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Are You Ready for Enterprise Systems That Fix Themselves? : Page 3

Technology to monitor and maintain distributed computer systems is going through a metamorphosis. The dream: computer systems that can quickly heal themselves in response to a wide array of fault and performance conditions, even changing business conditions. Get a realistic appraisal of today's self-healing technology.


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The Building Reality
The next evolutionary step in the self-healing vision is diagnosis, which up until now has been the weak link in most management systems.

Diagnosis involves analyzing and correlating of all critical system activity and changes in state related to a problem and selecting the best corrective option.

Of course, in order to do a diagnosis of an event a system must first do an analysis. Customers are looking for ways to simplify the analysis process and to get just the data they need to help them keep the mission-critical components of their business running—which really means up and performing correctly. To accomplish this requires viewing the threads of execution across a series of components in a distributed environment and then correlating fault and bottleneck location data with detailed CPU, memory and I/O metrics.



Savvy CTOs will recognize the importance of a system that provides "just enough" analysis and diagnosis data to comprehend and prioritize systems and network operations problems. Exposing too much data can be counterproductive. When computer resources are well instrumented and documented—with error information, performance information, and workarounds for every type of problem readily accessible—it is easy to slip into pedantry. Similarly, when critical failures occur, it's more important to repair the fault quickly than it is to let the business process languish while employees search for the root source of the problem. Businesses need to be able to prioritize issues and a good self-healing system will facilitate that effort rather than work against it.

Ultimately, self-healing will become so advanced that it will achieve "business virtualization," a term used to describe an infrastructure that evolves intelligently as needed to make the system resistant to faults and performance-related downtime. There are already examples of these kinds of infrastructures in use. A new class of utility data center software and hardware can virtualize the physical resources of the infrastructure by allowing a developer to choose from a menu the hardware, operating system, middleware, and applications in use, which causes all the necessary components for operation and fault and performance management to download. By masking the complexity of building and running n-tier enterprises, business virtualization constitutes a genuine tactical advantage for CTOs and IT departments.

Figure 2. Toward Self-healing Systems: Most of the current research and development effort around self-healing systems is in the area of location, isolation, and diagnosis. Some technology exists today, but enterprises lack a management system that is fully diagnosis-capable.


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