Modern networks offer end-to-end connectivity however, the increasing amount of traditional offered services may still not fulfill the requirements of ever demanding distributed applications and must therefore be enriched by some form of increased intelligence in the network. This is where the promise of autonomous systems comes into play. Paul Horn of IBM Research first suggested the idea of autonomic computing on October 15, 2001 at the Agenda Conference in Ari- zona. The need centers around the exponential growth of networking complexity. Autonomous systems are capable of performing activities by taking into account the local environment and adapting to it. No planning is required hence autonomous systems simply have to make the best of the resources at hand. Locality in this scenario is no longer geographical but rather the information and applications on the boundary of the autonomic communicating element, which may be distributed over a wide area. The most common defini- tion of an autonomic computing system is one, which can control the functioning of computer applications and systems without input from the user, in the same way that the autonomic nervous system regulates body systems without conscious input from the individual. Thus, we attempt here to more clearly identify the need for autonomous systems, their architecture, the path of evolution from traditional network elements, and the future of such systems.