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autonomic computing

Autonomic computing is a self-managing computing model named after, and patterned on, the human body's autonomic nervous system. An autonomic computing system would control the functioning of computer applications and systems without input from the user, in the same way that the autonomic nervous system regulates body systems without conscious input from the individual. The goal of autonomic computing is to create systems that run themselves, capable of high-level functioning while keeping the system's complexity invisible to the user.

Autonomic computing is one of the building blocks of pervasive computing, an anticipated future computing model in which tiny - even invisible - computers will be all around us, communicating through increasingly interconnected networks. Many industry leaders, including IBM, HP, Sun, and Microsoft are researching various components of autonomic computing. IBM's project is one of the most prominent and developed initiatives. In an effort to promote open standards for autonomic computing, IBM recently distributed a document that it calls "a blueprint for building self-managing systems," along with associated tools to help put the concepts into practice. Net Integration Technologies advertises its Nitix product as "the world's first autonomic server operating system."

According to IBM, there are eight crucial elements in an autonomic computing system: it must maintain comprehensive and specific knowledge about all its components; it must have the ability to self-configure to suit varying and possibly unpredictable conditions; it must constantly monitor itself for optimal functioning; it must be self-healing and able to find alternate ways to function when it encounters problems; it must be able to detect threats and protect itself from them; it must be able to adapt to environmental conditions; it must be based on open standards rather than proprietary technologies; and it must anticipate demand while remaining transparent to the user.

This was last updated in April 2006

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