Opinion: DCML describes the data center

As companies embrace more automated computing models that incorporate newer technologies such as virtualization and begin planning for long-term initiatives such as utility computing, the need for interoperability becomes more important.

Development on a new standard called Data Center Markup Language (DCML) is now in the works and offer the potential to simplify data center management and bring order to the chaos that exists in most data centers. DCML provides a format for tools to interoperate more easily using an open, XML-based architecture to describe the data center environment and policies governing the environment.

By creating a standard description of the applications and systems being managed, DCML helps address the challenge of managing increasingly heterogeneous environments and paves the way for service-based computing models.

The DCML Organization built a framework of the specification that can be used by vendors to create DCML-compliant products, and used within the DCML group to provide sub-specifications that support distinct areas of technology.

Last month, the group transferred the specification's ownership to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards where it stands to receive broader global awareness by its 3,500 members. The standard is expected to be finalized next year.

Components within the DCML framework will provide enough detail for network administrators and data center managers to create an inventory of data center elements and the desired functional relationship between them. It also will be scalable enough to provision or reproduce a complete data center infrastructure -- with all its component relationships, dependencies, configuration, operational policies and management processes.

Because the DCML framework is meant to be easily adapted to slightly different environments, such as hardware, network and data center variations, it can accommodate an array of data center management situations.

This level of flexibility is important in utility computing, where the exchange of information between various components and the ability to automatically shift resources to add capacity on demand is critical. DCML's systematic approach for sharing and maintaining information puts companies closer to realizing the vision of utility computing, and serves as a building block for creating the necessary infrastructure.

DCML delivers immediate cost and time savings to any situation that requires exchanging information between various management systems. DCML can be used to describe the key building blocks (software packages and configurations) and policies necessary to construct an actual environment based on the blueprint. DCML can be used to describe the resulting environment by extracting data from the components under management and using that information to facilitate the procurement and planning process.

Fueled by ongoing corporate pressures for higher quality at a lower cost, the trend toward automated service-based computing shows no sign of letting up. By delivering a tangible framework in which to better manage the utilization and allocation of IT resources, DCML provides a compelling reason for companies to plan for future computing initiatives.

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