New IBM Software Can Predict Failures

If you knewwhen and where you were to going have an auto accident, and could take steps toavoid it, would you? The answer is obvious. Now IBM claims it can keep itsservers from having the computer equivalent of a three-car pileup with newpredictive software for its line of xSeries Web servers.

TomBradicich, CTO for IBM’s Intel-based server line, says IBM will ship itspredictive software rejuvenation product in the first quarter of 2001.

Predictivesoftware rejuvenation, Bradicich says, is a way to determine if something isgoing to hang a server before it does, allowing for preventative measures.

The mainreason software hangs is because resources are used up and not released,Bradicich says. For example, if several programs with multiple windows areopen, when the applications are closed they disappear from the screen but stillhog memory. When a new program is opened, the new program doesn’t have anymemory to use, gets confused, and hangs the server.

“That’s amajor reason for software hangs,” Bradicich says. “The only way to fix that isthrough a rebirth of the system.” Predictive software rejuvenation has the sameeffect of rebooting a server, in that it frees up those resources again. Butsince the user is warned beforehand, the system never hangs in the first place,eliminating downtime. “The software tells you you’re going to hang,” Bradicichexplains.

The productis an important addition to IBM Director, Big Blue’s management software thatships with every Windows-based xSeries Web server. Software rejuvenation, whichdoes the same thing as predictive software rejuvenation but without the abilityto predict software failure, has been a part of IBM Director for about a year.

Tom Manter,research director for Windows 2000 technologies and platforms at AberdeenGroup, thinks IT managers will like the upgrade. Predictive softwarerejuvenation, he says, “takes software rejuvenation to next level. IS managersare trying to better manage their environment, and any tools that help managethat are welcomed by the community.”

It’s all aboutuptime, says Bradicich: “Reliability is very important to business -- costs canrun from tens of thousands of dollars per minute to millions per minute. Uptimeis absolutely critical.”

The problemin the past is that Web farm uptime has been more closely connected with Unixservers running Apache than Windows boxes running Internet Information Server.But with this latest offerings, Bradicich says, “We’re upping the standard forIntel-based servers.”

Alsoraising the bar is IBM’s inclusion of several high-end technologies on itsxSeries servers that were developed over the years for its larger and moreexpensive machines. They include technologies like light-path diagnostics,which is a path of light pointing to a non-working part, and the common diagnosticmodel, a standard developed in conjunction with Microsoft, Intel, and PCDoctor. The common diagnostic model allows managers to run diagnostic utilitieswhile the server is running. Previously, Windows servers had to be takenoffline to run the utilities.

“I thinkIBM has done a very, very good job with taking its expertise in other areas and[moving it into] Intel-based and Windows-based offerings,” Manter says.

The xSeriesis IBM’s Windows and Linux-based line of appliance servers. The primary Web serveris the x330, unveiled last October. It’s a 1U server that can hold up to twoPentium processors, and includes a daisy-chain configuration in back thateliminates much of the keyboard-video-mouse (KVM) cabling common withrack-mount configurations.

IBM isaiming the xSeries at both the high-end Sun and lower-end appliance markets.


IBM Corp., Armonk, N.Y.,

AberdeenGroup Inc., Boston,