IBM research aims to automate virtual, cloud computing

IBM teams with US universities to develop self-managing technologies for virtual data centers in cloud computing environments

"Customers are expressing interest in cloud computing because they enable them to set up and modify environments in more aggressive manners to meet business demand," Ellis explains. "When you calculate virtual servers, virtual storage and virtual networks into the equation, this type of environment extends server clusters to a much grander scale and it delivers an on-demand environment."

For researchers, the initiative brings many opportunities to test theories and prove that such environments could support critical business applications with the proper management tools and processes.

"The question is can these kinds of open, flexible environments support critical, time-sensitive applications with the use of autonomic technologies," said Karsten Schwan, director of Center for Experimental Research in Computer Systems (CERCS) at Georgia Tech. "We have benchmarks from developing very dynamic and critical applications, for example working with airlines for back-end systems for reservations, that have extremely hard requirements in terms of response times to see if these flexible environments can support such applications."

The shared facility, Schwan said, will provide a "test bed for modern management tools" and train his group on using real-world products such as those from Tivoli in research and development. The IBM project also provides the opportunity for Georgia Tech researchers to learn more about relating business needs to technology applications.

"Ohio State's expertise in business process alignment will help us better understand the high-level requirements that mandate an application, for instance, have a 3-second response time," Schwan said. "It's easy to see that understanding the business process can help us in developing the critical applications that support the business."

Researchers plan to pursue use cases around load balancing, server consolidation, disaster recovery, automated failover and reliability -- all of which would benefit from enhanced autonomic capabilities. And Schwan said the joint team will take this research opportunity, scheduled to run about three years, to also test their theories about power and cooling in virtual datacentres and cloud computing environments.

"We have some fun use cases to pursue, including a joint project with the mechanical engineering power and cooling experts that isn't as directly related to IBM, but could yield very interesting results around better managing infrastructure," Schwan said. "We are hoping we can extend the facility in the future because working with IBM and other experts gives us more and more interesting problems and challenges to try to solve and grounds our research much better in real world use cases."

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