IBM’s Project eLiza: no humans required

In IBM Corp.’s vision of the not-too-distant future, server farms will protect themselves from malicious hackers, heal themselves when something breaks, upgrade themselves as needed, and in all other ways conduct their affairs without any need for human intervention or oversight.

It sounds like a scenario science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke might dream up, but earlier this month, IBM unveiled Project eLiza, a multi-year, multi-billion dollar initiative intended to make worldwide computing networks as easy to use as toasters.

“It’s one of the largest undertakings we’ve ever done in our history as a corporation,” said Dan Powers, IBM’s director of early stage Internet technology. “We view IBM as the only company that has the expertise and the assets to pull this together.”

IBM plans to commit several hundred of its scientists in five research labs worldwide to the eLiza cause, along with 25 per cent of its servers group’s research and development budget for the next several years. The goal: to speed the development of self-managing systems.

The project will become an umbrella for a number of IBM research initiatives already underway, including Project Blue Gene, a US$100 million supercomputer being designed for genetic research, and Project Oc