NEW ORLEANS — IBM elaborated on its vision of autonomic computing earlier this month with a series of announcements it hopes will make self-healing computer systems a reality.

At its annual DeveloperWorks Live conference the company released what called the industry’s first blueprint of autonomic

computing systems, a set of technical guidelines to ensure the various pieces of the self-managing systems puzzle work together, regardless of their source.

Autonomic computing will enable IT departments to rebuild their data centres, IBM officials said, and become more efficient.

By adding autonomic capabilities, which are being built into all products developed by Tivoli, companies can simplify the management of their environments and reduce the number of people who maintain them, said Robert LeBlanc, general manager of Tivoli Software.

“”It’s no longer good enough for IT systems to take months to respond to what’s going on in the business,”” LeBlanc said. “”And you can’t afford to ‘overbuild’ for what might happen. Today’s systems have to be flexible enough to cope with those change (on the fly).””

LeBlanc said by employing autonomic technologies, companies can not only have a better picture of what’s going in their organizations, but they will be able to respond faster to problems — in some cases, before they occur.

For example, under the traditional model of systems management, problems were resolved on a first in/first out model, said LeBlanc.

“”The new model is about addressing the thing that has the most impact on your business,”” he said. “”That’s the problem that needs to be dealt with first.””

One way to take the complexity out of systems management, said Herb vanHook, executive vice-president of Meta Group, is to look for products with “”immunity.”” These are technologies that mitigate software and hardware defects. He also said IT departments will need to become less reactive and more proactive if they want to be regarded as driving value for their businesses.

“”Today companies are focused on areas of cost — staffing, process refinement, infrastructure consolidation, inventory reconciliation,”” said vanHook. “”In the future, IT departments need to focus on business process analysis, application rationalization and managing demands.””

LeBlanc said the help desk is one area where autonomic computing can help companies significantly reduce their IT costs.

“”Consider the fact that almost 40 per cent of the calls to help desk are password-related,”” he said. By using products such as Tivoli’s Identity Manager, password resets can be pushed back to individual users and free up resources in the data center.

That was an appealing proposition for Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) whose manager of information security, Val King, called the process of changing passwords a “”tremendous burden”” on the IT support team. The Calgary, Alta.-based company is in the third year of a four-year plan to centralize its security architecture, which was previously spread across various platforms.

King said password resets typically accounted for about one-third of the calls to the help desk and by implementing Tivoli’s Identity Manager, those calls have all but been eliminated.

“”The rationale behind implementing Tivoli was twofold: We wanted to reduce the labour involved on the help desk side and we wanted to reduce the number of calls users had to make,”” King said, adding that CPR has rolled out Identity Manager to a test group of about 120 of the company’s 15,000 employees.

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