Managing expectations

Autonomic computing is alive and well as an effort to increase the self-managing capabilities of systems, according to Alan Ganek, IBM's vice president of autonomic computing and chief technology officer of the company's Tivoli Software subsidiary. Ganek recently discussed new directions for autonomics with Computerworld's Matt Hamblen.

Two or three years into autonomic computing, is it a success?

I hear customers say they still don't understand it. Autonomic computing is a journey. We've gone from something where people were skeptical about what the word autonomic meant to having 50 partners working on it. Some choose to use the word autonomic in marketing, and others don't.

What will happen next in autonomic computing?

We need to expand the field of what we're doing already. There are a number of components that could make behavior more coherent, like console and monitoring and problem-determination technology.

Second, there is more and more managing of system complexity and the processes people deal with. Over the course of next year, we'll be working very hard to bring customers an approach to managing processes across different silos that they have. You have your management team, your security and network management team, which operates system by system. We want to change that to one that says, "What are the major tasks, availability, end-to-end and configuration management and release management?" and take those tasks and expand that to a clearer approach for customers to manage processes.

Has your definition of autonomic computing changed in the past two years?

Some members of the press overreact to the idea of autonomic and liken it to the HAL computer. But we've taken a very pragmatic approach to it, and we're building up capability so that it provides value to customers as we go forward. But generally, this is a genuinely new area of research, and the academic community has latched on. We now have international conferences sponsored by the best and brightest devoted to autonomics.

Autonomic computing is alive and well and delivering real value and making real progress. We're providing pragmatic instrumentation and common componentry for IT systems.

Autonomic is all about providing increasingly self-managing capacity to IT systems to improve the balance for what people do and what machines do.

Right now, people do error-prone, tedious work, and computers can do a lot of that so people have higher-level tools to allow them to be creative. That's the balance we're shooting for.

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