The autonomic promise

During the economic woes of the past couple of years, innovation from start-ups and smaller developers has been stifled mostly by a lack of capital, as well as by skepticism toward new stuff by IT technology buyers.

At the same time, some of the world’s largest technology companies are spending huge sums to solve a problem that has been talked about for years -- providing computing resources on demand, and allowing automatic maintenance and updating of systems without human intervention. Champions of the concept -- alternately called on-demand computing, utility computing, autonomic computing and organic computing -- promise that it can slash IT equipment and personnel costs while improving and automating business processes.

These vendors are projecting that viable solutions will begin to emerge in three to five years, if everything falls into place. Clearly, there’s no guarantee that the latest efforts to reach automated computing nirvana will be nearly as successful as promised.

In this month’s Cover Story (“Self-healing systems”) veteran high-tech reporter Colleen Frye takes a look at the status of projects underway in the laboratories of some key vendors -- IBM, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems. In addition to the significant technical challenges each firm faces, adoption of the concept requires a leap of faith by IT organizations, notes Frye. Longstanding business processes must be changed, making this far more than simply a new technology. At the same time, some critics question the cost-cutting promises and contend that most of the efforts will require at least some outsourcing — an important source of revenue to some of these vendors.

Frye provides a good early look at the strategies of these companies, which hold a strong position in many large IT organizations. It’s important that managers keep up-to-date with supplier efforts and advise them of their needs. Hopefully, the vendors will concentrate on helping firms with their computing needs rather than on disparaging competitors’ efforts, as some did in interviews with Frye.

Meanwhile, in “Oracle tools strategy: 10G signals grid direction,” Contributing Editor John K. Waters profiles the development toolmaking business of Oracle Corp., a business that’s often lost amid the mainstay database operation and its weakening applications concern. Executives tell Waters that tools remain a key piece of many Oracle database sales, indicating that its recent loss of market share won’t lead to cuts in R&D.

Waters notes that amid the nastiness surrounding Oracle’s hostile effort to buy PeopleSoft, plans are keeping apace to unveil a next-generation toolset this month at OracleWorld in San Francisco along with the much-hyped 10G database and 10G app server that mark the firm’s grid computing debut. We’ll let you know whether the promise meets reality.

About the Author

Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.


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