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IBM delivers autonomic tools

Big Blue packages up the results of its research into self-managing systems with an open-source toolkit that plugs into the Eclipse development set of software.

IBM's push to create systems that can manage themselves is moving from the drawing board to the commercial development community.

The company plans to release on Monday an open-source toolkit that will let programmers build autonomic, or self-managing, capabilities into their own applications. The Autonomic Computing Toolkit will be offered at IBM's DeveloperWorks Web site as a free add-on to the Eclipse development environment. IBM expects that software companies as well as corporate developers will use the tools.

Previously, Big Blue has used AlphaWorks, its site for prototype software, as the venue for the release of code arising from its research into autonomic computing. The shift to the DeveloperWorks site indicates that the software is fully tested and supported by IBM, said David Bartlett, the company's director of autonomic computing. He said IBM may decide to charge for the software.

IBM's autonomic computing initiative, launched in 2001, aims to create hardware and software that have the "intelligence" to monitor and manage themselves as part of a distributed computing system. It reduces the cost and complexity of operating computers by cutting back on the need for human administrators.

The overall goal is to let systems resolve problems automatically. Last year, Big Blue issued a blueprint describing the different aspects of its autonomic computing vision.

The Autonomic Computing Toolkit brings together the latest versions of IBM's tools, including updates to its software for resolving and monitoring problems. It also contains tools designed to streamline software installation in complex situations. In addition, it has created a system for building a viewing console that can be used across several applications.

Tutorials and sample code, or patterns, for using a system's autonomic features in typical situations are also part of the package. The tools allow programmers to automate certain tasks, such as fixing a failed server or correlating log information to pinpoint the source of a problem.

One of the key objectives in the autonomic computing push at IBM is to determine common data formats, which would let computing gear from multiple providers share operational information. As part of this, IBM last year submitted a Common Base Event format--a way to define and report glitches in complicated systems--to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) standards body.

"A lot of autonomic computing is bringing industry accepted standards into alignment and deciding how to work with these technologies," Bartlett said. "A lot of the problem is having different approaches and different interfaces."

IBM plans to submit the specifications it has worked out to different standards bodies, Bartlett said.