IBM sticks to autonomic computing agenda

IBM exec discusses the company's autonomic initiative

IBM coined the term autonomic computing in 2001 and since then has been beating the automation drum across its software and hardware product lines. The premise of a self-healing, self-protecting, self-optimizing and self-managing data centre caused some industry watchers to scoff, but Big Blue stuck to its plans and now has about 450 autonomic features shipping in 70 or so IBM products. Now with virtualization, service-oriented architecture (SOA) and other innovative technologies increasing complexity across corporate data centres, IBM says automation is needed more than ever. Ric Telford, vice president of autonomic computing at IBM, recently talked with Denise Dubie to learn more about the state of the company's autonomic initiative.

Where is IBM at with its autonomic computing initiative?

We started in 2002 with a focused initiative to drive the concept of self-managing systems across IBM and the industry. I don't think of autonomic computing as an IBM initiative, but an industry initiative that IBM wants to help lead. We have had a two-prong approach: to help make IBM products more self-managing and to help drive the industry as a whole toward better self management through open standards and broad research. We have been working with a number of partners to drive open standards which will allow for autonomic behaviors across a heterogeneous IT environment -- WSDM, SML and the CIM Simple Policy Language are examples of this. We also have engaged with numerous universities to encourage more research in developing self-managing systems.

How has IBM incorporated this idea of intelligent automation across its software and hardware brands?

Autonomic features run across the entire IBM portfolio -- from chips to business systems management software. For example, several years ago we announced chip technology that is self-modifying using our eFuse technology. Our DB2 product line has implemented numerous autonomic technologies to manage the formerly labor-intensive management tasks associated with large databases. The same can be said for IBM's TotalStorage products -- reducing the cost of management for large storage area networks. IBM WebSphere, our J2EE application server, now has policy-driven autonomic technology that allows for dynamic workload redistribution and self-optimization.

How does IBM's Tivoli management software fit into its autonomic vision?

Tivoli is a very important piece of the autonomic strategy. The work described above is at the IT component and subsystem level. Tivoli delivers autonomic value at the data centre level. Tivoli is focused on integration of the various system management technologies to deliver the policy-driven automation capabilities we call the Autonomic Data Center. Encoding into the system the decision-making loops for repetitive tasks takes a huge workload and burden off the IT administrator. Making it policy-based then links it to the business that IT supports.

What are some common ways IBM customers are using autonomic computing today?

In the database world, many of the tasks formerly requiring database administrators' time to keep the database optimized are now handled by intelligent algorithms and autonomic managers built into DB2. Manual workload prioritization and balancing processes have been replaced by policy-driven management in IBM WebSphere. System failover processes have been automated via policies in Tivoli's System Automation. Tivoli Provisioning Manager and Intelligent Orchestrator provide a policy-driven approach to dynamically adding servers to a server pool when more resources are required.

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