IBM Planning WebSphere Self-Healing Technologies

IBM is adding enhanced business rules technology and self-healing capabilities to the next release of its WebSphere application server.

IBM is adding enhanced business rules technology and self-healing capabilities to the next release of its WebSphere application server.

The new business rules will enable users and analysts to make changes to applications without requiring the assistance of a developer, Donald Ferguson, an IBM fellow and chief architect of WebSphere, said during an interview at TechXNY here last week.

IBM currently uses Java-based Business Rule Beans, which are the encapsulation of business logic in component form and are assembled to make complete systems.

With the next version of WebSphere, due as early as next year, IBM will deliver enhancements to the Beans to support Web services and add personalization to business applications, Ferguson said. This will let business users customize applications at run-time with no programmer involvement. IBM will also provide a simplified interface for users to do this.

For example, in a retail business, a business analyst could make changes to the logic in an application to reflect a discount due to a sale and have the change propagate throughout the system, Ferguson said.

"Were going to do a re-spin of Business Rule Beans," he said. "We have some choreography technology that we will use to pull all of the business rules together. The model is were going to get people to factor this into their design so that the business rules can be used by another component. We also are including new rules based on who the user is. This will personalize business logic."

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., will also add pattern recognition and rule-based technology to automatically recognize and recover from problems. The technology, code-named Smarts, will help users save time and expense on system monitoring and maintenance, Ferguson said. Through an observe-and-correct scheme, the system will match patterns and work to solve problems using rules that IBM will employ based on user input.

Smarts isnt IBMs first go at such technology. The company introduced last year Project eLiza, an initiative to add self-healing and self-monitoring capabilities to its hardware. The Smarts technology is an extension of that for IBM software. And while some self-monitoring and correcting technology is in IBMs DB2 database, the plans for WebSphere go beyond those, the company said.

Mike Prince, CIO at Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp., in Burlington, N.J., said he would welcome self-healing and managing services in the data center. "We saw a lot of this at IBM last fall, and it is a major reason that we are leaning toward them for our server needs," Prince said. "Most of our current hardware predates this."

"The system will be able to do automatically what people today do manually," IBMs Ferguson said. "Today, people set their configuration values manually. We will enable these values to work automatically. The system will allow a user to express policy and what they believe should happen, and then we work under the covers to make it happen."

For instance, in an application server and database environment, there are Java Database Connectivity connectors and DB2 application agents that IBM typically manipulates to correct problems. Ferguson said Smarts will automate much of this.

Ferguson said IBM is looking to federate Smarts technology across the WebSphere product line, including its portal server, integration server, security and management components.

Meanwhile, Sun Microsystems Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., said it is working on similar technology for self-healing systems. Like IBMs, Suns work has focused primarily on hardware. Simon Phipps, Suns chief technology evangelist and a former IBM engineer, said at TechXNY that Sun has projects in the works to deliver self-healing capabilities to its software as well, although he was unsure when such products will be released.

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