New IBM software to help computers manage themselves

By : |October 30, 2001 0

Peter Henderson

SAN FRANCISCO: International Business Machines Corp. announced on Wednesday
business software that offers the promise of machines that heal and manage

Built with lessons from IBM’s chess-playing supercomputer, the system is
hardly plug-and-play, and setting it up ensures steady employment for the firm’s
consultants. For half a year, IBM has promised ‘self-healing’ computers that
react to failing parts and rising workloads by finding ways round problems
without breaking down or involving technicians — a key issue amid a tight
supply of technology professionals.

Technology in IBM’s e-business Management Services, announced on Wednesday,
is partly based on work in creating Deep Blue, the company’s chess champion
computer, which was given the rules, told to weigh nearly every scenario and
then choose the best. That strategy of using "brute force" computing
power helped Deep Blue beat world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.

It can be applied to business by telling the computer the rules of a business
process and letting it work out and respond to scenarios rather than giving it
blow-by-blow instructions. For technical problems, that could mean letting the
computer choose and switch to a backup microchip when one starts to fail.

On a business level that could mean telling a computer facing a backlog of
work on a priority job to search out free computers on a corporation’s network
and reschedule low-priority jobs.

Considers all responses

To do that, the computer considers all the responses and chooses a path.
"This is really the essence of making systems behave in an intelligent
manner… God knows if this means they are intelligent," Irving Wladawsky-Berger,
IBM vice president, technology and strategy, said in an interview.

"But what we really like about this, and we learned a lot about this in
Deep Blue, is the brute force techniques of having a lot of information and a
lot of computer power is the most effective way of making systems behave in what
we humans would call intelligence," he said. "Asking the question how
well is the system doing, is not an easy question."

While the goal is to let machines manage themselves, the IBM package comes in
a services offering that will require about 20 weeks of initial consulting and
$30,000-$100,000 per month in ongoing maintenance from Global Services, said
Todd Gordon, IBM’s general manger of business continuity and recovery services,
who is targeting very large corporations.

For years IBM has been promoting itself as a services provider rather than a
simple box maker, and has become the largest technology services provider in the
world. In fact, much of the initial consulting includes solving basic problems
of how to get systems to work together that have haunted businesses for years.

The answer was a ‘correlation engine’ which analyzes information, Gordon
said. "The invention that has been required is this correlation engine and
some of the active management of how you move processes around and how you
integrate across all these platforms," he said. "Certainly at the
business problem side… you would have thought we would have fixed it
sooner," he added.

(C)Reuters Limited.

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