IBM Juggles IT Resources On The Fly

New autonomic technologies predict workload spikes and respond by bringing on additional server capacity.

Forecasting is hard—especially when its about the future. IBM is proposing to change all that with three new autonomic software technologies that it planned to unveil today and demonstrate at next weeks CeBit trade show, in Hannover, Germany.

The three technologies – Adaptive Forecasting, On-line Capacity Planning and Rapid Reconfiguration – are designed to predict sudden increases in workload and to respond by bringing on additional server capacity and dynamically reconfiguring DB2 database parameters.

Joe Hellerstein, manager of the Adaptive Systems department at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, in Hawthorne, N.Y., admitted that forecasting workload spikes based on past history is not new. Nor is technology that shuffles resources—Hewlett-Packard Co.s Utility Data Center, Sun Microsystems Inc.s N1 architecture, and software from Think Dynamics Inc. all do that.

Whats new, Hellerstein said, is Adaptive Forecastings ability to predict the unexpected. Heres the hypothetical example that IBM will demo at CeBit: Unbeknownst to each other, two departments at a hypothetical airline separately plan promotions. As a result, customers mob the companys Web site and workload on the Web servers and databases skyrockets.

Adaptive Forecasting would have avoided that, Hellerstein said, by switching from tracking long-term trends and into a mode that uses advanced algorithms to track the trajectory of a sudden change. The On-line Capacity Planning technology would then provide estimates of resources required to defend customer service levels for the projected demand. It would allow hot-swap of resources from one workload to another, without noticeable interruption to end users, IBM officials said.

Rapid Reconfiguration is designed to either rapidly add new nodes in IBM WebSphere Application Server or dynamically change DB2 database configurations to meet workload needs. The technologies wrap it all up by automatically shifting resources back to original workload levels when the surge is over, thus maximizing resource efficiency, Hellerstein said.

Darren Larson, an IT consultant in the IT group of a large construction and engineering firm that he asked not to be named, said that the goal of the new software is a worthy one. His organization already has been working to lessen its reliance on a given server because of the potential to bring down critical applications if a single server on the cluster hosting them flakes. The company is now working to split up applications onto one-use servers to avoid such vulnerability.

"Even if you had a robust server, we had too many problems," said Larson, in Richland, Wash. "If one went down, it took out a whole bunch of stuff. … It would be good to have an advanced handling system to anticipate and load different hardware."

Developed as a collaboration between the IBM Research Division and Software Group, the new IBM software technologies are built to work with the latest versions of the companys Web server and database products: WebSphere Application Server 5 and DB2 8.1. The technologies also have potential to be used with other third-party databases and application servers, officials said. IBM is now rolling the technologies out as part of offerings from its IBM Global Services e-business management services division.