Now that automation technology has taken much of the drudgery out of data center management, the next big step is intelligence. From power management to virtual machine deployment to search technology, intelligent systems are all the rage.
The problem is, no one seems to have a real clear idea of what intelligence is. Or, more specifically, when does automation end and intelligence begin?
For IBM, that line is a set of sophisticated monitoring and control systems for the company's Systems Director Active Energy Manager that oversees energy usage. The company turned to the Liebert SiteScan system from Emerson Network Power that provides the means to not only monitor usage in UPS systems, but to raise and lower supplies based on changing conditions.
Within the data network itself, new companies like vmSight are touting intelligent monitoring capabilities for virtual environments. The Virtual Network Intelligence suite works with VMware-based virtual appliances to provide monitoring, alerting and reporting of application and user activity. Key capabilities include application performance management, VM sprawl control and the ability to synchronize VM identities and groups within Active Directory for improved policy management and reporting.
Yet another newcomer, Attivio, is touting intelligent search with its Active Intelligence Engine. The idea here is to mount a search among multiple data types (applications, databases, documents, etc.) through the use of "data mashup agents" that can handle more complex queries and better gauge relevant information than standard event- or process-based search.
Of course, intelligence offers benefits way beyond simple network management. This blog by Robert Mark details the numerous ways the healthcare industry would prosper with full network intelligence to handle the interactions between health care providers, consumers and watchdog agencies.
Yet, in reading all this, I can't help but ask the question again: Is this really intelligence? You'll note that even Mr. Mark details the tremendous gains of network intelligence, but offers no help in determining what intelligence is or how to get it. And as for the vendors, can they honestly say that they are providing "intelligence" rather than a new set of suped up management tools?
As a matter of fact they can, simply because there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to intelligence. Some even argue that intelligence has yet to be proven in humans, let alone computers.
And some may argue that it really doesn't matter. As long as a system works and has value, its intelligent level is irrelevant. Very true. Don't get taken in by the latest gizmo simply because the vendor stamped it with the "intelligence" brand.