IBM to boost self-healing capabilities in Tivoli line

IBM Corp. plans to announce new Tivoli systems and storage management and security software on Wednesday, including an autonomic computing offering that analysts say helps give IBM the lead in the emerging market for self-healing systems.

Among the dozen Tivoli announcements to be made at IBM's DeveloperWorks Live conference in New Orleans next week, the most ambitious is the Tivoli Autonomic Monitoring Engine, which is embedded self-healing software, said Steve Wojtowecz, Tivoli's strategy director. Tivoli announced 26 autonomic products last October, but the engine is new.

The autonomic engine software, slated for beta this summer and general availability in the fall, is designed to help a computer system automatically recover from failures or near failures, Wojtowecz said. The software captures, analyzes and correlates key measures within system components such as routers, servers and end-user devices to detect outages and potential problems before the entire system's performance or end-user experience is affected, he said.

Bill Homa, CIO at Hannaford Bros. Co. in Scarborough, Maine, said the Tivoli engine "would be a nice tool" to help the 120-store grocery chain standardize and simplify the writing of self-healing scripts by its IT staff.

Hannaford already has installed more than US$1 million worth of Tivoli software to monitor tens of thousands of network nodes and end-user devices, such as point-of-sale units that print labels for pharmaceutical bottles, Homa said. If that printer goes down, a customer waits. "It sounds like a small thing, but it could shut down a pharmacy in a store," he said. "The more you rely on a network, the more you have to make sure you can monitor and manage it."

Ronda Kiser, senior manager of midrange and distributed services at Whirlpool Corp. in Benton Harbor, Mich., said it's "extremely important to have self-healing software because we're trying to manage more environments with fewer people."

There are already some self-healing functions in prior Tivoli products that Whirlpool plans to use, she said, including Tivoli Enterprise Rules. Whirlpool has invested millions of dollars in Tivoli products that provide identity management for employees and access management for trading partners, among other functions.

"The bottom line of autonomic computing is to reduce costs and improve system performance, and IBM is making significant strides," said Rick Sturm, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates in Boulder, Colo.

IBM is rolling out autonomic computing tools in pieces over time, Sturm said. "It won't happen in one big swoop, but it is real and will be a big deal for the future of IT, because it will change how we manage and run IT operations."

Much of the systems management software from Tivoli is focused on "taking the human out of the process," which is important because 75 percent of the costs in IT are keeping systems running. That includes IT salaries and software license costs, said Herb VanHook, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

VanHook and Sturm said Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc. are also developing autonomic computing software, but that IBM's Tivoli division appears to have a lead. Computer Associates International Inc. has products designed to predict faults as well.

IBM's other Tivoli announcements will include an assessment tool to help companies guide their autonomic computing strategies and an autonomic tool kit for Independent Software Vendors to begin writing applications for the autonomic engine.

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