Vendors approaches to autonomic computing differ

Several vendors are working on different approaches to introduce autonomic computing to market.

Hewlett-Packard Co. pursues autonomic computing through its virtualization strategy.

The company's Utility Data Center virtualizes a data center into a pool of shared resources — servers, storage and networking. In this model, computing resources can be shifted dynamically should a component fail. "In a virtualized world, self-healing is innate," said Nick van der Zweep, Hewlett-Packard's director of virtualization and utility computing.

The company's Virtual Server Environment, meanwhile, provides another example of autonomic computing, according to van der Zweep. VSE, a pool of dynamically sizeable virtual servers, employs the HP-UX Workload Manager. With this policy engine, an organization can plug in service-level objectives and VSE will automatically shift resources to meet those objectives, van der Zweep said.

Dennis Govoni, chief technologist of Sun Microsystems Inc.'s government division, views virtualization as the initial step toward autonomic computing. The second stage, he said, is to let users distribute services on an at-will basis. And the third stage involves dynamic resource management based on policy.

Govoni said Sun is at work on the second stage and sees the third stage as a future development. In the long term, customers want "technology that will allow them to dynamically allocate resources on the fly, based on events," Govoni said. "Those technologies are not completely there," he added.

In the meantime, Sun customers are using the company's Dynamic System Domains, Govoni said. Dynamic System Domains allow customers to run multiple applications and multiple copies of Sun's Solaris on a single server and can be resized according to workload changes. The feature is available on Sun's high-end and midrange servers.

Earlier this month, Microsoft Corp. officials revealed the technology road map for its Dynamic Systems Initiative. DSI, according to a company spokeswoman, "is Microsoft's initiative to solve data center complexity." A DSI thrust is to build manageability into applications at the development stage. That's an important step for organizations planning to adopt autonomic management tools, industry executives said.

John Moore is a freelance writer based in Syracuse, N.Y.

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