The New Building Blocks of Systems Management

FRAMINGHAM (03/10/2000) - If it's widely adopted by IT vendors, CIM would make enterprise systems much easier to design, deploy and manage, and it eventually would make IT products faster and cheaper to develop.

But if and when it becomes ubiquitous in management software, you probably won't directly notice it - just as when you eat a Caesar salad, you don't think, "Mmm, photosynthesis."

CIM is a set of schema, or definitions of a database, of management data for applications, devices, services and the relationships among them. Each of these objects makes its management data available in CIM format to any other CIM-enabled object. XML is used to present tabular data.

CIM's hierarchical, object-oriented architecture makes creating associations a straightforward task, said Raymond Williams, DMTF vice president of technology and director of standards at Tivoli Systems Inc.

For example, "you can create a network service, associate it with a port, associate that with a particular box and associate it all with a system," Williams said. "Then you can link it [to a business process] and build a business view."

Communication between CIM objects is via the Web protocol HTTP.

CIM, XML and HTTP are the triumvirate that make up WBEM.

In specifying CIM and WBEM standards, the DMTF has used other standards and protocols, such as the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), which defines the directory infrastructure for storing and accessing management data.

The DEN standard defines how CIM objects can be stored, associated and accessed in that common directory infrastructure.

As software and hardware vendors incorporate CIM standards into their products, some create their own CIMOMs. Microsoft calls its CIMOM the Windows Management Instrumentation. And Sun Microsystems Inc. last year released its CIMOM, Solaris WBEM Services.

WBEM is a work in progress, according to Williams. "There are still missing pieces, such as [a standard for representing] run-time information," he said.

"It's hard to come up with parameters and properties general enough for all applications to use."

The DMTF met last month to refine specifications that define "what it means to be compliant with WBEM, CIM, DEN," said Jim Turner, DMTF chairman and marketing director of the enterprise management unit at Cisco Systems.

The next step, due by summer, will be "to build a set of compliancy tests available over the Internet to test and certify" software as CIM-compliant, Turner said.

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