IBM stresses self-management

IBM Corp. announced several products at its DeveloperWorks Live event in New Orleans in April, specifically unveiling the combination of IBM’s Tivoli platform and autonomic computing for self-managing systems as part of its On Demand computing strategy.

IBM’s On Demand initiative centres around enabling network users and applications to get resources as they need them, and then pay for only the infrastructure hardware and software services that are used.

The Armonk, N.Y.-based is switching its directory products over to the Tivoli brand, and it took the wraps off the Tivoli Autonomic Monitoring Engine, designed for ISVs to embed autonomic capabilities in their applications in addition to being part of the IBM Tivoli Monitoring 5.1 product.

IBM says the concept of “autonomic” computer systems is analogous to the involuntary nervous system that allows the human body to cope with external and internal changes. Joanne Mealia, business unit executive for IBM Tivoli Systems in Canada, noted that Tivoli is slated to be a key underpinning for all IBM autonomic computing initiatives. The self-diagnostic capabilities of automatic computing, Mealia said, should enable enterprises to immediately detect that a particular device is down and causing “heartburn across the entire network.”

She noted that a software developer kit (SDK) is available to ISVs to integrate products to IBM Tivoli Monitoring and other IBM autonomic products not yet released, allowing developers to “exploit some of these capabilities that we’ve created that will lead to autonomic computing and hook it in to their applications.”

In a keynote address, IBM’s Robert LeBlanc, general manager of Tivoli Software, said the combination of IBM’s Tivoli platform and autonomic computing for self-managing systems enables businesses to proactively manage IT.

LeBlanc said the days when there was plenty of time to adapt systems to change are over; new services must be provided quickly. “If you have a Web site and all of sudden you have a spike in traffic, you have to respond in real-time,” he said. “You’ve got to bring variability into IT systems,” he added.

IBM’s autonomic computing strategy provides predictability, he said, adding, “It’s all about moving from this reactive mode that we’re in to being more predictive and proactive.”

With the new Tivoli Business Manager product, for example, problems are resolved in an autonomic fashion. Additionally, the Tivoli Service Level Advisor shows when an application is approaching service-level agreement breach.

IBM is also integrating products such as the Tivoli ID Manager and Access Manager with IBM WebSphere Portal. Portal technology, LeBlanc said, increases challenges in front-end interaction and raises issues regarding what must get through a firewall.

To execute its On Demand strategy in heterogeneous environments, IBM is supporting open standards. “Right now, we support more open standards than any other systems management vendor and we now fully support the Linux environment,” LeBlanc said.

Greg Cumming, architect of enterprise systems management at Toronto-based Sears Canada, went to DeveloperWorks Live looking for monitoring solutions for the retailer’s “complex” heterogeneous (AS 400, AIX, open systems) IT environment. Performance and availability of monitoring is critical for the multi-channel retailer, Cumming said.

“Anytime you purchase something from Sears, it hits a lot of different systems…so monitoring all those things is important.” Cumming noted.

Steve Ross, project manager for enterprise systems management at Sears, said he’s specifically keeping a keen eye on Web infrastructure monitoring. Sears is a very cyclical business so both the autonomic and On Demand initiatives are being looked at, Ross said.

Almost all communication from IBM right now will be put in the context of On Demand, said Alistair Rennie, director of Web services and On Demand initiatives, for the Markham, Ont.-based IBM Toronto Lab, adding that the ‘business processes can no longer be decoupled from your technology strategy.”

Application modularity is the developers’ focus right now, and “companies shouldn’t be expected to throw away their software every three years and start again,” Rennie said.

In general terms, developers face huge challenges in integrating applications within a heterogeneous environment, which has typically been a slow process, said Trevor Nimegeers, president of Calgary based e-business solution provider Kryos Systems Ltd. At odds has been the sheer complexity of the IT environment and reconciling disparate computing components. It’s very rare for an enterprise to have a “clean” or single vendor IT architecture, Nimegeers said.

Vendors such as IBM are realizing that a lot of organizations still run legacy applications and can’t just “rip and replace” – they need to integrate, Nimegeers said, adding that vendors are finding that they need to provide initiatives that allow developers the ability is easily hook in products with their IT environment.

“We don’t work a lot with standalone, best-of-breed products…you need a platform such as (.Net, J2EE, WebSphere) that are starting to look at how you hook into that legacy of information,” Nimegeers said.

– With files from IDG News Service