IBM to help Georgia Tech research autonomic computing

FRAMINGHAM (11/17/2003) - IBM Corp. officials have donated US$500,000 worth of software and hardware, including workstations and servers, to the Georgia Institute of Technology to support research into autonomic computing and self-healing systems.

IBM detailed the gifts today as 16 workstations, an IBM xSeries 345 server, an IBM HS20 BladeServer, an xSeries 360 back-end server as well as software and middleware. The machines will run Linux and use JavaBeans middleware.

Atlanta-based Georgia Tech has had several partnerships with IBM in recent decades, but the gift formalizes their relationship, said Karsten Schwan, director of the Center for Experimental Research in Computer Systems.

One of the basic principles of the autonomic research at George Tech is to make systems "more independent and able to operate by themselves with less human input," Schwan said.

Systems today, especially in large companies and government and research installations, offer services that run in pieces on various machines, Schwan said, adding, "The question is, How do you orchestrate these different services and make sure they give the service and stay the same and work reliably?"

Schwan said the school is interested in developing systems that use "network-aware middleware" to heal, or work around, system trouble spots -- especially across various layers of interconnected systems.

For example, a truly self-healing system might take a multimedia video presentation that isn't flowing smoothly across a network and and shrink it automatically to a thumbnail size instead of its full size to overcome a backlog in a lower Open Systems Interconnection layer, Schwan said. It could later readjust the video to full size when the backlog clears up.

Early results from the research could be available in as little as a year.

Alan Ganek, vice president of autonomic computing at IBM, said Georgia Tech won't be developing products exclusively for IBM. "We hope to glean off their learning," he said. "This interaction with Georgia Tech is all about getting world-class academic researchers to focus on the complexity of systems and provide a holistic set of solutions."

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