Tech companies push IT management via Web services

Tech companies push IT management via Web services

Microsoft and Sun Microsystems on Friday published a specification to leverage Web services for managing a broad range of IT systems including PCs and devices on a network.

Intel, Dell, and Advanced Micro Devices also are involved in the specification.

The proposed Web Services Management, or WS-Management, specification is intended to provide a common management mechanism. It leverages the existing Web services architecture endorsed by Microsoft, referred to as WS-*, which features specifications such as Web Services Addressing, Web Services Security, Web Services Enumeration, and Web Services Eventing. WS-Management is intended to utilize Web services for management of systems ranging from handheld devices to PCs, servers, and large-scale datacenters.

WS-Management had been known as "WMX" and was first demonstrated at the WinHEC 2004 conference in Seattle in May.

"Rather than defining a new way of doing things, it says, here's guidance on how you can use this architecture to solve the problem of IT management," said Pete McKiernan, lead product manager for the platform strategy group at Microsoft. Featured in the proposal is a messaging protocol comprised of the Microsoft-backed Web services specifications.

WS-Management will be further developed during a "workshop" process, during which multiple parties can participate. Afterward, it will be submitted to a standards body for consideration as an industry specification, according to Microsoft officials. The Distributed Management Task Force is the leading candidate to receive the submission.

Microsoft plans to support WS-Management in Windows Server 2003, Release 2, which is due in late-2005, as well as in the next version of Microsoft Operations Manager in 2006. Intel plans to support the technology in its processors at an as-yet-unspecified time.

"The unique thing is, rather than what management has been traditionally thought of [with] bolting on of management, we're baking manageability into both the hardware and software," McKiernan said.

An analyst said that rather than add yet another specification pertaining to Web services standardization to the plethora of proposals already in existence, WS-Management focuses on use of Web services for management itself.

"Actually, this spec doesn't have much to do with managing Web services themselves, but is rather more of a network operation-datacenter administration spec focused on managing devices using Web services," said Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC, in an e-mail response to questions. "So, it doesn't pile on to the WS-* standards that are more focused with securing, managing, and making Web services themselves reliable. Of course, you can apply the WS-* standards to WS-Management."

"This spec allows you to use Web services to manage laptops, blade servers, PDAs, TiVos, you name it," Schmelzer said.

Sun's support at first glance appears to be a turnabout for the company, which in the past has been critical of Microsoft for what Sun believed was Microsoft's imposing of its own Web services standardization on the rest of the industry. But the two vendors recently brushed aside old differences and have pledged deeper cooperation on areas such as standards.

"I think this probably should be pointed out that this [cooperation] is not anything like a radical departure," said John Tollefsrud, director standards, N1 Grid Systems, at Sun. Microsoft and Sun have worked together previously on WS-Addressing and WS-Eventing, he said.

Sun plans to use WS-Management in products such as Sun Management Center and N1 Grid provisioning software, Tollefsrud said.

Discussions will be held with network management system vendors such as Computer Associates International and Hewlett-Packard to gauge their participation in WS-Management.

Microsoft expects IBM's participation in the development of WS-Management, as IBM previously has worked with Microsoft on Web services specifications. But the company has not participated thus far, Microsoft officials acknowledged.

WS-Management has a different focus than the industry's longstanding SNMP specification because SNMP was more focused on networked devices such as switches and routers, according to Microsoft. "What we're trying to provide is a specification that connects any type of device," said David Hamilton, director for the Windows and enterprise management group at Microsoft.

But Schmelzer said WS-Management could be thought of more as a replacement for SNMP.

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