Activity streams and social networks now represent a fundamental aspect of the modern application. We use activity streams on Twitter to converse in 140 characters or less. We use the “like” gesture on Facebook to show approval for an update to a friend’s activity stream.
In the enterprise, Salesforce.com Chatter uses activity streams to show application updates. Enterprise social network Tibco Tibbr users may create data hubs by geotagging places. For instance, an airport gate can be tagged to give agents, pilots and flight attendants relevant information as they approach it.
These services represent what is to come as social networking becomes a way for humans and machines to orchestrate complex adaptive systems. To make these systems work we will have to provide machines with social networks so they may gain identity, develop relationships and make friends.
At VMworld this week, VMware’s Tim Young showed me how the company’s R&D department is using Socialcast’s enterprise social network to give hosts and virtual machines ways to communicate with each other. What they created demonstrates how social media technologies can be applied to a corporate data center environment.
In the VMware model, an IT administrator can populate a social network by mapping the hosts and its virtual machines. The company directory in Socialcast then shows the hosts and its relationships. People ar listed along with the virtualized infrastructure.
Social networks serve people as ways to communicate the way we live and work. A machine’s social network can serve similar purposes. The machines can have friends or even families that live in “clusters.” Each machine can learn from the individuals or communities in the collective group. They know when one is sick. They can relate to other machines and the way they feel.
At VMworld,in Monday’s keynote, the attendees saw a demo for how this might work. It shows how a social network populated with machines can spread word to each other. When one host finds an issue, it updates its activity stream. Other hosts and virtual machines will “like,” the update if they are having similar issues.
The VMware example points to an inevitable future. The machines will have a voice. They will communicate in increasingly human-like ways. In the near term, the advancements in the use of social technologies will provide contextual ways to manage data centers. Activity streams serve as the language that people understand. They help translate the interactions between machines so problems can be diagnosed faster.
By treating machines as individuals we can better provide visualizations to orchestrate complex provisioning and management tasks. That is inevitable in a world which requires more simple ways to orchestrate the increasingly dynamic nature for the ways we humans live and work with the machines among us.