IBM has already invested $6 billion in building up its business in India, and now comes a new initiative that, while not a bank-breaker, points to the company's resolve to win big in the outsourcing biz. Put it succinctly, the strategy is: Brains, not brawn. IBM on April 3 announced it has established a new software lab in Bangalore (35 researchers so far, and growing) dedicated to automating tasks in the huge data centers that it operates all over the world.

IBM calls this discipline autonomics. The company launched this initiative in 2001 to create self-managing systems to overcome the complexity of computing--which threatens to slow its adoption. The company has about 150 dedicated autonomics researchers in labs in Raleigh, Toronto, Yamato, Japan, and, now, Bangalore. It also has a few hundred people in IBM Research and the software product groups that work on this stuff. As a result, it already had 500 self-managing features in 75 distinct products.

But Ric Telford, vice-president of Autonomic Computing, says that’s just the start. “Over the past couple of years we have made each of the components of a data center more self managing. But now we need to pull it all together and make it easier to run the data center at the macro level. We want to be able to set objectives for availability and performance and have the system react to the policies,” he says.

IBM has two major data centers in India, in Bangalore and Pune, plus operations centers there where it remotely manages other data centers around the world.

While IBM believes autonomics can save corporations money (between 20% to 50% on pilot programs it has run), “The real goal isn’t pure cost savings,” says Telford. “It’s to free people up to make IT work for the business. You take out the operational problems that are taking up peoples’ time.”

This is the ultimate answer to low-cost Indian labor. Use a relative handful of really smart Indians to help automate IT processes rather than throwing armies of people at drudge work.

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