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Moving Toward Self-awareness

By Mark Willoughby
March 7, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - In the beginning, there was management and security. By today's standards, they were relatively unsophisticated -- the management of a host system and the security of its users. Then came the network. It had to be monitored and controlled to orchestrate all the devices sending packets around. The network also introduced the concept of perimeter security to make sure only authorized users could access the trusted resources.
From these humble beginnings, security and management have spiraled into layer upon layer of complexity as we accelerate toward the adaptive enterprise vision. The Information Age is all about always-on, on-demand resources and utility computing. Consider the crowded management milieu today. We have, to name a few, the management of services, infrastructure, storage, configurations, data centers, traffic, applications, devices of all types, content and compliance, as well as security and identities.
Security and identity management crosses into the security zone. Here the pace of innovation is driven wildly by malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance. The issues that matter here are security for users, storage, configurations, data, applications, devices of all types and content -- the list starts to resemble the one for management.
Much is being written about how the overlap is blurring the historic divide between management and security. Configurations are now a chicken-and-egg dialectic of tight management for strong security versus tight security for strong management. Software patches must be automatically distributed, installed and tested to buttress security on millions of devices around the globe. Network traffic must be monitored to thwart debilitating denial-of-service attacks.
There's no end in sight as autonomic computing gains momentum. But getting to this goal of the on-demand, always-on information infrastructure is going to require new capabilities beyond today's relatively crude management and security tools.
The tools we use for management and security are mostly empirical. We watch and accumulate information so we can react to or, preferably, anticipate situations. The sheer volume of data that must be monitored across the autonomic infrastructure will render empirical management impractical.
Smart vendors, seeking competitive advantage, are adding modeling capabilities to put more intelligence into the adaptive infrastructure. Modeling is the key ingredient for an intelligent infrastructure capable of quickly scaling to meet the demands of change.
These first tools mostly bring deductive reasoning for "what-if" modeling to support the first generation of adaptive infrastructure. What-if modeling predicts the impact of changes to some discrete element buried inside a layer of the information infrastructure. Sophisticated deductive modeling considers the result of changes in two or even three variables. Real-world applications of this have brought us relatively well-behaved



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