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Vendors Set Sights on Server Standards

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Some of the biggest names in IT are meeting this week to simplify and standardize the way customers control and manage network servers.

IBM, HP, Dell, and Intel this week announced they have teamed up to develop common server hardware management standards with one goal in mind: to help customers manage their servers.

The main problem drawing these competitors together is that enterprises are struggling to manage and support different systems from different vendors, with all their different tools and processes.

Hoping to establish some common ground, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Intel have formed a working group with the goal of developing new standards that should make it easier to manage servers in a data center regardless of who built the hardware.

The initiative also marks one of the first times IBM and its biggest rivals have sat down to standardize the technology that helps in the provisioning and virtualization of servers, systems, and networks. The Armonk, N.Y.-based company markets its version as “ebusiness on demand.” Other comparable offerings include HP’s Adaptive Enterprise, Dell’s OpenManage products, and N1 from Sun Microsystems.

The four companies are meeting for two days to hammer out the guidelines and goals. The group said its first set of specifications is due by July 1, 2004. Storage vendors recently initiated a similar effort, the fruit of which is the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S).

The working group’s first task will be to develop a common Command Line Interface (CLI) that will allow local and remote management of server hardware in both operating system (OS)-present and OS-absent environments.

The group is also expected to further evolve the DMTF’s Common Information Model (CIM) specification to cover the latest server system topologies: blade servers and virtualized server systems. Working its magic through networking protocols, the DMTF expects the specifications to result in a lightweight, human-oriented CLI that can be mapped to CIM and driven by scripts.

“We compete in a market where both the economy and global competitors require us to be flexible and operate at a low cost,” said Morgan Stanley Managing Director Jeffrey Birnbaum. “The collaboration between the most influential industry vendors and the DMTF to extend CIM for a common management interface will be a tremendous benefit.”

The new cooperative effort is part of the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF). The Portland, Ore.-based organization facilitates the development, adoption, and interoperability of management standards and initiatives for enterprise and Internet environments. The group includes other key technology companies, such as AMD, Microsoft, Oracle, OSA Technologies, and Sun.

While the idea of standardization seems like a no-brainer, previous attempts by the major manufacturers have suffered more political problems than technical ones. DMTF president Winston Bumpus said his non-partisan forum is the logical place for this critical work to take place.

“As IT organizations face increasing complexity and costs associated with operating multiple server platforms across diverse departments, sites and geographies, continued work in the area of server management is critical,” Bumpus said in a statement.

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