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IBM to add self-healing technology to storage server

IBM has expanded its autonomic computing initiative to include its storage products, which IBM claims will now have self-managing and self-healing capabilities. Still, one analyst says software can't cure everything.

When untouched by man, sharks live long lives. IBM Corp. is aiming to make the same thing true of its Shark Enterprise Storage Server.

IBM is expected to announce Tuesday the details of the self-managing and self-healing technology it will incorporate into the high-end storage system. The details of the enhancements are undisclosed but are part of Big Blue's company-wide autonomic computing initiative. IBM recently announced plans for a series of products and offerings coordinated by its newly formed autonomic computing unit.

"We are leveraging technology from the eLiza project, IBM Research, and innovative technologies from the various product organizations in IBM," said Bill Hillsberg, director of software strategy and technology for IBM's storage systems group.

IBM says that its autonomic computing technology can automatically adapt to new components or changes in the IT environment, detect intruders as they attack, detect improper operations and initiate corrective actions before they occur, and tailor resource allocation and utilization to meet user needs of the moment.

"Self-healing concepts are not confined to any one company at this point. Almost every one of the storage vendors is there and improving on it," said Arun Taneja, senior analyst for the Enterprise Storage Group Inc., based in Milford, Mass.

Taneja said that utility storage companies like startup Zambeel Inc. and 3PARdata Inc., both headquartered in Fremont, Calif., have to maintain "always-on" status, which, he said, can't be achieved without built-in, self-healing concepts.

But Taneja cautioned that self-healing technology can only go so far in a storage network because a broken piece of hardware can be detected -- but not revived -- by software.

"The key to self-healing is to detect the symptoms of an impending failure and initiate corrective actions before they occur, without disrupting system applications or business processes," IBM's Hillsberg said. "Some self-healing technologies such as RAID can mitigate actual hard drive failures."

Autonomic technology is nothing new in the storage world. The whole point of RAID (redundant array of independent disks) is to provide self-healing capabilities when a hard drive fails so that data is not lost.

Last July, IBM announced two new versions of its Enterprise Storage Server, code-named Shark, both of which dipped into the eLiza technology. IBM also packed the self-managing software into its line of network-attached storage (NAS) products.

Shark already features the self-healing technology embedded in the latest version of IBM Director Agent 3.1, which can predict when problems might occur and has the ability to automatically call another computer for help and even order necessary parts.

Other autonomic technology in Shark detects the symptoms of an impending failure and reconfigures the system before the failure actually occurs, ensuring that no data will be lost. From a self-optimizing perspective, Shark has adaptive algorithms that optimize performance, depending on the current workload, IBM said. Shark now provides self-configuring capabilities, including the ability to provide capacity on demand and to protect data by providing intelligence that ensures one application cannot read another's data. Shark also has the capability for automatic software upgrades

IBM has recently refreshed its entire disk, tape and storage networking products with autonomic features such as configuration-on-the-fly and "phone home" alerts that optimize performance and safeguard data.

Autonomic capabilities have also trickled down to IBM's Tivoli Software arm. IBM announced 26 offerings with new autonomic capabilities to its systems management portfolio, including new identity and storage resource management software.

The company said its autonomic computing unit will be responsible for working with the company's product development teams, IBM Global Services and IBM Research to bring autonomic technologies and products to the marketplace as quickly as possible.

The new enhancements to Shark will be announced next Tuesday, IBM said.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer


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