What IBM's Autonomic Computing Means in the Real World

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Up until now, I would've considered any computer system that promised to be "self-regulating" to fall flatly into the emerging technology/borderline sci-fi category.


This Baseline article has changed my mind. Apparently, autonomic computing is here, for real, thanks to IBM -- and there's even an ROI to prove it. According to one Internet services firm, the Tivoli system -- which includes the Tivoli Management Framework, Tivoli Monitoring (ITM), Tivoli Workload Scheduler and Tivoli Enterprise Console -- has saved them at least $1 million in IT operating costs.


I don't know why I find this stuff so hard to believe; probably for the same reasons cited by Rob Enderle. But I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. After all, IBM first introduced its self-healing Tivoli management suite two years ago, with 475 self-managing automated features. IBM has spent millions of dollars in research and development on autonomic computing since 2001, according to Information Week. Then, and now, it compares autonomic computing to a human body's nervous system, which can heal without intervention.


I know. Sounds more cutting-edge than a Will Smith movie, isn't it?


Self-regulating, self-healing, autonomic computing -- how do these high-sounding, edgy tech terms translate in the real world?


The Baseline article gives us a good look at what these terms really mean at Network Solutions, an Internet services firm. According to the company's vice president of operations, software updates used to require that subject matter experts and multiple IT staff members show up at the data center to make sure the data center didn't go down. Now, it takes one person to push the button and the Tivoli system checks the system's availability, health, sequences the code, then schedules it and pushes it to the system. Basically, what took a team now just takes the on-call IT staffer.


The director also reports that the system has reduced recovery time during "major and minor network events."


Earlier this month, IBM announced its new autonomic computing offerings, including a tool that automates resource accounting, cost allocation and charge-back billing for data centers, and another that tracks and adjusts power consumption in the data center. InternetNews covered the announcement, noting that IBM is the "the lone champion of this rather esoteric market."