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Autonomic Computing

I attended a talk on IBM's Autonomic Computing, it was the biggest vaporware I have heard/ seen - imagine rational rose with self healing properties - that will be the day!

I don't see IBM getting software right! Is it just me?

Prakash S
Thursday, November 13, 2003

It's just you.

If by "IBM doesn't get software" you mean "IBM doesn't want to play the desktop applications game and have its ass handed to it by Microsoft" then yes, you are right. However, I would point out that desktop software is old hat, and that the real money in the coming years is in enterprise software and middleware. I've heard that IBM might be looking into creating some kind of middleware platform centered around "Java" and some kind of "database" program, but I'm not sure. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

As for autonomic computing, it's definitely a buzzword, but it's kind of like XML: when XML was introduced, it obviously had lots of great potential, but only now is it having an effect on mainstream developers. For a while there, we were told XML would cure cancer, etc., but nothing really came of it. AC is *new*, but this is the first time companies are really focusing on it as a distinct area of technology.

It sounds to me like you went to some developer's conference/meeting and IBM tried to relate AC to the work of a programmer. In that case, I'd have to tell you that you got a raw deal - AC *can* be applied to dev work, but the real meat of it is in building self-managing enterprise systems, not in refactoring code, etc. If you want a real intro, go to:

http://www.research.ibm.com/autonomic

So far, IBM has been the leader in AC, although Sun is close behind (of course, Sun is hopeless, but whatever). They were the first to say "yes, we will take the plunge to invest lots of money in these ideas and see if we can make much better products." Sun has a similar program called N-1, but it doesn't have as much focus, in my opinion. Microsoft claims to be doing work in this area, but as usual, has decided to go in a totally different direction, one that only considers software and not hardware/services; I can't say much about it because I'm not really clear on their vision. HP is a lost cause.

So far, there has been a lot of AC stuff put into mainstream products. Do a google search on "IBM autonomic" or "Sun autonomic" to find out about all the vaporware.

Dan J
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Excuse me, the last line of that third paragraph should read:

AC is *not* new....

Dan J
Thursday, November 13, 2003

IBM doesn't "get" software? I think it was only a couple fo years ago that Microsoft finally surpassed IBM in software sales.  Of course, IBM primarily sells services whereas Microsoft sells products. But still, I would like to not "get" software to the tune of the billions in revenue that IBM rakes in every year.

anon
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Sorry, Autonomic Computing isn't vaporware. In fact I spend a large part of my spare time developing a poor mans autonomic system. It sits on top of the o/s and saves me allot of hassle. I wish I had more time to work on it, but I don't.

In short, it's not, but it's not JUST about the software, it's thinking in terms of services, not must machines. SS7 providers who think in terms of services and not $x-device do quite well in that area, helped by autonomic computing.

There's allot of FUD out there, but autonomic computing by principal isn't, mind you I'm sure sales droids use the term more than developers and engineers.

fw
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Sure sounds like FUD/vapor to me, and the people explaining how it isn't just reinforce my belief that it is.

Reminds me of all the hype in past years regarding how they were going to build anti-virus systems based on the human immune system that could automatically get rid of viruses without the software having to be patched to look for specific viruses...

Still waiting!

Mister Fancypants
Thursday, November 13, 2003

That IBM link led to a nonfunctional flash and the alternative link gave a 404. Is this the same IBM you say has a mastery of networked computing????????

So what the heck is autonomous computing? I haven't a clue. Is it web sites with nonworking flash and dead end links?

Dennis Atkins
Thursday, November 13, 2003

If I understand correctly, "Autonomic Computing means you won't need developers ever again"

Like dBase, and Access, and VB, and Jasmine, and, and, and...

Generally "this product will eliminate your need for developers" is a "free money" warning to developers who can learn the new product fast enough.

Philo

Philo
Thursday, November 13, 2003

The reason for perfect anti-virus solutions not existing, is because you can prove that they can't.  Essentially you can't prove if any given program is a virus, for the same reasons you can't tell it if it will ever stop without just running it.

Andrew Hurst
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Dennis,

The link works for me, man. I don't think it's changed in months, so I don't know what the problem is.

Philo,

Nowhere does IBM imply that you won't need developers ever again. 95% of the technology is aimed at removing the need for customer intervention, but I have never heard anyone threaten the jobs of programmers.

Now, what about the sys admins, you say. Do they need to be worried? They do if they're the kind of people who don't like to learn new things, who discourage adoption of new technology because they like to be "needed" and fear that they won't be able to adapt. These people *do* exist, and yes, their jobs may be threatened; for those of us who are willing to accept change and learn a new role, there will still be jobs.

If you read the documentation, you'll see that IBM's general stance is "we're not trying replace I/T workers - it's just not going to happen." The problem being addressed is the fact that a lot of I/T people waste time doing mind-numbingly stupid things because systems are so complex. Autonomics aims to remove the tedious-yet-complex tasks so people can focus on something important. Which was the entire point of computers in the first place, as I recall. Autonomics is just tackling the problem from a different viewpoint (by studying the human body).

Dan J
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Shoot Dan you're going to make me work for my links. I find it telling that no one wants to define the darn thing for me.

What's Lisp? It's a programming language?
What's Life? A magazine?
What's Minneapolis? The most fun city in America.
What's Autonomic Computing? Er.... buzzword buzzword buzzword, talk about something else, buzzword, predictions on the future of computing.

Looks like this one is readible:

http://www.research.ibm.com/autonomic/overview/

And I found this:

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=000B0152-8C15-1CDA-B4A8809EC588EEDF

Summary: Autonomic Computing is the solution to everyone's problems everywhere!

Dennis Atkins
Thursday, November 13, 2003

I found this on the overview page:

"An approach to self-managed computing systems with a minimum of human interference. The term derives from the body's autonomic nervous system, which controls key functions without conscious awareness or involvement."

In other words, take a page from the human body, see if you can mimic some of its processes to create systems that are more self-reliant. Simple enough?

I think the problem with talking about autonomics on this particular forum is that it's not about *you*, and by you, I mean programmers.

Autonomics is aimed at solving problems for the customer, the end-user, who in IBM's case is the non-technical enterprise that needs technology to advance its business (Bank of America, Ford, etc.). They are trying to remove the customer's pain. It doesn't have a lot to do with the type of programming work most people on this forum seem to be involved with.

Now, Microsoft is a company that makes things that *are* about you. They develop things like .NET and other sexy developer tools that make life easier for programmers. The company is currently trying to get into the enterprise middleware/services area, but a lot of their focus is and has always been on the programmer. If you want to discuss things that really affect developers, we should talk about Microsoft (again).

IBM is a company that, for better or for worse, is not developer-centric; they do have Rational, they do a lot with Eclipse, but the fact remains that IBM is an I/T services company. The first post and many of the others are trying to view autonomics in the same light as .NET or Java or other programming technologies, which is a waste of time. It's about making things more efficient for the well-dressed people with the checkbooks.

Dan J
Thursday, November 13, 2003

"Autonomics is aimed at solving problems for the customer, the end-user, who in IBM's case is the non-technical enterprise that needs technology to advance its business (Bank of America, Ford, etc.). They are trying to remove the customer's pain."

How noble!  And here I was thinking what they were trying to do is sell more enterprise servers and network related hardware.

I'm not anti-IBM, but I'm with Dennis on this -- everything I've read about this "technology" sets off my buzzword BS alarm. 

Maybe they'll surprise me and come up with something great, but I've seen a lot of companies making claims about taking some natural process and applying it to computers, without of a lot of results.  General AI is probably the king of this ("its about 5-10 years off"... just as it has been for the last 25 years...), but it is a pattern I see repeated all over the computer industry.

Mister Fancypants
Thursday, November 13, 2003

Actually, it's the opposite: they use the hardware to help sell the business consulting services. By undercutting the hardware prices of their competitors, they can help seal a contract. Look at their reports online - consulting was 50% of their revenue. Non-OS software was about 20%-ish. I kind of doubt it's about servers/hardware.

And frankly, I don't see the difference between "easing the customer's pain" and "selling more stuff". Middleware is confusing - if IBM can make it less confusing (less painful), they will sell more stuff. Customers of middleware companies (IBM, Sun, Oracle, PeopleSoft, etc.) are not like the majority of Microsoft's customers, who kind of have to take what's given to them; if eBay doesn't like IBM systems and switches to Sun, it's a Big Freakin' Deal. That's a *lot* of money. And after reading what they went through to get the eBay account (remember that?), it doesn't sound like they can get by with marketing fluff. The CTOs with the big money are not that ignorant.

Let's put the tin foil hat back in the closet.

Dan J
Thursday, November 13, 2003

I suppose my general opinion is that people have gotten far too cynical, and they just tear into anything new without giving it some study. People are *still* writing off .NET as "Microsoft's version of Java", as though everything surrounding .NET could be reduced to a syntax comparison between C# and Java. There will *always* be marketing silliness, but that doesn't mean that every new technology is without substance.

Dan J
Thursday, November 13, 2003


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Richard Sunarto
Friday, November 14, 2003

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