IBM Pushes IT Automation

By Paula Musich  |  Posted 2004-10-25

IBM Pushes IT Automation

Three years after launching its autonomic computing effort, IBM says customers are reaping the benefits of IT automation, but the real promise of the initiative remains elusive for most.

IBM officials at Gartners Symposium/ITxpo here last week rolled out new security advancements and relayed a handful of customer success stories as they summarized the companys challenge to develop adaptable, self-managing systems.

Beyond early experiments with customers such as the United States Tennis Association, IBM touted an annual $1 million in savings that Whirlpool Corp. achieved by leveraging automation functions within Tivoli Identity Manager.

Such savings come from a reduction in help desk calls related to password resets, according to Jim Haney, vice president of architecture and planning for Whirlpool, in Benton Harbor, Mich.

"We were able to put password policies in a system that could mechanically enforce them and made it easier for the user with self-service password reset," said Haney.

But when it comes to distributing workloads and moving computing capacity around to accommodate changing demands—as the USTA is doing with IBM—the software support from Tivoli Intelligent Provisioning Manager and Tivoli Orchestrator is not fully developed.

To read more about Tivoli Provisioning Manager, click here.

"We are waiting for the SAP [AG] integration. Thats when well get excited about it," said Haney.

True autonomic capability with Tivoli tools today works only with WebSphere applications, but IBM is working to extend it to SAP applications by the middle of next year, according to Alan Ganek, IBMs vice president of autonomic computing, in Somers, N.Y.

The effort required to automate provisioning and movement of CPU cycles with Tivolis offerings is no easy feat.

Implementing the business rules and policies that govern how best to juggle computing capacity will take time, conceded Sandy Carter, vice president of IBMs On Demand Operating Environment group, in Austin, Texas. The USTA project took two months and five full-time people. But for large IT shops, it ultimately promises to reduce deployment times dramatically for new server provisioning, Carter said.

Tied to the autonomic effort, IBM here demonstrated its new ThinkPad T42 laptop with a biometric fingerprint reader that replaces the need to type in passwords upon log-in to protected systems or sites.

The T42, which shipped last week, includes an embedded security subsystem for client security that stores encrypted keys and passwords. The fingerprint reader, which works with the password manager, is a $100 option for the laptop.

Next Page: Teaming to automate security policy enforcement.

Automating Enforcement

IBM also announced the release of WebSphere Extended Deployment Version 5.1, which "brings into WebSphere capabilities for automatically managing the workload," said Robert LeBlanc, IBMs new general manager of application and integration middleware. "It adds the ability to look at a WebSphere application as a single application, but you can add servers in real time and add the ability to put priority on a workload."

IBM and Cisco Systems Inc. are also teaming to automate security policy enforcement as well as remediate at-risk computing devices.

The two vendors expanded their alliance to integrate IBM Tivoli Security Compliance Manager with the Cisco Secure Access Control Server. With the new integration, users can define policies that are sent to their remote systems and cached.

"When [a remote] system connects to the network and [the Secure Access Control Server] responds, Tell me about yourself, we send that information. If the system is not compliant, the Cisco device will isolate that end system so it cant get into the internal network," said Don Cronin, corporate security strategy chief technologist for Tivoli, in Raleigh, N.C.

"Security Compliance Manager then uses Tivoli Provisioning Manager to automate the remediation of that," Cronin said.

IBM now has some 50 products and 415 features that include autonomic computing functions, officials said.

Read about IBMs Solution Installation for Autonomic Computing technology.

As users exploit those functions in a piecemeal fashion, their success, and the actual benefits derived from autonomic computing, will largely go unnoticed. But over time, as IBM continues its rollout, more large success stories will emerge, according to industry experts.

"Its going to be one of those overnight successes that takes 10 years," quipped Jasmine Noel, principal at Ptak, Noel & Associates, in New York.

Big Blues Autonomic Milestones

  • October 2001: Publishes autonomic computing manifesto with call to action and eight defining characteristics.
  • February 2002: Forms autonomic computing unit.
  • April 2003: Publishes autonomic computing blueprint.
  • May 2003: Acquires Think Dynamics for orchestrated provisioning.
  • October 2003: Teams with Cisco to develop open-software self-healing technologies.
  • July 2004: Debuts eFuse chip-morphing technology.

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