Making a Friendly Standard

Sun looks to open-source systems management.

Sun Microsystems is trying to build momentum for a mix of nonproprietary solutions and industry standards to make systems management Internet-friendly.

The effort, which will be rolled out over the next two to three months, will consist of nonproprietary solutions and industry standards from the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF).

The initiative is a response to what David Douglas, VP of Systems Management at Sun, calls a "triple whammy" to customers: the surge in the numbers of management systems used by companies; partners being measured on a service level, more than a product level; and increasingly tight budgets.

Basing its efforts on the DMTFs Common Information Model (CIM) standard and CIMs Web-Based Enterprise Management initiative, Sun plans to license its systems-management solutions to others and to make them available to the developer community.

"In the long term," says Douglas, "just like weve open-sourced Solaris, I think you can expect to see us make some fairly strong moves open-sourcing parts of this stuff."

Other standards were considered, but they were not designed for todays needs, says Douglas, adding that they are not Internet-friendly and could not work through firewalls.

According to Winston Bumpus, president of DMTF and Novells director of standards, before CIM "one person would speak Martian and another would speak Venusian." DMTF reports that all of its 14 board members—including Cisco, Dell, Intel, Novell and, of course, Sun—use CIM. "All the major companies that are developing systems management are using CIM," Bumpus says. In addition to the 14-member board, DMTFs 200-company member community and approximately 30 research universities use CIM.

Also, Sun plans to take aim at nonproprietary solutions so that partners and customers can build to meet their own specific needs, unlike nonadaptable, nonstandardized solutions.

"If you went back to the 80s, youd see a lot of these giant frameworks, like Tivoli or HP OpenView, and customers really saying they were going to standardize through one big framework and manage through that," says Douglas. "And weve seen a huge surge in the last couple of years of customers piecing together a variety of point solutions into an overall solution for themselves."

To direct customer focus toward solutions thatll meet the triple-whammy challenge, Sun will engage resellers and managed service providers and will use assets from recent acquisitions, like low-end servers from Cobalt Networks and HighGround in the storage arena, on which to base the solutions and open standards.

"We look at the value that our reseller partners add, and they want to go build on top of something. ... Theyve got to know what open model is underneath," says Douglas.

"A customer isnt involving one of our resellers because he wants a fair box. Hes picked a value-added reseller who has particular expertise in the application or industry area. Thats where the value is," Douglas concludes.