We are all working toward an era of autonomics ‒ a time when machines not only automate key processes and tasks, but truly begin to analyse and make decisions for themselves. We are on the cusp of a golden age for our ability to utilise the capacity of the machines that we create.
There is a lot of research about autonomic cloud computing and therefore there are a lot of definitions as to what it is. The definition from webopedia probably does the best job at describing autonomic computing.
It is, it says: “A type of computing model in which the system is self-healing, self-configured, self-protected and self-managed. Designed to mimic the human body’s nervous system in that the autonomic nervous system acts and reacts to stimuli independent of the individual’s conscious input.
“An autonomic computing environment functions with a high level of artificial intelligence while remaining invisible to the users. Just as the human body acts and responds without the individual controlling functions (e.g., internal temperature rises and falls, breathing rate fluctuates, glands secrete hormones in response to stimulus), the autonomic computing environment operates organically in response to the input it collects.”
Some of the features of autonomic computing are available today for organisations that have completed – or at least partly completed – their journey to the cloud. The more information that machines can interpret, the more opportunity they have to understand the world around them.
It spells the death of the artisan IT worker – a person working exclusively with one company, maintaining the servers and systems that kept a company running. Today, the ‘cloud’ has literally turned computing on its head. Companies can access computing services and storage at the click of a button, providing scalability, agility and control to exactly meet their needs. Companies pay for what they get and can scale up or down instantly. What’s more, they don’t need their army of IT artisans to keep the operation running.
This, of course, assumes that the applications that leverage the cloud have been developed to be native using a model like the one developed by Adam Wiggins, who co-founded Heroku. However, many current applications and the software stacks that support them can also use the cloud successfully.
More and more companies are beginning to realise the benefit that cloud can provide, either private, public or hybrid. For start-ups, the decision is easy. They are ‘cloud first’ businesses with no overheads or legacy IT infrastructure to slow them down. For CIOs of larger organisations, it’s a different picture. They need to move from a complex, heterogeneous IT infrastructure into the highly orchestrated and automated – and ultimately, highly scalable and autonomic – homogeneous new world.
CIOs are looking for companies with deep domain expertise as well as infrastructure at scale. In the switch to cloud services, the provision of managed services remains essential. To ensure a smooth and successful journey to the cloud, enterprises need a company that can bridge the gap between the heterogeneous and homogeneous infrastructure.
Using a trusted service provider to bridge that gap is vital to maintain a consistent service level to the business users that use or consume the application being hosted. But a cloud user has many more choices to make in the provision of their services. Companies can take a ‘do it myself approach’, where they are willing to outsource their web platform but keep control of testing and development. Alternatively, they can take a ‘do it with me’ approach, working closely with a provider in areas such as managed security and managed application services. This spreads the responsibility between the customer and provider, which can be decided at the outset of the contract.
In the final ‘do it for me’ scenario, trust in the service provider is absolute. It allows the enterprise customer to focus fully on the business outcomes. As more services are brought into the automation layer, delivery picks up speed which in turn means quick, predictable and high-quality service.
Hybrid cloud presents a scenario of the ‘best of both worlds’. Companies are secure in the knowledge that their most valuable data assets are still either on premise in the company’s own private servers or within a trusted hosting facility utilising isolated services. At the same time, they can rely on the flexibility of cloud to provide computing services that can be scaled up or down at will, at a much better price point than would otherwise be the case.
Companies who learn to trust their service provider will get the best user experience. In essence, the provider must become an extension of the customer’s business and not operate on the fringes as a vendor.
People, processes and technology all go together to create an IT solution. But they need to integrate between the company and the service provider as part of a cohesive solution to meet the company’s needs. The solution needs to be relevant for today but able to evolve in the future as business priorities change. Only then can we work toward a future where autonomics begins to play a much bigger part in our working lives.
Eventually, autonomic computing can evolve almost naturally, much like human intelligence has over the millennia. The only difference is that with cloud computing the advances will be made in years, not thousands of years. We are not there yet, but watch this space. In your lifetime, we are more than likely to make that breakthrough to lead us into a brave new world of cloud computing.
Written by Jamie Tyler, CenturyLink’s Director of Solutions Engineering, EMEA