February 16, 2004

IBM releases first 'autonomic' SDK

Author: Chris Preimesberger

Get used to hearing more about "autonomic computing" -- computers that can readjust and actually repair themselves in real time, without human intervention, to keep systems working properly. Why? Because IBM officially took autonomic computing mainstream today by releasing the first autonomic computing SDK.

IBM said the Autonomic Computing Toolkit, which is being added to the Eclipse suite of open source tools, is the first integrated collection of assets, tools, and support to assist developers to design and test autonomic applications and to include them in their current projects.

Naturally, the toolkit is optimized to work with the IBM Software Development Platform, but it can also be used hand-in-hand with enterprise platforms such as J2EE and Linux.

"(Autonomic computing) is more than simply 'smart computing,'" Adel
Fahmy, IBM's program director for autonomic computing core technologies told NewsForge. "It's really more like the nervous system. If 'smart' computing is analogous to the brain only, then autonomic computing involves the entire body, including sensors in the fingertips, toes, etc."

Industry analysts estimate that up to 80 percent of the IT budgets at most companies is dedicated to fixing problems and keeping systems running. Autonomic technologies are the underpinning technologies to achieving automation, which theoretically saves substantial time and money on repairing problems that crop up.

The kit was released under the auspices of Eclipse.org, because "Eclipse is emerging as a common development framework for companies who want to 'jump start' the creation of autonomic solutions within their enterprise," said Alan Ganek, vice president of autonomic computing at IBM.

IBM has been talking about the concept for about two years and already has some of these features in its products. For example, "the IBM T41 laptop has an accelerometer built in that senses when someone has 'dropped' it and will immediately park the actuators and protect itself internally so the hard drive will not be damaged (and you won't lose your data)," Ganek told USNews.com. "Using the same concepts that activate air bags in automobiles, the technology will park the needle that reads the hard drive, preventing it from piercing the device.

"Another autonomic feature on the ThinkPad is the ability to divide the disk drive into two sections, with one devoted to backing up data," Ganek said.

The new toolkit contains runtimes, tools, usage scenarios, and documentation
consistent with IBM's autonomic computing reference architecture, which was first outlined in the Autonomic Computing Blueprint published by IBM in April 2003.

The toolkit contains components for four core autonomic technology areas:

  • The Autonomic Management Engine (AME) monitors events, analyzes them, then
    plans and executes corrective action on a computing resource. When
    integrated with the other toolkit technologies, the AME is the facilitator
    of an autonomic self-management system.
  • The Integrated Solutions Console provides a Web-based infrastructure based
    on industry-standard technologies to address the need for common system
    administration in a customer's IT environment, such as setup, configuration,
    run-time monitoring, and control, with a consistent look and feel. Tools
    provided include a runtime environment, documentation on developing
    components, Javadoc for Integrated Solutions Console and related APIs, and
    sample components.
  • Solution Installation and deployment technologies, a core component of IBM's
    self-configuring autonomic capability, will enable enterprises and
    Independent Software Vendors to identify, validate and act upon software
    interdependencies and prerequisites across the totality of their
    infrastructures, and will reduce installation and configuration failures.
    The set of technologies delivered include a consistent way to describe the
    solution and dependency information in an XML format that enables
    installation and post-installation actions and a set of runtime libraries
    that includes dependency checker and a hardware/software scanner.
  • Problem Determination autonomic technologies and standards are part of IBM's
    development of self-healing capabilities, laying the foundation for systems
    and networks to detect, analyze, correlate, and resolve IT problems and
    automatically diagnose the root cause of problems in complex environments.

Also included:

  • The Common Base Event format definition, previously submitted by IBM to the
    OASIS standards body and envisioned as the basis for standardized exchange
    of problem determination data.
  • The Generic Log Adapter for Autonomic Computing, a tool to convert existing
    log files to the Common Base Event format. This component helps software
    developers adapt their applications to the format without the need to
    re-write the applications.
  • The Log and Trace Analyzer for Autonomic Computing, a tool which supports
    reading logs in the Common Base Event format, correlating the logs based on
    different criteria and viewing the correlated log records -- enabling faster
    root cause analysis and problem determination in the end-to-end
    heterogeneous environment.

Companies that participated in the beta run of the toolkit included Hitachi Software Engineering, InstallShield, Netfuel, NS
Solutions, Opalis Software, Singlestep Technologies, Toshiba Solution, and
Zero G.

Additional releases of the SDK containing
new features and functionality will be released throughout the year, IBM said.

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