IBM took another small step toward bringing its 15-month vision of On Demand computing to the real world on Wednesday, rolling out an IT service that helps corporate users remotely automate and manage datacentres made up of a patchwork of different platforms.

Aimed primarily at users owning and operating their own IT equipment and personnel, the service is centered around the company's Universal Management Infrastructure (UMI). The IBM Global Services e-Technology Center created the UMI, which is an IT-oriented framework that enables IBM to help corporate users to create a more flexible business that allocates IT resources as needed.

"This is delivering on that promise our chairman [Sam Palmisano] made in October 2002 (regarding) the infrastructure level. This will go a long ways for those users who want help in managing their own environment based around UMI," said Dev Mukherjee, vice president of marketing and strategy for e-Business On Demand in IBM's Global Services unit.

One example of how the new service helps users be more responsive to sometimes quickly changing business needs, it has a "sense-and-response" feature server with storage provisioning capabilities that can increase or decrease computing capacity in real time, as the situation dictates.

"A fact of life is users have all these islands of infrastructure. With this service we can go in and look at their current infrastructure, do an assessment and offer them guidance where they can be more efficient within that infrastructure. It will not be a rip and replace strategy, but [it will be] building upon what users already have," Mukherjee explained.

Other new offerings provided by the service include Infrastructure Management Assessment Service, which evaluates not just individual components but the architecture they are attached to, and the Tivoli Intelligent Orchestrator, which senses where resources are needed and then helps deploy them there.

"The Tivoli Orchestrator, which we acquired in the Think Dynamics deal, will move pieces of the server and software environment around as usage increases and decreases. When it decreases you can drop components back into a free pool where the system can reallocate them from, say, the Web site to the development environment," Mukherjee said.

Another new offering is called the Web Server Orchestration, which is a blade server-based Web and application server automation solution, a company spokesman said.