Consortium talks up SML promise

A consortium of vendors is pushing a new systems management initiative

Ten major IT companies including Microsoft and IBM have released a draft of a new specification, the service modelling language (SML), which they claim will make it easier for customers to manage heterogenous systems.

SML provides a consistent way to describe system information about computer networks, applications, servers and other IT resources, including services in extensible markup language (XML), says Kirill Tatarinov, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Windows enterprise management division.

Joining Microsoft and IBM are BEA Systems, BMC Software, Cisco Systems, Dell, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Sun Microsystems. Missing from that list of supporters are some major vendors including CA, Oracle and AMD.

“We fully expect other vendors to support SML,” Tatarinov says, adding that having an initial ten companies work on the specification was done in order to push the work along, rather than exclude anyone.

The ten vendors plan to submit SML to a standards body before the end of this year, Tatarinov says, but have yet to determine which organisation to approach.

SML is based on work Microsoft began three and a half years ago on its System Definition Model (SDM), part of its Dynamic Systems Initiative aimed at simplifying complexity in users’ IT infrastructure.

As Microsoft went through the process of revising and evolving SDM, it solicited input from other vendors, Tatarinov says. At the same time, customers were telling Microsoft and its peers to work together on systems management to ease the burden users had in trying to deal with a variety of different vendors’ tools. There was no standard format for representing IT hardware, software and services.

In November — at a design review for SDM — Microsoft, IBM and the other companies decided to pool their efforts. Ric Telford, vice president of autonomic computing at IBM, recalled that what Microsoft had been doing with SDM was “eerily similar” to work IBM had been engaged on internally around the same issue of simplifying systems management.

Microsoft already offers some early elements of SML in its Visual Studio 2005 development tools, Tatarinov says. By next year, all of Microsoft’s System Centre management tools will incorporate SML. The next major release of the Windows Server operating system will include built-in SML functionality, he says.

As for IBM, the first place users will be likely to take advantage of SML will be in its Rational development tools, Telford says. IBM’s Tivoli systems management software will support the new language, as will its IT resources such as its servers. Some of the internal work IBM did on a common language prior to getting together with Microsoft, which Telford terms “pre-SML”, will begin appearing in IBM software later this year, he says.

Since November, IBM has worked with Microsoft on ensuring that SML fits in well with other work around the XML schema, Telford says.

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