IBM adds 'intelligence' to autonomic offering

IBM's on-demand strategy takes another step forward with a new autonomic offering based on technology it acquired recently from ThinkDynamics.

IBM announced today a new computing system based on blade servers and provisioning software that could bring autonomic computing to the next level.

Web Infrastructure Orchestration combines BladeCenter servers with pre-integrated versions of WebSphere, DB2, Tivoli Storage Manager and TotalStorage hardware. These products are all coordinated by Intelligent Orchestrator, a tool based on the provisioning technology IBM acquired when it purchased ThinkDynamics Inc. in May.

The new system builds upon Intelligent Orchestrator, which IBM introduced in September as part of Project Symphony, the autonomic component of its on-demand strategy.

On-demand computing, in its simplest form, is a strategy intended to deliver computing resources the way a power utility doles out electricity. When a network has a surge in demand, intuitive architecture triggers other resources into action, including idle servers, applications and pools of network storage. The three major components to IBM's on-demand strategy are autonomic computing, virtualization and provisioning.

Systems with autonomic capabilities can control what a computer does without input from the user. Ultimately, the idea is to have a computer system that runs itself, capable of high-level functioning while keeping the system's complexity invisible to the user.

Both the IBM iSeries midrange and zSeries mainframe servers already have a number of built-in autonomic capabilities.

Intelligent Orchestrator features autonomic capabilities and provisioning technology that can sense changes in demand based on manually preconfigured parameters and then automatically shift resources -- such as servers, storage and bandwidth -- based on those changing business needs.

Like Intelligent Orchestrator, Web Infrastructure Orchestration is designed to intuitively know when to modify or add servers within a Web environment and immediately adjust to spikes or other changes in Web demand -- but without the constant manual input.

For example, the process of loading operating systems, applications and databases, as well as the configuration of security and network settings, typically involve many manually driven tasks requiring anywhere from five to 10 days to complete. With Web Infrastructure Orchestration, these processes are automated -- minimizing the risk of human error and reducing project time.

The benefits of automation are clear, said Tim Dougherty, manager of IBM eServer Blade Server Offerings. But it's that added intelligence that will help customers see the true benefits of autonomic computing.

"We've added intelligence to the automation," he said.

This offering is extremely important to IBM, since it builds its on-demand strategy, said John Madden, an analyst with the Boston-based Summit Strategies Inc. IBM knows that while having an agile system is great, there has to be tools to manage it and allow businesses to react more proactively to environmental changes.

"This is why ThinkDynamics was such an important acquisition," Madden said. "IBM was getting the virtualization, they were getting provisioning -- and now with this intelligent autonomic component, it ties the whole on-demand strategy together."

Customers can choose only the pieces of this offering that they want. For example, if a customer wants to buy just IBM blade servers and the Intelligent Orchestrator product, they can do that.

There are likely to be similar products in the pipeline, such as a collaboration offering and an application offering that would address similar infrastructure problems.

Prices start at $20,000 for just the base Intelligent Orchestrator software and ranges to $300,000, depending on the configuration.

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Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Kate Evans-Correia, Senior News Editor.

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