IBM unleashes autonomic updates

IBM this month launched its latest wave of autonomic computing software offerings, all designed to be a part of its overarching self-managing IT systems initiative. Specifically, IBM released autonomic computing technology that revolves around automating the IT process of searching through error logs to establish why a system has failed.

Autonomic computing is based on the concept of software that manages itself, reducing time spent on IT system tasks. The ultimate goal is around developing an IT system that self-manages the environment and can automatically respond to security threats and take corrective actions if necessary.

IBM’s error-log analyzer, offered through its services unit, supports the Web Services Distributed Management standard, which was recently ratified by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards. IBM has been driving the development of WSDM along with HP and Computer Associates International (CA) Inc.

Among the new product offering are:

• Two new Global Services offerings, including IBM Accelerator for Service Management for Problem Determination. This enables clients to combine, analyze and correlate event information across heterogeneous systems.

• Dynamic Infrastructure for my SAP Business Suite, which improves how resources can be shared between different SAP applications. It speeds up the introduction of new SAP systems and lowers their total cost of ownership, according to the company.

• New autonomic software in IBM’s Autonomic Computing Toolkit, where developers can add self-managing functions to their applications and services. IBM said the new software helps developers apply self-managing technology to larger, more complex system applications using Java.

The initiative can be broken down into four components: self-configuring, self-healing, self-optimizing and self-protecting, according to Dave Bartlett, IBM’s vice-president of autonomic computing at IBM. “In complex, multivendor [IT] environments, the worst problem that keeps you up at night is when something crashes and you don’t know where it’s coming from,” Bartlett told ComputerWorld Canada.

Bartlett said IBM has built adapters that can parse log files into the WSDM format for a variety of servers, storage devices and other equipment from top vendors, whether it’s coming from the network or the various applications. Bartlett said IBM was working with standards organizations and industry leaders to encourage the take-up of autonomic computing. For example, its Solution Installation specification will be considered by a workgroup of OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards.)

Peter Stone, a professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin, was one of the speakers at the second International Conference on Autonomic Computing last month in Seattle. Stone noted that initial efforts will be along the lines of the add-on capabilities that IBM is building for existing systems. But creating systems that can configure, manage, diagnose and heal themselves “just has to happen,” Stone said. “As systems are becoming more complex, the amount of time and money spent on system administration is just going through the roof. That can’t continue.”

Warren Shiau, a software analyst with The Strategic Counsel in Toronto, noted that while the technology has made significant strides, it is still in its nascent stages. The current applications, rather than fully self-managing, are targeted at efficiency in the network and corporate IT infrastructure, according to Shiau.

“It’s still, in many respects, a bleeding-edge technology,” Shiau said.

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— with files from IDG News Service

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