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What Is On-Demand Computing

by Stephen B. Morris
On-Demand Computing
On-demand computing (ODC) is a computing and communications infrastructure that facilitates flexible business service delivery and provides the basis for:
  • Autonomic computing.
  • Fast response to external business-affecting changes.
  • Adaptive business processes to protect revenues and contain costs.
  • Complex interactions inside and outside of organizational boundaries.
  • Resilience against external threats such as viruses, intrusions, and power outages.

In this Article

  1. The Takeaway
  2. Migration to ODC
  3. Migration to Autonomic Computing
  4. Making Software Manageable
  5. Business-Policy-Driven Computing
  6. Enhanced IT ROI
  7. Autonomic Products
  8. ODC Limitations
  9. Conclusions

The Takeaway

The world is moving in a direction driven by the twin imperatives of risk management and the need for lower costs (e.g., outsourcing). Current IT practices are overly complex and require too much human intervention. On-demand computing (ODC) provides an infrastructural solution to the needs of modern organizations. Risk can be managed and running costs can be lowered by migrating to a more automated IT business infrastructure.

Very few (if any) businesses operate today in a truly on-demand fashion. For this reason, ODC is a migration (not a forklift upgrade) target for today's infrastructures. The end result of this migration will allow for a more automated, business-policy-driven model. It represents a transformation rather than a revolution!

Migration to ODC

In the simplest terms, we can say that current infrastructure is hindered by two weaknesses: complexity and excessive human input. In fact, IBM claims that 40 percent of computer outages are caused by operator error. Other organizations, such as EMA, put the percentage for complex network misconfigurations as high as 60 percent.

The following are the major features of ODC:

  • Automation and industrial strength via autonomic computing
  • Business-policy-driven computing
  • Enhanced IT ROI

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What's particularly interesting about ODC is its integrative nature. It takes the best of numerous areas--such as system/network management, standard technologies (XML, J2EE, web services, EJB, etc.)--and combines them into an infrastructure that is strong, self-configuring, self-protecting, and self-healing, all based on open standards and specifications. IBM refers to this as an on-demand operating environment.

Let's look at the elements of ODC, starting with autonomic computing.

Migration to Autonomic Computing

IBM has identified five levels of autonomic computing:

  • Basic: Highly skilled staff required; very hands-on; business is often hostage to IT outages.
  • Managed: Skilled staff required to interpret management data; small amount of automation; business may still be hostage to IT outages.
  • Predictive: Not-so-skilled staff interpret and approve actions; more automation; business may still be hostage to IT outages, though less frequently than before.
  • Adaptive: Staff monitor automated changes/corrections and ensure good system performance; business may still be hostage to IT outages, but these can be contracted using service-level agreements.
  • Autonomic: Fully automated; staff focuses on facilitating the business in line with stated policies.

Most organizations today are at level 1. It's important to remember that ODC is a business transformation rather than a wholesale replacement of existing IT practices and infrastructure. This migratory approach also applies to autonomic computing--we can move in a phased fashion from where we are today towards the autonomic era.

Intelligent control loops are at the heart of autonomic computing. In most cases, today these loops are a complex maze of human-centric business processes and customized code (e.g., booking airline tickets). The automation of these control loops provides the basis for the required level of autonomic automation. Let's take a look at them.

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