The millions of businesses, billions of humans that compose them, and trillions of devices that they will depend upon all require the services of the IT industry to keep them running. And it's not just a matter of numbers. It's the complexity of these systems and the way they work together that is creating a shortage of skilled IT workers to manage all of the systems. It's a problem that is not going away, but will grow exponentially, just as our dependence on technology has.
The solution is to build computer systems that regulate themselves much in the same way our autonomic nervous system regulates and protects our bodies. This new model of computing is called autonomic computing. The good news is that some components of this technology are already up and running. However, complete autonomic systems do not yet exist. Autonomic computing calls for a whole new area of study and a whole new way of conducting business.
Autonomic computing was conceived to lessen the spiraling demands for skilled IT resources, reduce complexity and to drive computing into a new era that may better exploit its potential to support higher order thinking and decision making. Immediate benefits will include reduced dependence on human intervention to maintain complex systems accompanied by a substantial decrease in costs. Long-term benefits will allow individuals, organizations and businesses to collaborate on complex problem solving.
Within the past two decades the development of raw computing power coupled with the proliferation of computer devices has grown at exponential rates. This phenomenal growth along with the advent of the Internet have led to a new age of accessibility - to other people, other systems, and most importantly, to information. This boom has also led to unprecedented levels of complexity.
The simultaneous explosion of information and integration of technology into everyday life has brought on new demands for how people manage and maintain computer systems. Demand is already outpacing supply when it comes to managing complex, and even simple computer systems. Even in uncertain economic times, demand for skilled IT workers is expected to increase by over 100 percent in the next six years.
As access to information becomes omnipresent through PC's, hand-held and wireless devices, the stability of current infrastructure, systems, and data is at an increasingly greater risk to suffer outages and general disrepair. IBM believes that we are quickly reaching a threshold moment in the evolution of the industry's views toward computing in general and the associated infrastructure, middleware, and services that maintain them. The increasing system complexity is reaching a level beyond human ability to manage and secure.
This increasing complexity with a shortage of skilled IT professionals points towards an inevitable need to automate many of the functions associated with computing today.
IBM's proposed solution looks at the problem from the most important perspective: the end user's. How do IT customers want computing systems to function? They want to interact with them intuitively, and they want to have to be far less involved in running them. Ideally, they would like computing systems to pretty much take care of the mundane elements of management by themselves.
The most direct inspiration for this functionality that exists today is the autonomic function of the human central nervous system. Autonomic controls use motor neurons to send indirect messages to organs at a sub-conscious level. These messages regulate temperature, breathing, and heart rate without conscious thought. The implications for computing are immediately evident; a network of organized, "smart" computing components that give us what we need, when we need it, without a conscious mental or even physical effort.
IBM has named its vision for the future of computing "autonomic computing." This new paradigm shifts the fundamental definition of the technology age from one of computing, to one defined by data. Access to data from multiple, distributed sources, in addition to traditional centralized storage devices will allow users to transparently access information when and where they need it. At the same time, this new view of computing will necessitate changing the industry's focus on processing speed and storage to one of developing distributed networks that are largely self-managing, self-diagnostic, and transparent to the user.