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Initiative for Autonomic Computing Gains Strength

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the self-diagnostic dept.

Software 96

museumpeace writes "Tired of fixing your computer? What if your system broke down two billion miles from the nearest spare part or human? NASA has just held a colloquium where Ulster University computer science researcher Roy Sterritt was invited to present his ideas on Autonomic Computing. In the last few years,the leading system vendors have realized 'There is no less than a crisis today in three areas: cost, availability and user experience.' There has been a fair amount of academic research since customers like NASA see in it the potential to make remotely operated complex systems sustainable. It all makes for some very cool systems design work and there are lots of further research opportunities. Just don't forget what it may do to your job."

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w00ty w00t (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10989351)

eat a dick

GNAA? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10989905)

Is the GNAA dead? Why haven't we seen any of their posts for months now? I'm feeling deprived.

Re:GNAA? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10990205)

They're around, but they fail a lot in their attempts.

No More fixing computers... (1)

Kjuib (584451) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989367)

If we no longer have to fix computers, then someone has to program the machine how to fix itself.

Re:No More fixing computers... (1)

PMJ2kx (828679) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989796)

However, the software is only as good as the programmer...and since last time I checked, we (here on /.) are mainly imperfect humans, with a mix of trolls, bots and others. So...three "is" room for error if we program a computer to fix itself...

...and frankly, that's good, because I, for one, would NOT welcome our new self-fixing overlords!

Re:No More fixing computers... (1)

robertjw (728654) | more than 9 years ago | (#10990619)

The human body comes to mind. It fixes itself, but there are lots of people out there that make lots of money as DOCTORS. If computers start fixing themselves, the really talented among us will start making significant amounts of money fixing all the things that aren't automatically fixed.

Re:No More fixing computers... (1)

Genda (560240) | more than 9 years ago | (#10993776)

This is neither accurate nor obvious. We and all life on the planet are carbon based machines that nobody programmed, and are self repairing. Yes, we will engineer the environment, but it may well be the machines themselves, making themselves self repairing.

It will almost certainly become possible in the near future, to take configurable hardware, and software capable of evolving and reacting to environmental stress, and simply let them do their thing. Adding a wide variety of "autonomous intelligence", including genetic algorythms designed to improve the function and efficiency of such systems, and designing in significant redundancy in hardware to insure a long and productive life... gives you have a machine that can learn, evolve, repair itself, and grow around it's fundamental failures and limitations.

This doesn't even begin to talk about what would and will be possible once we have a significant foothold in the area of nanotechnology and self replicating machines.

Such machines would arguably force us to reconsider the definitions of life itself.


"So remember, when you're feeling very small and insecure, how amazingly unlikely is your birth,
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere up in space, because there's bugger all down here on Earth."
-- Monty Python, The Meaning of Life

A Crisis! The sky is falling! (5, Funny)

EatenByAGrue (210447) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989384)

Yah the leading system vendors have realized there's a crisis. How else are they going to sell more systems if the ones in place now aren't dangerously unstable? They could probably explode at any minute, are toxic, and will probably delete all my data at any second.

I better go buy a new computer.

Re:A Crisis! The sky is falling! (1)

c0p0n (770852) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989690)

...How else are they going to sell more systems..?

With an axe?

Re:A Crisis! The sky is falling! (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989768)

They could probably explode at any minute, are toxic, and will probably delete all my data at any second.

I didn't know there were any Packard-Bell users left...

Two words: (2, Funny)

bourne_id (812415) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989385)

Automated nanobots

Now we need only worry about the whole thing going berserk, killing the crewmembers, and attempting to destroy the Earth.


Self-fixing computer? (4, Funny)

ralphart (70342) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989401)

If self-fixing computers become the norm, that means half the phone calls I get from friends will stop.

Hmmm....bug or feature?

Re:Self-fixing computer? (1)

macaulay805 (823467) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989494)

Remember: Half the phone calls, half the money/donations/whatever you want to call it. (Could just be food, beer, etc.)

Just like job security, your not going out ...... or up.

Re:Self-fixing computer? (2, Insightful)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989567)

That's scary to me... I don't want to find out that the only reason people are friends with me is because I can fix their computer... I have a feeling I would find that out pretty quickly heh

techno-sycophants (1)

skids (119237) | more than 9 years ago | (#10994712)

Then start turning them down one by one. When one turns out to be a techno-sycophant, go meet someone new. Eventually you'll winnow away the users.

Me, I'm past that hurdle. I just figured "why the hell am I wasting my life helping Bill Gates get away with selling crap" and layed down a "I don't do Windows" policy. Since the majority of people that were mooching computer support from me were Windows users, that decreased my workload quite a bit... and yes it did reveal one or two to be less than true friends, but the majority I have always known were not in that category.

Re:Self-fixing computer? (3, Interesting)

adeydas (837049) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989698)

Self-fixing computers means some form of Artificial Intelligence, which again means smarter computers in the sense that it can do more logical operations rather than crunch numbers and data only. May be it won't be much of an impact on computers with personal and business uses but in the science arena, it might bring about a revolution. Just imagine producing complex models in bio-chemistry or designing a chip would be so very much easier with a machine to fix stuff whenever the need be.

Re:Self-fixing computer? (1)

Mr. McGibby (41471) | more than 9 years ago | (#10990134)

Wow, just imagine!

Super smart computers which can fix anything. Revolutionary!

Just imagine producing complex models in bio-chemistry or designing a chip would be so very much easier with a machine to fix stuff whenever the need be.

And computers that write and produce sitcoms! That *would* be awesome.

I mean, like, the sky is the limit!

Re:Self-fixing computer? (1)

RailGunner (554645) | more than 9 years ago | (#11025356)

And computers that write and produce sitcoms! That *would* be awesome.

It would certainly be better than the room full of chimps on typewriters sitcoms are using now.

Re:Self-fixing computer? (1)

dj245 (732906) | more than 9 years ago | (#10990318)

If self-fixing computers become the norm, that means half the phone calls I get from friends will stop.

And IM's of the substance "d0od, you there?" and "You'll never guess who was on Oprah today" from my stupid friends and relatives will increase tenfold. Some people don't deserve to have a working computer.

It doens't matter (4, Insightful)

Kipsaysso (828105) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989433)

It won't matter until it can fix user errors anyway.

Re:It doens't matter (1)

javaxman (705658) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989608)

It won't matter until it can fix user errors anyway.

Well, it will take care of the second most annoying part of any IT-related job...

Of course, we'll have lots of fun with systems constantly rebooting in attempts to 'fix' themselves... that'll be fun.

Re:It doens't matter (1)

bdcrazy (817679) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989940)

The statement of rebooting to fix a computer is why things like this are important. How about finding ways for a system to fix itself while it is operating?

Re:It doens't matter (1)

museumpeace (735109) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989740)

The user experience that I think atonomic computing is trying to improve is the "I don't think its working" and all that can be done in that respect is that a system be able to fail-over and recover from user errors. [I think there are social issues with trying to enhance the computer's "person experience";]. And users are not the only humans a good system has to tolerate, some pretty bad things can happen [geek.com] when the system administrators screw up. Clearly autonomic computing is not going to be founded on computing elements that give you a BSOD if you just leave them running too long.

The user is not to blame (1)

paulymer5 (765084) | more than 9 years ago | (#10991097)

I'd like to tangentisize (I love neology) and qualify that most "user errors" are the result of poor user interface and interaction design, the third of the crises listed in the article.

Indeed, the term "self-fixing" implies to me recoverability from problems including erroneous input. Input validation with range checking for reasonable values and informative feedback can catch a good amount of bad input. Add reversability and recoverability to the mix and you have a friendly software layer protecting against "user error."

Users are not machines, they are, to be cliched, only human. Bad input needs to be expected, and design decisions should reflect that.

Re:It doens't matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10991795)

It won't matter until it can fix user errors anyway.

Wouldn't it be better to fix the users? Then all problems will disappear in a generation.

Re:It doens't matter (1)

jomama717 (779243) | more than 9 years ago | (#10992279)

The irony here is that in an ideal world we would have perfect autonomic error handling...that never did anything. Point being we should be working on debugging aids to help us produce code that doesn't need a watchdog.

It's ubiquitously useable knowledge (3, Funny)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989524)

It's just about impossible that a tecnic that makes robotic spacecraft all that much more self sufficient will be confined to just robotic space travel for long. If NASA is successful, we will see widespread robotization here on Earth as a consequence.
30 years from now, this will be characterized as a 'mere spin off', and instead of bitching about Moonrocks, ignorant people will be saying "We spent billions to send robot probes to Pluto, and all we got was a bunch of contaminated Helium."

Re:It's ubiquitously useable knowledge (1)

geg81 (816215) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989797)

It's just about impossible that a tecnic that makes robotic spacecraft all that much more self sufficient will be confined to just robotic space travel for long.

If you spend as much time and money on developing your systems as NASA does on theirs, you can get the same degree of autonomy and reliability.

And that degree is somewhat limited: their spacecraft crash with some frequency, and they spend a lot of time patching and bug-fixing.

command line to estimate Autonomic flaws in files (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10989544)

grep -c icrosoft *

Google could use this (2, Interesting)

mogrify (828588) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989547)

In the ZDNet article [zdnet.com.au] on Google's inner workings that was posted earlier on /., Urs Hölzle mentions that in the larger Google clusters, 2 machines per day will fail. They compensate for this with triple redundancy, good software for failover control, and a staff of 800(!) computer scientists. Needless to say, not everyone could manage this... there's definitely an enterprise niche for system autonomy. This also brings IBM's eFuse technology [theregister.co.uk] for self-repairing chips to mind.

Re:Google could use this (1)

sporty (27564) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989593)

" and a staff of 800(!) computer scientists"

I doubt they are all scientists. I'm sure most are just sysadmin/operations employees.

Re:Google could use this (1)

twiddlingbits (707452) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989824)

Yes,they must be counting everyone in that number. Getting TWO scientists to agree on what to do is hard. Just imagine getting 800 of them to work together. The Management team at Google must be *really* good, or the perks must be awesome maybe both.

Re:Google could use this (1)

pragma_x (644215) | more than 9 years ago | (#10991407)

I could easily see a future where, a wall of blade-style servers has bad units culled by robotic arm. This would be somewhat like a large tape-data silo does only with server nodes instead of tapes. Just keep technicians working on keeping enough fresh nodes at one end of the pipeline and refurbishing the broken ones on the other and the rote portions of the work (finding the broken machines and replacing them) are done for you.

This also brings IBM's eFuse technology for self-repairing chips to mind.

I dont' know if eFuse is in the same vein, but I think that we'll see more FPGA-style chips in space since they might be able to be recoded to work around bad portions of its own silicon; not to mention damaged/broken portions of a spacecraft or robot.

Already being done (to an extent) (2, Interesting)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989551)

For years SAN's from EMC, fault tolerant serves from Stratus, etc. have all had the ability to phone home when they detect a failure is imminent or has occured. Usually the customer doesn't realize there's even a problem until a service tech shows up with replacement parts.

Of course getting this down to the level of home users is still a long way away...

Re:Already being done (to an extent) (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989880)

I think I'd rather have my equipment tell me when theres a problem, so that I can evaluate the risk (do I have redundant systems to handle the failure when it happens) vs. the alternatives (can I repair this myself) vs. the cost (how much does it cost to have a field tech show up unannounced, perform some voodoo on my server, then tell me that whatever is wrong was fixed and won't be a problem? Or is that covered in my support contract?)

Re:Already being done (to an extent) (1)

Feyr (449684) | more than 9 years ago | (#10990762)

with the prices of these babies, it's part of the support contract (and you wouldn't WANT one of them without a support contract!)

Re:Already being done (to an extent) (1)

motherjoe (716821) | more than 9 years ago | (#10994343)

IBM has had the same feature for many years with it's Mainframes, NCPs, and 317X controllers. They would run a POTS line to the equipment and if it encountered a, "Condition", it would phone IBM Service. Then you have dispatch send out a CE to investigate.

Begging the question? (1, Redundant)

vurg (639307) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989557)

Tired of fixing your computer?

I don't think this applies to most of us.

computer system of the future... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10989560)

.. consists of a dog and a man (and a computer of course).

the man is there to feed the dog, the dog is there to keep the man away from the computer

McComputing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10989578)

"Just don't forget what it may do to your job."

You're two years too late. Now would you like fries with that computer?

ah, welcome to the age of... (1)

Baron von Blapp (767958) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989588)

Computers telling you what to do, oh wait. Actually I think we are already there.

"Hal, I think you should install the latest service pack, you have been acting funny lately"

"I cant do that Dave"

they'll just get dumber (3, Funny)

Darthmalt (775250) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989610)

There's a race, Manufactuer's building smarter computers and AOL signing up dumber users.

So far AOL is winning

Re:they'll just get dumber (1)

NetNifty (796376) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989895)

Essentially that is what's been happening so far - previously it was smart users on dumb terminals - now its dumb users on smart(er) machines :P.

In Corea (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10989644)

In Corea, old people gain strength from Autonomic Computing!

a suggestion re: autonomic computing (2, Informative)

ftide (454731) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989650)

Fix moved/broken links:

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=000B0 15 2-8C15-1CDA-B4A8809EC588EEDF&pageNumber=3&catI D=4 cites:
http://swig.stanford.edu/public/publicatio ns

"Not Found

The requested URL /public/publications was not found on this server."

Re:a suggestion re: autonomic computing (1)

museumpeace (735109) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989976)

sorry. its hard to get'em right. The SCIAM link was pasted from a googling session. I have my own digitalsciam account but I know those links can't be passed around. If I try this again, I'll look harder for links that work for all readers. Trouble is they always work for me, testing is tricky...I need to be someone else!

Honest Question (1)

xetaprag (657967) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989659)

How is this idea any different from AI?

Software algorithms sufficiently complex so as to appear as though heuristic. This seems to be a new application for AI.

Re:Honest Question (1)

Baron von Blapp (767958) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989881)

Depends on how you quantify the term "intelligence".

But I dont see how a "self-healing" computer would be AI. AI would not only be able to Heal itself, but Upgrade itself aswell with objects of its own design.

I guess the perfect example would be the AI from any computer game, all its moves are rules based, even IF it is claimed to be dynamic. My reasoning would be that all intelligence is rules based, and the expansion of that intelligence usually comes from ignoring or expanding the set rules that you have come to know...

No AI in any game or program that I have heard of, even the above mentioned one, comes close to being able to build its own rules of governance.

Common humans rules being:
fire = hot
hot = burn
burn = pain

autonomic computing: an old hat (2, Insightful)

geg81 (816215) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989737)

People have been trying to make systems easier to manage for years. Unfortunately, it's not enough to have the desire to make systems self-managing, you also need good ideas for how to do it, and those are still lacking as much as they always have been.

Give the guy credit, though, for seeing a good opportunity. Industry will believe in this silver bullet like they have done in the ones before.

Unfortunately, the real research will still take decades to complete, and then this area will have a bad name just like most of the other overhyped technologies before it.

Re:autonomic computing: an old hat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10990180)

Actually, some companies have already applies these concepts to operating systems, and stuff.

Like, a company I heard in passing called Net Integration Technologies or something like that has a operating system that supposedly is autonomic. Or at least IBM's Autonomic Computing book says some stuff about it. With like NetKnowledge or some weird Network AI software.

Re:autonomic computing: an old hat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10991555)

Actually, some companies have already applies these concepts to operating systems, and stuff.

Actually, lots of companies have been trying to apply lots of things, and it does make some things a little things easier. But it's still a long way away from "autonomic computing".

Like, a company I heard in passing called Net Integration Technologies or something like that has a operating system that supposedly is autonomic

There are lots of autonomic computer systems: they are in your car, in your network router, and in lots of other places. Where they are not is on your desktop and on your server, and that's because it's a lot harder to do there.

Re:autonomic computing: an old hat (1)

MarvinMouse (323641) | more than 9 years ago | (#10993096)

Actually, Net Integration makes a server OS. I used to work for them. http://www.nitix.com is their home page if you are interested.

They claim it's autonomic Linux.

Change how you view yourself and your job... (3, Insightful)

Lodragandraoidh (639696) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989801)

I have been talking about this for years... [slashdot.org]

If the autonomous systems NASA and the ESA have put into the void are any indication, I don't think we have much to worry about - the costs will be prohibitive for all save the largest organizations, and true autonomy (in the form of robotics) will have a whole range of other problems (imagine your main file server getting up and walking out of the data center because it mistakenly assumed there was a fire...)

The key, in the interrum is make yourself indispensible. If you have the mindset that you are a code grinder/monkey and that is all you want to be, then your days are numbered. Your goal should instead be becoming the guy who can put together a complete solution (data, application, hardware, network) in short order that works, scales well, and is extensible by your users. You need to be a jack-of-all-trades. That is how to survive and gain esteem in the eyes of your clients and peers, as I see it.

Re:Change how you view yourself and your job... (2, Funny)

Baal Sebub (797455) | more than 9 years ago | (#10990237)

I don't think we have much to worry about - the costs will be prohibitive for all save the largest organizations

I predict that within 100 years computers will be twice as powerful, 10,000 times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings in Europe will own them.

Re:Change how you view yourself and your job... (1)

Lodragandraoidh (639696) | more than 9 years ago | (#10992474)

There are several technologies/issues that must be conquered in order to have truely autonomous systems:

1. Massively parallel systems/neural nets. In order for a system to be self aware in a significant way it will need to be very smart. The current Von Neuman machines will not accomplish this task; current neural nets approach the intelligence of a cockroach.

2. Self repair. On a software level this is semi-trivial: cfengine, for example, allows an administrator to keep a central 'master' machine that all other hosts validate their configurations against. Changes can be pushed to multiple machines, and if a file on a host is corrupted, the system will 'self heal' by immediately replacing the corrupt file with the correct one on the master machine. However, how would a machine repair its own hardware? This implies standardized modularity above and beyond anything currently in production, as well as an ability to manipulate items in the physical world - a robot in essense. Circuits could be made redundant - however, over years of usage, it would be possible to run out of instances of a critical circuit type - and thus fail - as we have seen on some space missions; massive redundancy is costly and the visual accuity and mechanisms needed for robots to operate in the real world are not close to the flexibility of a human.

3. Ethical and moral considerations. Do we want our networks and data servers automated to the point where we can not ascertain how they work, or even if they are truely secure? Do we want self-aware systems that could potentially make decisions that are not in our best interests? (Watch the Terminator movie series for an example of why this could be bad in the longterm). Do you want to put your bank account information into a machine that is autonomous where there is no accountability? How will we correct such problems if they develop (assuming we lose our technological skills).

This is why it is a Grand Challenge - it is a quantum leap beyond everything that has come before. Can it be done? I believe so. Will it be done in my lifetime? I am not sure. Should it be done? Maybe - understanding that everything created by man is imperfect and these machines have the potential to not only help us a great deal, but conversely to harm us at the same magnitude if malformed.

Re:Change how you view yourself and your job... (1)

Scott7477 (785439) | more than 9 years ago | (#10992319)

Reading this comment made me imagine the main file server getting up and walking out of the data center because it was tired of all the user errors.."Take your input and shove it!"

Hardware (1)

Hobadee (787558) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989823)

The problem is that we still rely on hardware! Software is limitless without hardware, but the stupid hardware people insit on limiting our abilities! If we didn't have hardware, the software would be easy to fix, just patch it and upload the new version!

Re:Hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10990110)

I realize you're trying to be funny, but hardware does not have to be the limiting factor.

FPGA chips, which have become ever present in many industries, allow for fixing the hardware through patches. FPGAs can be included in the design just for the ability to fix problems after a board has been designed.

I'm guessing the space industry would be using these heavily, however I wouldn't expect to find them in the cheap consumer hardware industry (like your home computer).

However hardware is only one part of the equation, often in device that would rely on this have mechanical components as well. Hard to fix a solar panel that has been sheared off remotely ...


Re:Hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10991180)

If the software guys would stop _wasting_ all the advances made by the hardware guys, you wouldn't have to worry about the hardware going obsolete. There's no reason our software has to be as hideously inefficient as it currently is, except that software development companies are lazy.

Said as a software guy.

Pop-up warning! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10989836)

Your computer is dangerously insentient, infected with spyware, unoptimized, and currently broadcasting your IP TO THE WORLD! In short, your computer isn't even as smart as a monkey.

Loss of revenue (1)

jmcwork (564008) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989844)

Just think of all of the service contract revenue that would be lost. Also, how much R&D money will go into systems like these? Then, what will the price of these systems (at least early ones) look like to make back that money? Most importantly, what about people like me that use the phrase 'Honey, the computer just died' as an excuse to upgrade???


Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10989894)

Blue screen of never mind, I took care of it.

CISCO's CSR-1 already does this (3, Insightful)

flyingrobots (704155) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989909)

I wouldn't consider this to be new...rather it's the idea of this that is starting to propigate.

CISCO's new 92 terabit/sec router already has some of these features. The OS they used to build the system supports many of these features (high availability, self healing, etc).

http://www.qnx.com/markets/networking_telecom/cisc o/ [qnx.com]

http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps5763/index.h tml [cisco.com]

It's a self healing system. It uses the services and functionality of the OS to accomplish it.

QNX's networking system is really neat because it allows processes to be independent of where they actually run on a network. And the network can be anything (i.e. a backplane, Ethernet, whatever). So it lends itself to solving such a problem.

Gold plated flyswatter. (1)

yorkpaddy (830859) | more than 9 years ago | (#10989973)

I understand that autonomic computing is really neat. I understand that it is a dificult problem mathematically and programatically. It doesn't help me much or the average end user. I see the next great advance in computers being a technology that was discovered/invented 20 years ago. It won't be the technology, but how it is presented to the user. I understand that research for these two projects can occur concurrently. I would just rather see people get excited about using old technology that actually works rather than new tech that hasn't even been invented yet

No program could ever be smart enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10990166)

No program could ever be smart enough to handle the things that the dumbest users can come up with.

Imagine, the dumbest of the dumb can out(dumb)smart the smartest programs.

It will be a cold day on Earth after Ice-9 is released that a machine will be able to detect its dvd-rom drive being used as a coffee holder.

Seconday thermocouple anyone? (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 9 years ago | (#10990264)

I think it is funny that this talk automatically moved (no i didn't read the article you insensitive clod!) to nanobots and self-repairing systems! Why wouldn't it be cheaper/easier (is today in compu hardware anyway, ever see someone 'fix' a computer... they take old modular bits and replace them with new modular bits), do to have heavily redundant systems... So throw away that hydrospanner, just activate seconday, or tieriary systems, or 4th etc... use advanced minituration to stuff as many redundant systems as you can in a given application... that way when say your "astrocraft" is like 8 billion km away you are not worried about complex decision making nano bots repairing damaged components... something no work, /autoflipswitch/, bingo new system online... rinse and repeat. Dunno seems simple to me...
neway my 2 cents,

Re:Seconday thermocouple anyone? (1)

Hellraisr (305322) | more than 9 years ago | (#10990414)

The shuttles already have I believe four-way redundant systems. Also mainframes have always had this as far as I know.

This doesn't stop any of these systems from blowing up on the landing pad.

Not that I"ve RTFA .. (1)

ezzzD55J (697465) | more than 9 years ago | (#10990269)

.. but what makes me sceptical about machines that can fix themselves - if they're smart enough to understand what's wrong, they shouldn't break in the first place..

Re:Not that I"ve RTFA .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10991578)

You are thinking of it in the wrong way. Take yourself for instance, generally you know what to do when you get a cut, you put a band-aid on it, when you break your leg, you put it in a cast, but knowing that you have to do these things when you get hurt won't keep you from getting hurt in the first place.

NASA, grabbing credit as usual (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 9 years ago | (#10990511)

All NASA did here was provide the meeting space. IBM and some universities are doing the work. But in the article, NASA gets mentioned twice.

Actually, increasing system reliability and restartability isn't fundamentally all that hard. It's trying to do it in the presence of the vast amount of dreck on Microsoft systems that makes it difficult.

The 4 Rs, matey (3, Insightful)

tootlemonde (579170) | more than 9 years ago | (#10990562)

The IBM links says, under "The Solution":

Autonomic computing: a systemic view of computing modeled after a self-regulating biological system.

In conventional system design, the Rs of reliable systems are: (1) Robust, (2) Repair, and (3) Redundant.

  • Robust means the system is less likely to fail.
  • Repair means a secondary system looks for signs of failure in the primary system and repairs the problem.
  • Redundant means a secondary system takes over when the primary system fails.

Biological systems use all three methods to varying degrees but the problem is that biological systems do not survive as individuals, they survive as a species by tolerating a high degree of failure and using a fourth R: Replication.

For computer systems, this biological systems approach would mean replacing every component of the system on a regular basis the way all the cells in the human body are completely replaced every seven years. Periodically, you would throw out the entire system and replace it with two or three new ones that have undergone a period of testing and development.

The replication approach, which is key to the survival of biological systems, runs counter to most business thinking, which is to replace multiple systems with fewer, more powerful systems. This limits reliability to the first three Rs.

There is much that can be done to increase reliability with these 3 Rs but if biological systems are any indication (as well as some theoretical limits), they are inadequate.

The problem of reliability could ultimately be a flaw in the way business works rather than a technical problem.

Re:The 4 Rs, matey (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | more than 9 years ago | (#10991066)

"The problem of reliability could ultimately be a flaw in the way business works rather than a technical problem."

Well of course it is; business is *all* about making as fast a profit for your shareholders as possible. And thats really all there is to it.

Putting time into consolidating your existing systems is often seen as pointless; why make existing systems more reliable when you can use that time to build new systems for new clients.

Oh and by the way, when the existing systems go wrong and have to be fixed, you get to charge for it.

Personally, I believe that the way computer systems are built and maintained today is *primitive*.

I can see the way forward and the article gesticulates in that direction, but believe me, its *not* popular with management.

Could National Lampoon have been wrong? (1)

cogito ergo blog (830437) | more than 9 years ago | (#10990786)

Be comforted that in the face of all aridity & disillusionment and despite the changing fortunes of time, there will always be a big future in computer maintenance.

"Deteriorata" - National Lampoon - 1972

We already have this! (1)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 9 years ago | (#10990973)

We already have self-repairing computers. Haven't you ever used to Windows Troubleshooter?!

Autonmic Computing: Another Near Impact Object (2, Interesting)

Ted Holmes (827243) | more than 9 years ago | (#10990993)

Autonomic computing means a computing system which is self-configuring, self-healing, self-optimizing, and self-protecting.

As we modelled the eye to build cameras, the brain to build computers, the ear to build speakers, we're modeling our autonomic nervous system to build the next evolutionary step in computing. Networks that independently and reflexively self -regulate, configure, repair, optimize, and protect in the same sense as an immune system or an automatic pilot.

This would allow the network to automatically manage server load balancing, process allocation, monitor the power supply, automatic update software and fend off threats without having to consult the administrator.

For example, if an application starts performing badly, it automatically receives increased resources. If software or hardware fails, it doesn't even ripple the end users coffee. An autonomous computing system would roll out new patches, monitor and adjust the resources singular end users need, set up servers... all the mundane stuff.

The complexity of integrating and managing the latest hardware and software into existing systems is destroying the advantages of economies of scale. Autonomic computing is one way of insulating the IT administrator from the mundane complexities and freeing them to do other more interesting things like understanding the needs of the business more, or modelling and automating existing business processes.

On a larger scale, it spells an evolutionary move towards a decentralized global self-configuring, self-healing, self-optimizing, and self-protecting nervous system. Since Autonomic Computing can look for patterns in data and extrapolate to predict future events, deployed on a global scale, the spin-offs would be very interesting.

First Po..Wait a minute, wait a minute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10991368)

This post's Alpha Echo three five unit will go 100% failure in 5 minutes. Commander Taco, please go eva to replace unit Alpha Echo three five...

A Dark Side (1)

Skip666Kent (4128) | more than 9 years ago | (#10991405)

My addition to the 'maybe this is not such a great idea' meme would be the idea that longer life-spans for adults would lead to an increasingly greater de-valuation of children, whom would increasingly be seen as competition rather than the hope of a new generation.

UPS (2, Funny)

east coast (590680) | more than 9 years ago | (#10991484)

What if your system broke down two billion miles from the nearest spare part or human?

I think they'll do a one-day deliver on this for a small surcharge.

Luddite (1)

St. Arbirix (218306) | more than 9 years ago | (#10991566)

Just don't forget what it may do to your job.

Where in history has scientific advancement *not* removed the need for some jobs? When we're basically working towards efficiency the end product of all the technological revolutions will be no one needing any jobs. Self fixing machines leads to a whole mechanical metabolism for the world which humans will be able to leech off of ad infinitum.

Until, of course, our more luddite/conservative/squeemish types rise up and destroy the atmosphere trying to kill all the machines, in which case we'll all get stuck in glass tubes with machines leeching power off of us.

Heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10993980)

I'd expect something incredibly retarded like that from a Clemson Tiger. Go get your ass beat by Texas A&M again, idiot.

The Machine's Selfestimination Factor (1)

Zx-man (759966) | more than 9 years ago | (#10992065)

As a matter of face, it would be quite logical to notice, that completeness in computing autonomy could be achived only in one way; and that way is basically making computing all-sufficient. Which, in general, meens for it not to require any human intervention after the system's in standard execution mode == up'n'running. That is, the solution for this problem is quite simple and extraordinarily xomplex & important for humanity @ the same time: AI, in the classical acceptance, creation of a ...

- Zx-man (zx-man@ukr.net)

Stoner Ep. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10992630)

In Soviet Russia, Regenerationg Robotic Overlord with shotguns, machine guns, and available rocket launchers watches you.

Oblig. SkyNet post (1)

MMHere (145618) | more than 9 years ago | (#10993260)

So if your computer system is smart enough to adapt to troubles around it and internal "breakdowns" by changing itself, isn't this simply machine evolution?

How long until same computers consider meat puppet life forms to be a troubling virus infecting their planet, and standing in the way of fixing "breakdowns?"

Routing round failed silicon (1)

twem2 (598638) | more than 9 years ago | (#10995851)

I have a friend who worked on this a bit for NASA. Its purely hardware based stuff, to do with fixing broken chips in flight and reducing the amount of redundant hardware needed. Admittedly its a very specialised area but an interesting one.
The solution she was looking at was to use FPGAs to implement the hardware and when part of the silicon became damaged to use software to redesign the layout of the circuits to route around the damaged area.
Its basically a SAT problem, finding a suitable SAT solving algorithm seems to be the main problem with this.

bullshit bingo? (1)

RedLaggedTeut (216304) | more than 9 years ago | (#10996034)

While some good stuff will come out this idea, I think that a lot of it is bullshit or rehashed existing ideas.

Now the one good thing I see is sharing computing cycles. But even to do this, you have to define the mentioned service contracts, so you'll end up with a lot of accounting ("micropayments") for who helped whom when. Of course, IBM would like to do that accouting.

Now this "self-healing system" idea that IBM is hyping everytime it gets the chance, isn't that just a rehash of Suns/Oracles idea of server-based software, or of autoupdates? All this sounds good at first, but you might remember a lot of software that was free and that was "updated" with a newer versions which was not free or reduced in capability. Or maybe the update just hogs more of my precious disk space - you'd die laughing if you knew how precious little is left on my OS partition. Not to speak of conflicts between updates. Or tons of conflicts like "cannot install Firefox because it conflicts with existing version of IE".

Now all this stuff about allocating resources for me, for example if I need more storage space .. How can I trust any free provider of storage space to be online at the moment I need him or at all? I might just as well steganograph my data into prn pics, and upload it on p2p networks, even that approach would be more useful.

Well, it will be nice to have some of this stuff, but I'd feel safer with the stuff that is already being made in separate projects, and being made in nice separate parcels that I can control.

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