Tools Emerging to Facilitate Distributed Management

eWEEK guest columnist Judith Hurwitz talks about a new class of management tools.

A new world is emerging: the world of dynamic response. Its made possible by the advent of service-oriented architectures and Web services, and it enables organizations to respond quickly to opportunities and threats. To participate in it, organizations must break down departmental stovepipes by creating and managing distributed applications.

Businesses should move away from monolithic applications to environments in which data is federated across physical locations and application logic is componentized into many business services that can be knit together through Web services interfaces to create virtual applications. This flexibility requires that a management infrastructure be in place to rein in and secure loosely coupled environments.

Given this requirement, I predict well see at center stage a new class of management tools that perform what I call distributed management, although it might also be called service-oriented management or Web services management. Here are key requirements for distributed management: It must be able to understand where code and data reside and what middleware components are used. In addition, the environment must be able to understand the business context of the composite applications.

It must be able to dynamically provision resources when required, to provide a predictable and stable environment.

It must be flexible enough to recognize an outside resource, and it must provide published APIs for creating a seamless management view.

It must keep versions of previous states of the environment so that it can re-create the environment at a point in time and assess changes. This is critical in an era in which corporations must keep detailed records of all business transactions.

It must support all major emerging platforms and standards to incorporate many applications and data sources. And it must be able to monitor the current state, coordinate the pieces, react to changes and ensure that a chaotic, changing set of components behaves coherently.

How far are we from this vision? Not as far as you might think. Products are emerging to tackle parts of the problem. Management infrastructure players such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard plan a move toward distributed management. Other management players such as Computer Associates, Novell and BMC offer products for this market. Emerging players, including Actional and AmberPoint, and newcomers such as Infravio and MValant are focused on aspects of this management issue. I expect to see more companies emerge to address this problem over the coming year.

Judith Hurwitz is president of Hurwitz & Associates, a consulting and research company focused on emerging software markets. Hurwitz can be reached at Free Spectrum is a forum for the IT community. Send submissions to