IBM: Awareness of autonomic computing on the rise

Many IT professionals see autonomic computing as a hardcore technology too confusing for them to grasp. But IBM says awareness and infiltration of self-managing computing are on the rise.

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In the minds of many data center professionals, autonomic computing is too high on the geek scale for the average Joe Q. Computer to understand.

I was curious about where [autonomic computing] is going and what it entails. It piqued my curiosity to see what it can do, because I look at a lot of logs on the mainframe that it might be handy for.
Dan Little
assistant programmerRoyal Bank of Canada

For innovation aimed at simplifying IT management, that's a bad reputation to have. But according to Dave Bartlett, IBM's director of autonomic computing, awareness and market penetration of autonomic computing are on the rise.

At last week's SHARE user conference in Anaheim, IBM sponsored a session titled "Introduction to Autonomic Computing," which provided answers for IT professionals curious about the basics of self-healing computing. It was classified as a technical session despite its elementary title -- illustrating part of the reason autonomic computing has earned such a tech-centric reputation. But Bartlett said the days of autonomic computing being seen as an unfamiliar concept are coming to an end.

Attendee Dan Little, an assistant programmer with the Royal Bank of Canada, said he wasn't even aware that IBM had a tangible self-managing solution, but said he's ready to look into the technology further.

"I was curious about where it's going and what it entails, because IBM's been talking about this for awhile," Little said. "It piqued my curiosity to go and do the download and see what it can do, because I do look at a lot of logs on the mainframe that it might be handy for."

According to Bartlett, "Certainly people are very rapidly [becoming] aware of it. Some of the independent studies we've done show that people's knowledge of autonomic computing has increased tremendously. But that being said, I still think it's one of the best kept secrets out there."

IBM's foray into autonomic computing began with the eLiza initiative in 1999, which enabled systems to act like an IT psychologist that could answer user questions and anticipate future bumps in the road. Rebranded as autonomic computing, IBM offers facets of the technology for several hardware platforms. IBM defines autonomic computing as containing eight crucial elements:

• It must maintain comprehensive and specific knowledge about all its components.

• It must have the ability to self-configure to suit varying and possibly unpredictable conditions.

• It must constantly monitor itself for optimal functioning.

• It must be self-healing and able to find alternate ways to function when it encounters problems.

• It must be able to detect threats and protect itself from them.

• It must be able to adapt to environmental conditions.

• It must be based on open standards rather than proprietary technologies.

• It must anticipate demand while remaining transparent to the user.

Autonomic computing is designed to detect hardware and firmware faults instantly, contain the effects of the faults within defined boundaries and recover from the negative effects of such faults with minimal impact on the execution of operating system and user-level workloads. It can also autonomously measure the performance or usage of resources and then tune the configuration of hardware resources to deliver improved performance and protect against internal and external threats to the integrity and privacy of applications and data.

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According to Pund-IT Research principal analyst Charles King, the problem self-managing computing has faced is that its near mind-numbing complexity can cause even the most sophisticated programmers to roll their eyes. But once you get past all the complicated bells and whistles, King said, autonomic computing is an impressive technology.

"It is basically designed to ease IT management and make life easy for IT staff," King said. "It offers a level of simplifying IT management that can be pretty breathtaking."

According to Bartlett, Big Blue surpassed its autonomic computing sales goals by over 50% in 2004. In a world where systems are becoming rapidly more heterogeneous, Bartlett said autonomic computing is poised to make a larger dent in both the large and small and medium-sized business enterprise marketplace.

"Our vision is to remove IT complexity and to create self-managing systems that configure and heal themselves. We're committed to it in the long haul," Bartlett said. "It's taking off in a big way, and that's made us very pleased. … It's a game-changing event for the industry and I'm very excited about it."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Luke Meredith, News Writer

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