Technology Companies Release New Specification to Simplify IT Management

Common goal to provide standard for describing system information in XML formats

by / August 1, 2006
A group of technology companies, including BEA Systems Inc., BMC Software Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Dell Inc., EMC Corp., HP, IBM Corp., Intel Corporation, Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. today announced they have published a draft of a new specification that defines a consistent way to express how computer networks, applications, servers and other IT resources are described -- or modeled -- in extensible markup language (XML) so businesses can more easily manage the services that are built on these resources.

As a result of collaboration, the open, industrywide specification defines a common language for expressing information about IT resources and services. Called the Service Modeling Language (SML), the specification enables a hierarchy of IT resource models to be created from reusable building blocks rather than requiring custom descriptions of every service, thus reducing costs and system complexity for customers. The group plans to submit the draft specification to an industry standards organization later this year.

SML addresses a growing industry need as a result of the numerous methods of representing the same IT resource. Besides being inefficient, the use of different formats leads to two problems. First, because the tools and management applications use different formats, they don't speak the same language. Therefore the information must be translated, which can lead to the loss or misinterpretation of technical details. Second, the use of different formats may require IT architects to use written descriptions or sketches to convey information about resources. Such descriptions must then be translated into a form that tools and management applications can consume, which is a manual, error-prone process.

SML has two unique properties that make it well-suited for modeling IT resources and services: support for rich constraints and alignment with XML message exchange architectures. SML allows developers to build modeling information for applications, devices and services that can be used during all stages of the application or service life cycle, such as configuration, problem, change and release management. They are also useful for tactical processes such as management of service levels, availability and capacity. The SML specification will provide simplicity, integration and compatibility throughout this life cycle for all components of an IT environment.

This common modeling language is an important step in simplifying IT management in multivendor environments, providing a way for information to be shared across diverse tools and applications. Constructing a complete picture of the IT environment out of a series of reusable building blocks rather than requiring a fully customized description of every service is crucial. It reduces the cost and complexity associated with delivering the levels of service and responsiveness businesses need from IT today while increasing a business's IT agility and its ability to adapt its IT in time to meet changing needs.

In addition to the publication of the SML specifications, the companies also announced their intent to explore development of a library of core models to describe generic resources such as network elements, operating systems, storage devices, desktops, server systems, Web servers and a directory service. With an agreed-upon standard library of definition for this core set of resources and services, every vendor would be able to establish the generic nature of, and relationship between, every component of a specific IT service without prior knowledge of the objects that make up that service.