I saw this article on Autonomic Computing in Information Week - In HAL's footsteps - and it made me think of how business rules are being used to build diagnostic and often self-diagnostic systems. The article talked alot about the need for vendors to integrate hardware, provide common standards etc. It seems to me though that once all the infrastructure is in place, there will still need to be a "smart" layer that can take decisions operationally. This layer would exhibit all the features of an Enterprise Decision Management solution:
- It would use business rules to record procedures, best practices, rules of thumb from experts as to how to respond to particular failures, how to interpret readings, how to select new routings around failed equipment.
- It would use predictive analytics to turn historical log data into executable predictive models. These might take temperature data and use it to predict the likelihod of failure of a piece of hardware or traffic data to predict a bottleneck. Other models might use Neural Network technology to "learn" from patterns of data and identify unusual variations and even unusual variations from the usual variations.
- Clearly these predictions result in the need for more rules to deal with these predictions - I might behave differently in response to an potential for overheating when traffic is low and I have spare capacity than when it is really high and I do not, for instance.
- Lastly companies might want to run simulation of how a set of decisions might impact uptime, throughput etc for different constraints so as to develop optimal strategies over time.
One example of this is Sun's use of Blaze Advisor in their Sun Preventive Services offering. Another example of this kind of work would be Seagate Technologies. If I think about the companies I deal with, however, the majority of the work of this kind today is in the Telecom space where companies are already using business rules to manage faults and failures, re-route services to working equipment, calculate impacts on SLAs and dispatch engineers when needed.
Autonomic computing may still be a vision but people are already using business rules and analytics, EDM, to deliver on some of its promises.