Data Center Standard in Play

Spec aims to ease utility computing.

Opsware Inc. and electronic Data Systems Corp. are leading the charge for a new open standard thats designed to increase visibility into the data center and pave the way for true utility computing.

The two companies joined more than two dozen vendors here last week to announce the launch of DCML (Data Center Markup Language), a common language for describing resources within the data center and facilitating communication among those resources.

Joining Opsware and EDS in the announcement were companies such as Computer Associates International Inc., BEA Systems Inc. and TIBCO Software Inc., but noticeably absent were larger players, such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co., that have established utility computing strategies.

DCML proponents, however, were not fazed by their absence, as well as the absence of Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc., and added that it will do little to slow the standards development. Indeed, they said those vendors had taken wait-and-see approaches on previous standards, such as HTML.

"We think that kind of pitch [from vendors such as IBM and Sun to buy everything from a single source] only makes sense when theres not standards," said Marc Andreessen, chairman and co-founder of Opsware, in Sunnyvale, Calif. "We think that with DCML, there is opportunity to say No to lock-in."

The goal of DCML is to remove a lot of the complexity inherent in data centers, which are seeing an explosion of new technologies, said Andreessen.

DCML is due to be completed by early 2004 and make its way into commercial products throughout next year. It will ease the provisioning of servers and rolling out of applications and will make data centers more flexible, agile and manageable—the key ingredients of utility computing, according to supporters.

IBM and Sun officials said they need to see more details about DCML before deciding whether to back it. A spokesman for IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., said DCML overlaps with the companys Tivoli management products, which work in heterogeneous environments and can manage other vendors products.

While IBM and others may have heterogeneous management tools, DCML will offer something different, said Adriaan Bouten, vice president of IT and business development for, which is part of Gannett Company Inc.

The new standard will enable Boutens IT administrators to document how their resources are set up and used, allowing for them to be replicated at other sites. This is crucial for a company such as Gannett, which has three primary data centers and hundreds of smaller ones, Bouten said.

"If we were doing something here with technology now that someone else already did, right now I would call that person, talk to them, maybe travel to the site and visit them," Bouten said. "With a good DCML environment, if I find someone already did the same thing, I say to them, Give the DCML document to me, and thats it."

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