IBM bolsters eLiza

IBM bolsters eLiza

IBM on Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of its Project eLiza -- an initiative to stitch self-managing, self-healing capabilities into its servers -- by taking the wraps off several new technologies that make servers more intelligent in the way they automate infrastructure-level functions across an enterprise.

As a collection, the new technologies essentially move Project eLiza from the level of managing functions and processes in single servers to a self-learning approach dealing with hundreds of servers with a variety of different IBM and non-IBM architectures, IBM officials said.

Perhaps the centerpiece of the announcements is the Enterprise Workload Manager, which is capable of learning infrastructure performance in real time and then using that knowledge to improve the performance of a whole network of servers on the fly, according to IBM officials.

"We think this technology is capable of not just integrating whole heterogeneous environments, but it is also self-learning. It can learn how an infrastructure was built, how it changes, and make adjustments to give you the best performance or to carry out a designed number of functions in a defined time in the order you want them carried out," said Van Symons, IBM's global executive for Project eLiza.

As with the first wave of eLiza announcements last year, IBM officials believe the latest technologies can serve to significantly lower IT costs and lighten the burden imposed by the skills shortage.

"Some users we have been working with on these technologies are projecting savings of up to 20 percent over the first 12 months of use in their IT infrastructure costs," Symons said.

While some observers believe IBM has done a good job of marketing the eLiza brand, they also think the company may run into a problem of getting people to understand exactly how the technology fits into its existing products and even how they can obtain it.

According to Al Gillen, IDC senior analyst with IDC in Framingham, Mass., eLiza is emerging more like components of IBM's operating systems than they are a suite of products or even a collection of stand-alone technologies.

"You can't exactly call up IBM and say 'Hey, I want to buy the eLiza suite.' It is not packaged that way. It is a little difficult for people to understand what it is and where it is. The best you can hope for is getting some sort of systems block diagram that has some of the blocks highlighted to show the eLiza generated components of the larger operating environment," Gillen said.

Along with the Workload Manager, IBM also unveiled its Enterprise Identity Mapping (EIM) technology designed to ensure secure transactions across an enterprise. EIM is able to associate and then track a single user's multiple identities across a network of servers.

This enables programmers to write simpler and more secure applications without forcing users to sign on and authenticate to each server. Over time, as information is collected, a user network can start deciding what level of access to give to a user depending on where they entered the network.

"This allows IT shops to build one security infrastructure instead of 10 different ones. They can then better administer the users for their particular infrastructure and understand what the users are doing and how they are doing it across the infrastructure, rather than have discreet systems," Symons said.

A third technology announced on Thursday is the ITS Electronic Service Agent, which will allow IBM's Global Services division to deliver software solutions to users that can remotely uncover and repair technical problems with any of IBM's eServers with little or no human intervention, company officials said.

Two other technologies that made their debut are Electronic Service Update, a proactive service constantly monitoring critical information central to running a user's business, and "Raquarium," a technology to be incorporated into the IBM Director product that serves to deploy, provision, and troubleshoot up to hundreds of blade servers from a single console.

The collection of upcoming technologies is expected to enter beta testing in the second half of this year and be delivered by year's end, company officials said.

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