EDS, Opsware back new utility computing standard

Hoping to bring utility computing closer to fruition, 25 companies on Tuesday unveiled a new XML-based standards initiative, called the Data Center Markup Language (DCML). The DCML specification is designed to serve as the foundation on which users can build and deploy enterprise-capable applications.

Led by Opsware Inc., Electronic Data Systems Corp. (EDS), Computer Associates International Inc., and BEA Systems Inc., the founding companies also announced the formation of the DCML Organization, which will be largely responsible for advancing and maintaining the proposed standard.

The long-range goal of the standard is to introduce a simpler way to achieve interoperability among widely disparate IT systems, thereby encouraging the use of utility computing among large datacenters.

"Without a standards-based mechanism that better defines datacenter relationships, IT operations management will continue to struggle with implementing configuration and change management processes, which would continue to remain very labor intensive," said Donna Scott, a senior analyst with Gartner Inc.

The proposed standard encompasses a range of datacenter elements, including network and storage components as well as market-leading operating systems such as Windows, Linux and Unix, and software infrastructure products and accompanying applications, a spokesman for the new organization said.

According to one Opsware executive, DCML should be thought of as "HTML for the datacenter."

"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 more cooperatively," said Tim Howes, Opsware's CTO.

Offering statistical proof of the need for the new standard, company officials said that some 14 million servers are now installed in IT organizations around the world and that is expected to grow to 26 million by the end of 2006. What has been driving sales of the servers is the ongoing shift from client/server architectures to Internet-based ones, they said.

"Defining a uniform set of standards with the datacenter can offer a framework for large-scale computing projects like utility computing. (DCML) not only provides a common language to describe components in a datacenter, but also describe how they interoperate and can help define the policies that bind them together," said Darrel Thomas, CTO for EDS Hosting Services.

Executives from the founding companies contend that DCML is the first standard model to describe what is contained in a datacenter and, more specifically, how that environment is constructed. By doing so it enables a systematic reproduction, rebuilding, or reprovisioning of any portion of the datacenter environment, they said.

Some users welcomed the standard, believing it has the potential for making their computing lives easier.

"We run numerous systems across our organization and so we see a need for a standard that describes and manages all moving parts of a datacenter. This looks like it can significantly help us reduce costs in deploying a utility computing model across the operation," said Adriaan Bouten, vice president of IT and Business Development for USA Today.com.

Users and developers can find more information about the proposed standard at www.dcml.org.

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