundane and tedious tasks are take care of by the system
employing
such software.


The trio of technologies make up a part of the “self-optimizing”
component
of IBM’s autonomic computing strategy. The other components under this
arm
include “self-healing,” “self-configuring” and “self-protecting.”
Telford
said the IT community can expect autonomic technologies from these
groups in
the spring.


Analysts love the autonomic stuff


To be sure, IBM competitors, such as Sun Microsystems and HP, are following suit in this lucrative market for more intuitive computers and networks and analysts are very bullish on autonomic computing.


Giga Information Group analyst Richard Fichera called the autonomic
computing part of a major and long-term battle for the management of
the
enterprise resources. “…as OS and hardware platforms become
increasingly
commoditized, this level of management will become a major competitive
battleground. However, at this point in time it is still
relatively embryonic, and in some senses is as much about a battle for
the
perception of leadership as it is about actual delivered products.

Fichera said Sun’s N1, while behind IBM in vision and scope, will
“probably
yield valuable technology and products, especially for Sun’s installed
base,
which is (or should be) their major concern over the next few years.”


Right now it seems IBM has the inside track, but Fichera said not to
count
out Sun, who last month uncovered part of its N1 vision at a product
launch.


“Long term, IBM has immense depths of intellectual property and
cross-platform and industry coverage that Sun does not. Short to medium
term, its still a rapidly changing area of technology, with plenty of
room
for both vendors to bring immense value to enterprise customers, and
each
vendor will have an advantage with its installed base. Sun, because of
the
homogeneity of its installed base, which is both a blessing and a
curse,
will probably have an
easier time delivering an enterprise suite of immediately usable
products
short term.”


To be previewed…


IBM’s latest autonomic technologies, built to work with WebSphere
Application Server Version 5 and DB2 8.1 software products, were
created as
a collaboration between the IBM Research Division and Software Group.
They
also have the potential to be used with third-party applications and
platforms.


IBM Global Services e-business Management Services offering is in the
process of adapting these technologies to be included as part of its
offerings, which will also be demonstrated at IBM’s “Autonomic
Computing:
Dynamic Surge
Protection” exhibit at CeBit, in Hanover, Germany next week.

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