CEBIT: IBM to show off new autonomic technology

Attendees at the CeBIT trade show who are in the mood to wreak a little network havoc might want to stop by IBM Corp.’s autonomic computing display, where visitors will be welcome to press a button to cause a workload surge felt by IBM servers in Raleigh, N.C. If all goes as IBM plans, the surge will be detected and responded to by the company’s new autonomic computing software suite.

The software will be demonstrated at the show in Hanover, Germany, and eventually will be added to WebSphere Application Server Version 5 and DB2 8.1, IBM officials said this week. The company isn’t yet announcing a specific timeframe for the technologies to be offered in those software versions, both of which are currently available.

Adaptive forecasting software predicts sudden increases in workload, triggering rapid reconfiguration and online capacity technology that adds server capacity to handle the volume and then later decreases capacity as the demand subsides. The technology was developed by the IBM Research Division and the company’s Software Group. Rapid reconfiguration uses new capabilities in WebSphere Application Server Version 5.0 to add nodes when more resources are needed and then quickly remove the nodes when demand diminishes.

“People often talk about being able to dynamically add capability, but this technology recognizes that the surges come and the surges go,” said Alan Ganek, IBM vice-president of Autonomic Computing in Hawthorne, N.Y.

The forecasting software would predict spikes in workload at Web sites, Ganek said, mentioning news sites as one market that could benefit as those have “huge spikes up and down depending on news of the day.” An indication of a workload surge would be enough for the technology to automatically add server capacity so that capacity is not exceeded, he said.

One problem with such technology to date is that there is a time delay between when a workload surge is detected and when capacity is added and by then it’s often too late to ably handle the spike in traffic, said Joe Hellerstein, manager of the Adaptive Systems Department at IBM Research in Hawthorne.

At the CeBIT demonstration, attendees will be able to press the surge button at the display and the technology in Raleigh will contend with a different network response each time the button is pushed. The surges will be unexpected and so the technology demonstration is aimed at showing the quick response to the workload increase and then the change back to lower capacity after the surge passes.

Although when the technology will be released isn’t yet known, Ganek said that IBM is “working aggressively” to get them to the market.

Autonomic computing is technology that manages and improves network operations without a lot of human intervention and is meant to make systems less complex and easier to maintain. Besides IBM, Sun Microsystems Inc. and various other IT vendors are working on similar technologies and projects.