Henry David Thoreau once said, "Simplify, simplify." Yet had he seen the massive infrastructure that is information technology as we know it today, he might have been dumbfounded. Albert Einstein may have been a bit more realistic when he said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

Over the course of the past two decades, the development of new technology, the proliferation of new devices and the vast increase in raw computing power have caused a phenomenal growth in the IT world. These new offerings - coupled with the rise of the Internet - have led to new heights of productivity and accessibility to other people, to other systems and, most importantly, to information. At the same time as we benefit from new capabilities, the need exists to manage and maintain them, requiring the construction of new systems.

Fifteen years ago, 75 percent of IT budgets were spent on new hardware and software. In contrast, a 2004 study by Gartner indicated that 60 to 80 percent of the average company's IT budget is spent on simply maintaining existing legacy applications. With that in mind, it stands to reason that the vendors who deliver a simpler solution are the ones likely to win in the future.

Server units are growing at a rate of 20 percent, making them very difficult to manage and maintain. Global server support costs could be in excess of $140 billion in 2008, more than twice the estimated $60 billion of hardware that is expected to be sold.

IT infrastructure will expand significantly over the next few years, requiring a clear need to automate many of the functions associated with computing today. The answer, it seems, lies in continuing the drive to make our systems simpler, both for the user and the administrator.

By continuing to simplify the processes, interfaces and structures by which we run our information networks, we can boost both our ability and productivity. Sony, TiVo and Google have all made obvious efforts to boost the ease of use of their consumer products.

For the IT industry, the solution lies in a new system where important and vital computing operations can run with far less need for human supervision or intervention. By taking time away from managing the infrastructure, we can more effectively use our resources to push forward, rather than staying behind to mend the structure.

This system is much like the human body. Thanks to your autonomic nervous system, critical body functions (such as breathing, heart rate and digestive processes) are conducted, adjusted and evaluated with little or no thought. Were it not for this system, we would spend nearly all of our time focusing upon those tasks.

In the IT industry, the new model is forcing the development of distributed networks that are largely self-managing, self-diagnostic and transparent to the user. By being able to access data from multiple distributed sources, companies can let users transparently access information when and where they need it.

New computer systems, software, storage and support must be flexible, accessible and fully transparent from a user perspective. They must be available on demand, anywhere, anytime. The newest autonomic systems are delivering on the concept that users can search data through an approach that is open to all platforms and devices, is always on and available, and is capable of performing its tasks and adapting to the users' demands without requiring users to navigate an intricate barrage of unnecessary details.

The goal is to realize the promise of IT: increasing the productivity of IT professionals while minimizing complexity for users. We need to build computing systems that are capable of running themselves, making adjustments and efficiently handling whatever we throw at them - under human control,  of course.

Complexity will never vanish, but by adopting autonomic systems to simplify and streamline the workload of IT professionals, we can make systems work for us, not against us.

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