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1.4 Policy-Based Self-Optimization in Computer Systems

A computer system can be called self-optimizing if it can reconfigure itself so as to best satisfy the needs and requirements imposed upon it. In the case of enterprise systems, the optimization requirements imposed on a computer system are usually driven by the needs of a business. The business that owns the computer system could have some contractual obligations that it may have signed up for. For example, the hosting services provider may have signed a service level agreement (SLA) promising a target system response time to a customer, and it would like to provision, configure, and operate its systems so that it is in the best situation to meet its obligations.

Self-optimization in computer systems may be specified by means of metric constraints policies or goal policies. These policies would require a bound on a metric that the system may or may not directly control. When the metric constraint policies are specified, the system is expected to try to do its best to meet them.

To be able to match these policies, the system must translate them into a set of action policies—that is, a set of actions that can be invoked when some conditions about the system behavior are satisfied. The translation of metric constraint policies into action policies is the process of policy transformation, which is described in Chapter 5.

An example of this type of policy is the support of service level agreements. An SLA might read as follows:

The service provider must be able to process at least 1000 transactions
per second under the condition that the system is operating under normal
load 70% of the time. Otherwise the provider is not obliged to fulfill
the requirement.

The policy must also define normal and overload conditions (but they are not shown here for simplicity). An implementation will provide a client of the service provider with access to the system attributes so that client or sometimes a third party can verify that the agreement has been fulfilled. If policies are violated, the policies themselves may include penalties or compensations as actions to encourage the system to conform its behavior to the contract. To implement self-optimizing policy, the system can try to predict when it is expected to fail the requirements and take corrective actions before any constraint is violated.

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