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The new LHC experiments at CERN will have very large numbers of channels to operate. In order to be able to configure and monitor such large systems, a high degree of parallelism is necessary. The control system is built as a hierarchy of sub-systems distributed over several computers. A toolkit-SMI++, combining two approaches: finite state machines and rule-based programming, allows for the description of the various sub-systems as decentralized deciding entities, reacting in real-time to changes in the system, thus providing for the automation of standard procedures and for the automatic recovery from error conditions in a hierarchical fashion. In this paper we will describe the principles and features of SMI++ as well as its integration with an industrial SCADA tool for use by the LHC experiments and we will try to show that such tools, can provide a very convenient mechanism for the automation of large scale, high complexity, applications.