One of the major obstacles to the widespread adoption of utility computing is the difficulty in managing multivendor solutions. While many excellent management tools are available, they all tend to require explicit support for devices. That is, there is no coherent standard by which any device, regardless of vendor, can guarantee management compatibility across the board with multiple vendors equipment.
The importance of a standardized management communications method is so great that even Microsoft and Sun Microsystems are able to put aside their other arguments and cooperate on the creation of a Web services specification for systems management called WS-Management, which was announced last week.
Also supported by AMD, Dell and Intel, WS-Management (formerly known as WMX, Web services Management eXtensions) is a specification that provides a common methodology for using Web services to exchange systems and management data across their entire IT infrastructure. Computer Associates, though not a member of the development group, has also announced support for the specification, which can be found here in PDF form.
The goal is to build this support into both hardware and software so that any device—from embedded silicon to PDA to an application server—is capable of providing data back to a unified management interface, making management a core part of the Web services platform and not an afterthought or add-on.
Now that these five companies have announced WS-Management, the next step will be for them to present it to the Distributed Management Task Force, which is the de facto standards body for Web-based management solutions. Microsoft has also announced that the next versions of Microsoft Windows Server and MOM (Microsoft Operations Manger) will include built-in support for WS-Management, and Intel has announced its planned deployment as a component of the Intel Cross-Platform Manageability Program without committing to an actual date for availability.
Whats interesting here is not just the coalition thats supporting this management standard, but the fact that they are all supporting a standard that Microsoft describes as a core part of its Dynamic Services Initiative, which is the Microsoft strategy to reduce the overall costs and complexities involved in systems management.
From the Microsoft perspective, WS-Management just builds on the existing technologies in Microsofts Web services architecture. Its no surprise that theyve announced support for this technology in the next version of the server operating system and management platform; Microsofts recent goals have been to build additional manageability into their operating systems and applications.
So, if youve read this far, you are probably wondering why this is important to you. After all, its just a yet un-ratified standard and isnt something that is available to you in products. Well, the announcement is important on a couple of levels. First, it has Sun and Microsoft cooperating on technologies that are critical to utility computing.
Theres no question that Sun has the lead on Microsoft in this space, especially with its recent grid computing announcements (both hardware and software). Sun knows that regardless of how successful it is in the utility space, Microsoft will be there behind it, waiting for any opportunity.
By integrating support for Microsoft standards into its own platforms, Sun will be able to add Microsoft applications and devices into its existing Sun environments.
Which leads us to the second point: Microsoft will be able to drop its services into existing environments, which means you can start planning or even deploying utility-based applications.
Click here for links to many standards bodies working on this and related technologies.
Ideally, regardless of which vendor you choose as your primary supplier, you will eventually be able to simply take a product from a vendor that supports the infrastructure and just drop it into your environment, with a reasonable degree of assurance that you will be able to use its services and manage its operation without disrupting the environment or needing to make special accommodations.
Staying on top of these developing standards is one way you can factor in their effect on your planning and infrastructure expenditures over the next few years. Doesnt that make it worth a bit of your time?