December 17, 2002 5:20 PM PST

IBM's Blue Typhoon plans swirling

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IBM on Tuesday announced that it expects customers will begin implementing technology behind its new on-demand computing initiative in the first quarter.

Blue Typhoon, also known as the Utility Management Infrastructure, is IBM's set of tools and software for weaving disparate computers into a coherent unit that can take on large projects or ease peak computing strains, said Dev Mukherjee, vice president of on-demand services at IBM.

"In order to make utilities really work, you need a fairly complex management infrastructure. This is a management infrastructure that runs alongside whatever the operating system is or whatever the application is to make sure it all works," Mukherjee said. "In a human being it would be the nervous system."

The technology, which was discussed in detail at an IBM analysts briefing, is similar to Hewlett-Packard's so-called utility-based computing initiative and the "N1" project at Sun Microsystems. Using the technology, servers that are being stretched by peak computing loads can get help from relatively idle machines. Tasks can also be atomized and distributed to different machines.

Meanwhile, the complex problem of juggling how these computers interact is shielded from human eyes. Autonomic computing technologies--another major research and development effort at IBM to get computers to fix and adjust themselves automatically--will perform these tasks.

IBM may be slightly further along than competitors, according to Bruce Caldwell, principal analyst at research firm Gartner. Big Blue has demonstrated how the user interface will work as well as a policy management tool for automating functions. HP, to his knowledge, has not fully developed its policy management tool.

Mukherjee said that initial customers may include financial institutions and the travel industry. Caldwell was more specific, predicting that J.P. Morgan and Deutsche Bank may announce that they plan to implement the technology soon.

On-demand computing is the centerpiece of the strategy laid out by new IBM CEO Sam Palmisano earlier this fall, and it complements the company's structure in many ways. The complexity of these projects generally means that customers will have to invest in services, software, hardware, and even outsourcing, Caldwell said.

IBM says it will invest $10 billion into developing the company's on-demand capabilities, which will involve creating consulting groups, conducting more hardware and software research, and erecting computer centers around the world.

 

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