System Center “Cross Platform Extension”: too many distractions

I was hoping that by the time MMS was over there would be more clarity about the “Cross Platform Extension” to System Center that Microsoft announced there. But most of the comments I have seen have focused on two non-technical aspects: Microsoft is interested in heterogeneous management and Microsoft makes use of open source. That’s also the focus of Coté’s coverage.

So what? Is it still that exciting, in 2008, to learn that Microsoft recognizes that Linux and OSS are major players in enterprise computing? If Steve Ballmer eventually gets hold of Yahoo, do you think his first priority will be to move all the servers to Windows or to build up its search and advertising audience? It’s been now 10 years since the Halloween documents came out. They can be seen as the start of Microsoft’s realization that Linux/OSS are here for good. It is not surprising to see that one of their main authors is now the driving force behind WS-Management, an effort that illustrates the acceptance of heterogeneity and the need to deal with it (on Microsoft’s terms if possible, of course). The WS-Management effort started years ago and it was a clear sign that Microsoft knew it had to tackle heterogeneous management (despite the reassuring talk that “it’s all about making Windows the most manageable platform” to HP and others). Basically, Microsoft is using WS-Management to support heterogeneity without having to do too much work: by creating an industry standard that everyone writes to and that Microsoft uses internally. Heterogeneous management is intrinsic to DSI if DSI is to be anything more than a demo.

But all of this was known before MMS 2008 to anyone who was paying attention. Instead of all this Microsoft/OSS/heterogeneous talk, I am a lot more interested in the technical aspects of the “Cross Platform Extension”.

OpenPegasus has been around for a long time, as a C++ CIMOM with a bunch of associated providers and CIM-XML interoperability over HTTP with CIM clients. I don’t know where WS-Management support was on the OpenPegasus development timeline, but even without Microsoft getting involved it would have eventually happened. And this should have been sufficient for System Center to access the CIMOM (BTW, does System Center not support CIM-XML when WS-Management is not present and if it does then what is different in practice with WS-Management?).

I can see how Microsoft would bring some extra (and much welcome) development resources for the WS-Management implementation (BTW the guys at Intel already have an open-source C implementation of WS-Management) as well as some extra marketing/visibility/distribution. Nice, but not earth-shattering. Do they bring anything else to OpenPegasus?

And what else is in the “Cross Platform Extension” in addition to an OpenPegasus WS-Management-capable CIMOM? Is there any extra modeling capability beyond CIM? Any Microsoft-specific classes? Any discovery/reconciliation capability? How much actual configuration management versus just monitoring? Security? Health models? Desired state management? Or is it just a WS-Management CIMOM? Any pointer to specific information is welcome.

Of course the underlying question is whether others than Microsoft can manage resources that have an OpenPegasus-based System Center management pack on them. The Open Management Consortium guys have talked about an open management agent. Could, against all expectations, Microsoft be the one delivering it?

In the IT management world, there are the big 4 (HP, BMC, CA and IBM), the little 4 (Zenoss, Hyperic, GroundWorks and openQRM) and the mighty 3 (Oracle, Microsoft and EMC). Sorry John, I am reclaiming the use of the “mighty” term: your “mighty 2″ (or 2.5) are really still the “little 2″ (or 2.5). At least for now.

The interesting thing is that in that industry configuration there are topics on which the little ones and the mighty ones share common interests. For example, the big 4 have a lot more management packs for all kinds of resources, built up over the years. Some standard-based mechanism that partially resets the stage helps the little ones and the mighty ones better compete against the big 4. Even better if it has an attractive (and extensible) implementation ready in the form of an agent. But let’s be clear that it takes more than a CIMOM to make a management pack. You need domains-specific expertise in the form of health models, deployment/configuration scripts and/or descriptors, configuration validation, role management etc. Thus my questions about what else (beyond CIM over WS-Management) Microsoft is bringing to the table. SML and CML are supposed to address this space, but I didn’t hear them mentioned once in the MMS coverage.

[UPDATED on 2008/5/7: Another perspective on Microsoft and open source: Microsoft Ex-Pats Developing Open Source Software Outside of Redmond]

[UPDATED 2008/5/7: I got an answer to the question about System Center support for CIM-XML: it doesn’t have it. So indeed it’s either WS-Management of WMI. If you’re a Linux box, that means it’s WS-Management.]

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Filed under CA, Everything, HP, IBM, IT Systems Mgmt, Manageability, Mgmt integration, Microsoft, Open source, Oracle, SML, Standards, WS-Management, Yahoo

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