SAN MATEO, Calif. — Self-regulating or “autonomic” computer
networks: wave of the future or hype of the past?
Depends on who you are polling these days. IBM
and its friends say enough of the technology exists now that they are ready to take the practice to the mainstream.
And so it is. The Armonk, N.Y.-based company introduced two new software programs today that let networks monitor their own system performance in quite the same way that a body controls temperature or fatigue.
“Autonomic computing is not necessarily an IBM initiative but it is
something that IBM would like to help drive,” Ric Telford, director for
Autonomic Computing at IBM, said during a briefing with press at its
Innovation Center here. In addition to press, several Information
Systems and Engineering students from San Jose State University were
also on hand.
As part of its Autonomic Computing initiative, IBM released its Policy Management for Autonomic Computing and IBM Touchpoint
Simulator to its alphaWorks developer site for download.
Autonomic, or “self-healing” features are instrumental in furthering
IBM’s on-demand strategy and are increasingly being added across Big
Blue’s software divisions for uniformity. IBM said it has woven more than
475 autonomic features into more than 75 distinct products including
DB2, Tivoli and WebSphere.
The Touchpoint Simulator, for example, is the first offering in the
autonomic tool space that lets developers build and test their own
autonomic components. IBM has several autonomic tool kits and is currently building the next generation of the software platform that requires the Eclipse 3.0 Software
IBM’s Policy Management for Autonomic Computing (PMAC) took 18-months
to complete. The software sits inside an application and sets its
decisions based on policies, or business rules, created by the
developer. For example, policy-based decisions can tell a database when
to back up, based on preset policies such as time of day, activity level
or even vacation schedules.
“The old way was cumbersome when complying with the information for
rebinding. There was such discrepancies because the database sometimes
couldn’t decide which header to follow,” said Guy Lohman, IBM’s research
manager for Autonomic Computing at the company’s Almaden Research
IBM said since last year autonomic technology has been pulled in more than 21,500 downloads from its alphaWorks site. IBM said it has more than 60 business partners adopting IBM’s core self-managing autonomic technology. Software providers, including NetFuel and Network Physics were also on hand to show support for IBM’s efforts.
LeoStream Corporation, Singlestep Technologies and Solid Information
Technology are also behind IBM’s efforts.
Much of the architecture for IBM’s plans is centered on Common Base
Events (CBE). In the event of a server error or the need to reboot, the
software tracks every process and looks for trends. IBM said it also
relies on its Orchestration and Provisioning Library (OPAL) so that
customers and partners following along have a series of tools, best
practices, and education resources.
IBM is also using its autonomic initiative to help companies simplify
their data centers. Gartner estimates that 60 to 80 percent of the
average company’s IT budget is spent on simply maintaining existing
applications. The company says self-managing technologies help bypass
much of the maintenance duties.
Still, this is all a story that IBM’s customers have heard before.
“My greatest fear when I approach a customer is that when I do my
presentation, they come back with, ‘But you were talking about this four
years ago. Where is your solution?'” Lohman said.
“One day we are going
to look back on all of this and say, ‘Why did we ever do it this way in
the beginning?’ We knew that rebooting the server helped some things
but we weren’t sure why.”