DCML spec expected in May

Data Center Markup Language, a utility computing standard, faces some challenges in winning industry acceptance, observers say.

The leader of the organization charged with creating the Data Center Markup Language (DCML) utility computing standard says that he expects the group to release version 1 of the specification sometime in May.

"The standards are not yet specified," said Louis Blatt, president of the DCML Organization and senior vice president of product strategy at Islandia, N.Y.-based Computer Associates International Inc. "They are being developed, and we hope to have a 1.0 specification that builds on top of other standards organizations' work and gets us closer to managing at the service level."

Blatt also announced the formation of several working groups within the DCML Organization, each one specializing in defining the standards for a specific area of computing. They include the framework, applications and services, network and server groups.

"We've created working groups basically to try to connect the IT assets with the business services and business processes of an organization so that you can dynamically reallocate those resources based on changing business needs," Blatt said.

Blatt said that the DCML Organization plans to eventually submit the specification to the OASIS and DMTF standards bodies for review.

Based on XML (Extensible Markup Language), DCML provides a common format for sharing information about the status of hardware and software components. The information is read by systems management applications that can then take a wide variety of actions based on what is needed. Those actions might include activating a new processor or switching to a backup server.

Electronic Data Systems Corp., based in Plano, Texas, and Opsware Inc., of Sunnyvale, Calif., first proposed the DCML specification in October, with the backing of about 25 other companies. Since then, the DCML Organization has grown to include about 40 companies.

Industry analysts have said that, for the specification to be truly successful, it must first gain acceptance by the big players in IT, including Microsoft and IBM. Those companies, each with their own utility computing strategies, have been reluctant to back the organization. But experts expect that they'll eventually get on board if customer demand grows.

Jasmine Noel, principal analyst with Ptak, Noel & Associates, based in Amherst, N.H., explained why it is that, oftentimes, companies have reservations about joining standards groups like the DCML Organization.

"The reason that there are politics involved is that, if everybody writes to the same standards and everybody adheres to those standards, then it becomes very difficult for a management vendor to differentiate what they do versus the competition," Noel said.

Larry Britton, an IT contractor currently working in a mainframe environment at Aquila Inc., a utility company in Omaha, Neb., said he has his own reservations about utility computing, particularly when it comes to pricing.

"Under a [utility computing] scenario, if you go over your band, you could be paying a significant premium for the availability and possible use of that latent processing power, storage or bandwidth," he said.

Besides, Britton added, "I'm a steadfast proponent of diverse operating systems, multiple platforms and dozens of ways to do something. Chaos is king."

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