Given the scale and complexity of today's information systems, it's increasingly important that they handle system management problems and tasks themselves--intelligently and autonomously. This special issue focuses on implementing self-management in a variety of distributed systems by observing the self-managing systems that surround us: multicellular organisms, social insects, market economies, human societies, ecosystems, and so on. These systems are made of components that obey local rules and act on the basis of local observations--often selfishly. Yet the system as a whole exhibits global properties such as self-healing, self-tuning, and self-organization. Distilling the key ideas from these systems and incorporating them into information systems often leads to inexpensive, straightforward, and highly robust solutions.This article is part of a special issue on Self-Managing Systems.