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Created: October 14, 2003.
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Opsware and EDS Launch Data Center Markup Language (DCML) for Utility Computing.

Update 2004-09-29: OASIS announced the formation of four new technical committees to continue the work of the DCML Organization within the OASIS DCML Member Section. The Data Center Markup Language (DCML) is an XML-based specification for representing the contents of data centers and information used in managing those contents. The new DCML TCs will support the development of a holistic set of standards related to the automated management of data center infrastructure. See details in the news story "OASIS Forms Four Technical Committees to Advance Data Center Markup Language (DCML)."

Update 2004-08-30: "Data Center Markup Language (DCML) Organization Transitions to OASIS Member Section."

A new Data Center Markup Language (DCML) has been announced by Opsware and EDS, designed to "help organizations realize the benefits of utility computing: greater operational efficiencies, increased visibility into data center environments and operations and reduced time and cost to implement strategic IT initiatives such as consolidation, disaster recovery, application capacity management, software policy management and data center planning."

Opsware and EDS are joined by twenty-some technology companies in support of the DCML "foundation to enable utility computing." DCML is an XML-based standard that "will enable data center environment breakthroughs in three areas: construction, management and visibility. DCML is the first systematic, open language to describe data center environments, dependencies between data center components and the policies governing management and construction of those environments. DCML provides a standard method for data center automation, system management and performance management solutions to interoperate and share descriptions of data center elements, directions on constructing the environment and policies governing their use. Because automation and utility computing systems require a common understanding of the environment under management, DCML is a necessary precursor for realizing the benefits of utility computing. DCML provides the first standard model to describe what is contained within a data center, and specifically how that environment is constructed. This enables systematic reproduction, rebuilding or reprovisioning of any portion of the data center environment. DCML will encompass a wide array of data center elements, including network components, storage components, UNIX, Linux, Windows and other servers, software infrastructure and applications."

The DCML organization "intends to work with formal standards bodies" but is not characterized as a "standards-making body." The organization will submit the DCML specification(s) to a standards body such as DMTF, IETF, OASIS, or SNIA.

DCML Initiative Overview

Summary: The Data Center Markup Language (DCML) Organization is "an independent, open, vendor neutral industry consortium dedicated to designing a new specification that will control data center complexity, reduce the cost of managing data centers and provide a foundation to enable utility computing. The organization will also focus on developing interoperability, certification and compliance programs, and facilitating market and user education."

Governance and Structure: "The DCML effort was initiated by EDS and Opsware. At the time of publication, Governing members include EDS, Opsware, and Computer Associates. Founding members include Tibco, Mercury Interactive, Micromuse, NetIQ, Marimba, Tripwire, Egenera, Akamai and Inkra. These companies have joined the DCML initiative because of the immense need to control data center complexity and reduce the cost of managing data centers. The governing and founding members believe DCML is a necessary step in enabling a true utility computing environment."

"The organization is being structured as a non-profit 501(c) (6) corporation which will be supported and funded through annual membership dues. The corporation will own the specifications, certification, logo, and other programs developed by the members. The corporation will be governed by a Board of Directors, which will appoint officers and create working groups and committees to realize the DCML mission and vision. The DCML Organization is not a standards-making body. At the appropriate time, specifications developed by the DCML Organization will be donated to appropriate standards organizations for standardization."

Working Groups: "The DCML working groups will be open to any member with an interest in and commitment to contributing to the goals of DCML as described in the charter. The working groups will consist of working group members and a working group chair. The working group chair will be appointed by consensus of the working group members on a rotating one-year term. The working groups will accomplish work in two main venues: (1) Quarterly face-to-face meetings. Meetings will be hosted on a rotating basis by members of the DCML working group; (2) An online discussion forum via the mailing list. This mailing list will also be used for scheduling and logistics of meetings. The first working group meeting was scheduled to take place in November 2003." [WG page]

Mission: "The primary mission of the DCML initiative is to enable the realization of the data center automation vision of lower costs, enhanced security, higher quality and quicker responsiveness by creating a standard mechanism to describe the contents of the data center and the policies governing the construction and management of that content. DCML is intended to ensure interoperability between existing management and emerging automation and utility computing systems, enabling fundamental IT process improvements to take place."

Distinctive Approach: "While there are several management standards, most notably the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and the Common Information Model (CIM), none target the specific need that DCML addresses. The need for DCML is driven by customers looking to reduce costs and improve quality in the data center by implementing utility computing and automation systems. These systems need more than a simple catalogue of components; they need an actual recipe to build an environment and an automation-friendly description of the operational policies that govern its management. DCML provides a standard way to define those recipes and operational policies to enable the realization of the automated data center vision."

DCML Technical Features: "DCML is a data format and corresponding data model. This gives implementers of DCML flexibility in determining how DCML should best be accessed and produced by their product, while still providing tremendous value to customers... DCML can and likely will be exchanged over Web services interfaces. DCML itself, however, is not a Web service, rather it is the data that would be exchanged over a Web service... DCML is secure and there is a standard way to encrypt and sign information contained in a DCML document. DCML will also help customers secure their data center environments by enabling standardization and policy enforcement..." [see also the technical white paper]

DCML and Common Information Model (CIM): "The Common Information Model (CIM) is a Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) standards effort for describing overall management information in a network/enterprise environment. CIM defines an abstract data model, method for instantiation in XML, and mappings to other management and information standards like SNMP and the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP). CIM's focus is on defining abstract models of managed objects to be used by monitoring and other traditional management systems. While CIM is quite comprehensive in this area and therefore overlaps somewhat with DCML, CIM is not well-suited to the data center automation problem that is DCML's focus. DCML describes not just the state of an environment, but also how to construct the environment and the policies governing the management of that environment, neither of which CIM describes. Where CIM concepts and data elements can be mapped onto DCML for use with data center automation tools, DCML references CIM to avoid duplicating work."

DCML and SDM: "Microsoft's Systems Definition Model (SDM), part of the Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), is a recently announced initiative complementary to DCML. SDM establishes a technical contract between development and operations. By providing a standard format for encoding Windows application component requirements, SDM can help automate the creation of a production server for Windowsbased applications. For example, developers can use SDM to encode requirements such as minimum hardware configurations, IIS version, and which ports need to be listening. However, while SDM provides operational requirements for a Microsoft Windows application component, DCML provides the blueprint for constructing and managing the entire heterogeneous environment in which that application is running. Ultimately, SDM component requirements can feed directly into the DCML-defined constraints for Windows applications." [adapted from the FAQ document]

DCML Specifications Overview

The DCML design effort has taken an "incremental approach to defining DCML, which is composed of the following set of specifications:

  • Framework specification: This specification describes the overall DCML approach, formats and conventions used in subsidiary standards, and how DCML components are combined and related to one another. It also describes how DCML can be extended in the documents below and in future documents.
  • Hardware specification: This specification describes how to represent server, network, storage and security hardware requirements in DCML. Because this type of information overlaps with work already done by CIM, this specification describes how DCML references CIM to represent the information.
  • Network specification: This specification describes how to represent network topology, software and configuration information in DCML.
  • Storage specification: This specification describes how to represent storage topology, software and configuration information in DCML.
  • Software specification: This specification describes how to represent software components in DCML, their configurations and associated data. Software components include operating systems, patches, packaged software applications and custom software applications. [from the technical white paper]

From the Announcement

The DCML effort has gained the support of twenty-five major technology companies, including EDS, Opsware, Computer Associates, BEA Systems, Mercury Interactive, Tibco, Micromuse, Marimba, Akamai Technologies, NetIQ, Tripwire, Inkra Networks, Egenera, ITM Software, AlterPoint, BladeLogic, Blue Titan, Centrata, Configuresoft, Consera, Ejasent, Euclid, Inflow, Racemi and Relicore, and several Fortune 1000 companies.

"Utility computing's promise to improve service quality, reduce costs, and increase agility requires that essential information about the environment -- the state of the data center, relationships and policies between elements, and changes made -- be freely exchanged between IT automation and management systems," said Donna Scott of industry analyst firm, Gartner. "Without a standards-based mechanism defining data center relationships, IT operations management will continue to struggle with implementing configuration and change management processes, which will remain very labor intensive."

The dramatic shift in enterprise computing from client-server to Internet architectures has resulted in an explosion of servers and applications in today's data centers. Today, over 14 million servers are installed in IT organizations worldwide, and this number is projected to increase to over 26 million by the end of 2006*. In most enterprises, armies of IT staff currently handle the resulting exponential increase in data center complexity and dozens of disconnected management and IT systems that do not effectively communicate with one another.

"DCML can be thought of as HTML for the data center," said Tim Howes, chief technology officer of Opsware Inc. "Prior to the adoption of HTML, no simple and standardized means existed to globally distribute and share information online. Today, HTML is the universal language used to express and share information through a Web browser. Likewise, DCML enables disparate management systems to share information and function cooperatively, ultimately eliminating the chaos that reigns in today's unruly data centers."

"Defining a uniform set of standards within the data center ultimately provides a critical framework for large-scale computing initiatives such as utility computing," said Darrel Thomas, chief technologist for EDS Hosting Services. "DCML not only provides a common language that describes the various components of a data center, but also describes how those pieces interoperate and defines the various policies that bind them all together."

"Computer Associates has always participated in the development and support of industry standards that deliver real business value to customers," said Larry Shoup, technology strategist at CA. "DCML shows promise of being such a standard because its intent is to create the interoperability necessary for managing on-demand data center environments. Our support for DCML is an extension of our ongoing commitment to the advancement of IT management disciplines."

"Customers today are demanding that vendors provide a standardized, cross-platform way to exchange application configuration information with data center automation and management systems so they can interoperate effectively," said Alfred Chuang, founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of BEA Systems. "We endorse the DCML initiative as a means of connecting these systems and believe it can help customers lower their IT costs."

Royalty-Free License Terms

The "Bylaws of DCML Organization Incorporated, A Nonprofit Mutual Benefit Corporation" (Version 1.0, February 17, 2004 or later) provide for royalty-free license terms in connection with implementations of DCML specifications. Excerpt from Section 10.5.3 'Member Patent Licenses' (see the complete clause for context):

"Each Member (on behalf of itself and any Affiliates) hereby covenants to grant to any other person or legal entity (whether or not such person or entity is also a Member) a royalty-free, non-exclusive, nontransferable, license under its Necessary Claims to implement the Final Specification or Other Work, but only to the extent needed to be a Fully Compliant Implementation, and to make, use, sell, offer to sell, license, import or otherwise promote or distribute the resulting Fully Compliant Implementation, which license may be made subject to the condition that those who seek licenses under this section 10.5.3 agree to grant reciprocal, royalty-free, non-exclusive, non-transferable licenses under their Necessary Claims to such Members and all other parties who implement the Final Specification or Other Work as a Fully Compliant Implementation..."

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