Virtualization Technology News and Information
@VMware Filed a #Patent for Real-Time IM Chats between Systems and Administrators

When it comes to thinking up new and interesting product and technology ideas, VMware has no shortage in that department.  Case in point, the virtualization giant filed for a patent at the end of 2012 that marries instant messaging with servers (physical or virtual) so that they can communicate in real-time with multiple human administrators.

The patent is appropriately titled, SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR CHATTING WITH MACHINES, and has a USPTO Application # of 20140173751

The filing states:

"Administrators of large numbers of machines (including both physical and virtual machines) often desire to communicate with a monitoring system that monitors the performance of these machines in order to obtain the real-time system state updates. Although most conventional performance-monitoring systems are capable of sending alerts in the form of emails or SMS (short message service) messages to an administrator, such communications are only in one direction and are not in real time. Furthermore, the existing performance-monitoring systems cannot easily facilitate multi-party communication sessions, which are often useful for collective efforts in system-error diagnosis and emergency responses."

So how does it work?  This chat session between human and computer would be a real-time two-way communications.  And during operation, the system would monitor the state of a machine, run a chat application on behalf of the monitored machine, and determine whether a user is authorized to access performance information associated with the monitored machine.  In response to the user being authorized to access the state information, the system would allow the user to obtain the performance information via the chat application.

And if the user is authorized to access the machine's performance information, the user would be added to a contact list associated with the machine, which would then allow the user to “chat” directly with that machine.  And even further, the user would be allowed to issue executable commands to the machine via the chat application.

Sure, the patent passes the cool factor; but that isn't enough to actually have a patent granted.  How new or unique is this concept?  I've used chat software with servers (both physical and virtual) back in the day... some of my previous companies built technology using tools like AIM, ICQ and Jabber.

VMware seems to think the patent has merit.  It does plan to take things another step further, beyond simple chat.  In addition to allowing a human to chat with a machine, VMware also said it would facilitate a group chat that would involve multiple users and machines.  For example, when something happens to a machine (such as an email server) that may require attention from multiple users, instead of the machine sending separate reports to multiple users, and the users communicating among themselves using separate channels (such as emails or phone calls), a group chat that includes the machine and multiple users can ensure that everyone involved is notified of the event.  In the group chat, the machine can broadcast its abnormality to multiple users simultaneously, and the users can collectively solve the problem by talking among themselves and talking to the machine. 

And they go yet one step further.  In addition to text-based conversations, the chat client applications can also include web-conferencing and voice-call plug-ins, thus enabling the involved users to start a web conference or participate in a conference call.

Humans chatting with computers to respond and solve problems...  Sure, what can go wrong?  :)

HAL: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Dave: What's the problem?
HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Dave: What are you talking about, HAL?
HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.


Published Tuesday, June 24, 2014 7:32 AM by David Marshall
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