Category Archives: HP

Exclusive! Mark Hurd pulls a Steve Jobs on Microsoft

When Mark Hurd read Steve Job’s rant against Flash (saying, in effect, “we have to tolerate Flash on our desktops/laptops for now but this piece of crap is not going to soil our iPhones, iPads and iPods”) he must have thought “hey, if I can pull one of these stunts maybe I too will have groupies screaming my name when I unveil our tablet”. Sources tell me he is planning to work on this over the weekend and publish it on on Monday. I was able to get hold of an early draft, which an HP staffer (or Mark himself?) left in a beer garden. Here is what Mark Hurd has to say to about Windows for mobile devices:

Thoughts on Windows

HP has a long relationship with Microsoft… [Note from Mark: someone inserts some hypocritical blah blah about how we used to love each other – sure hasn’t been the case since I’ve been here]. Today the two companies still work together to serve their joint customers – HP customers buy a big chunk of Windows licenses – but beyond that there are few joint interests.

I wanted to jot down some of our thoughts on Microsoft’s Windows products so that customers and critics may better understand why we will not use Windows in our phones and tablets. Microsoft will characterize our decision as being primarily business driven – they say we want to taste decent margins for once – but in reality it is based on technology issues. Microsoft will claim that we are a closed system, and that Windows is open, but in fact the opposite is true. Let me explain.

First, there’s “Open”.

Microsoft Windows products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Microsoft, and Microsoft has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Microsoft Windows products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Microsoft and available only from Microsoft. By almost any definition, Windows is a closed system.

HP has many proprietary products too. Though the WebOS operating system we’ll use in our phones and tablets is proprietary, we strongly believe that all standards pertaining to the web should be open. Rather than use Windows, HP has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript – all open standards. HP’s mobile devices will all ship with high performance, low power implementations of these open standards. HTML5, the new web standard that has been adopted by HP, Apple, Google and many others, lets web developers create advanced applications without relying on proprietary APIs (like Windows). HTML5 is completely open and controlled by a standards committee.

Second, there’s the “full application ecosystem”.

Microsoft has repeatedly said that HP mobile devices will not be able to access “the full application ecosystem” because 75% of applications are Windows applications. What they don’t say is that almost all these applications are also available in a more modern form, using Web standards and implemented as a service, and usable on HP’s upcoming phones and tablets. Microsoft Office, Outlook, financial software etc all have excellent Web-based alternatives. Users of HP’s phones and tablets won’t be missing many applications.

Third, there’s reliability, security and performance.

Windows has had an awful security records for twenty years. We also know first hand that Windows is the number one reason PCs crash. We have been working with Microsoft to fix these problems, but they have persisted for several years now. We don’t want to reduce the reliability and security of our phones and tablets by using Windows.

In addition, Windows has not performed well on mobile devices. We have routinely asked Microsoft to show us Windows performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it. Microsoft publicly said that Windows would work well on a device starting with the first Windows CE in 1996. Then came Pocket PC 2000, then Pocket PC 2002, then Windows Mobile 2003, then Windows Mobile 5, 6, 6.1 and 6.5, none of which was any good. And now they say it will be with Windows Phone 7. We think it will eventually ship, but we’re glad we didn’t hold our breath. Who knows how it will perform?

Fourth, there’s battery life.

To achieve long battery life, mobile devices must use thin and efficient software and Windows is anything but that. It only runs on power-hungry Intel processors while the same features can be delivered by much smaller and more efficient processors when using WebOS. Not only does the battery last longer, the devices are lighter and don’t leave burn marks on your clothes.

Fifth, there’s Touch.

Windows was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers. For example, many Windows applications have such crappy UI that users depend on tooltips to figure out what a button does. They pop up when the mouse arrow hovers over a specific spot. WebOS revolutionary multi-touch interface doesn’t use a mouse, and there is no concept of a tooltip. Most Windows applications will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to rewrite their Windows applications, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?

Even if HP phones and tablets used Windows, it would not solve the problem that most Windows applications need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices.

Sixth, the most important reason.

Besides the fact that Windows is closed and proprietary, has major technical drawbacks, and doesn’t support touch based devices, there is an even more important reason we will not use Windows on our phones and tablets. Windows is an abstraction layer that covers very different underlying hardware.

We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the hardware and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of hardware enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.

This becomes even worse if the third party is supplying an operating system that runs on hardware from many vendors. The third party may not adopt enhancements from one platform unless they are available on all of their supported platforms. Hence developers only have access to the lowest common denominator set of features. Again, we cannot accept an outcome where developers are blocked from using our innovations and enhancements because they are not available on our competitor’s platforms.

Windows is a multi-hardware abstraction. It is not Microsoft’s goal to help developers write the best application for HP’s phones and tablets. It is their goal to help developers write applications that will run on Windows devices from all hardware manufacturers. [Note from Mark: should I describe how Microsoft has been getting in the way of how our PCs talk to our printers and making a mess of desktop printing for the last 20 years or is this off-topic?]

Our motivation is simple – we want to provide the most advanced and innovative platform to our developers, and we want them to stand directly on the shoulders of this platform and create the best apps the world has ever seen. We want to continually enhance the platform so developers can create even more amazing, powerful, fun and useful applications. Everyone wins – we sell more devices because we have the best apps, developers reach a wider and wider audience and customer base, and users are continually delighted by the best and broadest selection of apps on any platform.


Windows was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Windows is a successful business for Microsoft, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Windows falls short.

The avalanche of Web-based applications accessible from Web-enabled mobile devices demonstrates that Windows is no longer necessary to access application functionalities of any kind.

New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too [Note from Mark: maybe I should remove that parenthesis or we’ll give Ballmer a heart attack]). Perhaps Microsoft should focus more on creating a great Web-centric platform for the future, and less on criticizing HP for leaving the past behind.

Mark Hurd
April, 2010

[UPDATED 2010/5/18: I hear echos of “should I describe how Microsoft has been getting in the way of how our PCs talk to our printers and making a mess of desktop printing for the last 20 years or is this off-topic?” in the statements Mark Hurd made during his post-earning analyst call today: “when you look across the HP ecosystem of interconnected devices, it is a large family of devices and we think of printers, you’ve now got a whole series of web connected printers and as they connect to the web, [they] need an OS.” Though I am really puzzled by the next line: “Hurd adds that HP prefers to own the OS to “control the customer experience” as it always has in printing.” HP doesn’t control the customer experience at all in printing, because of Windows. It’s only because we are so used to it that we don’t realize how awful the printing experience is, whether using a connected printer or over the network. Glad to see that they intend to apply the Palm acquisition to this problem too.]

[UPDATED 2010/5/26: According to some, this breakup letter from HP caused a breakup inside Microsoft: The reason Robbie Bach was fired]

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Filed under Everything, HP, Microsoft, Mobile, Off-topic

HP has submitted a specification to the DMTF Cloud incubator

When I lamented, in a previous post, that I couldn’t tell you about recent submissions to the DMTF Cloud incubator, one of those I had in mind was a submission from HP. I can now write this, because the author of the specification, Nigel Cook, has recently blogged about it. Unfortunately he is isn’t publishing the specification itself, just an announcement that it was submitted. Hopefully he is currently going through the long approval process to make the submitted document public (been there, done that, I know it takes time).

In the blog, Nigel makes a good argument for the need to go beyond a hypervisor-centric view of Cloud computing. Even at the IaaS layer there are cases of automated-but-not-virtualized deployment that have all the characteristics of Cloud computing and need to be supported by Cloud management APIs. Not to mention OS-level isolation like Solaris Containers.

Nigel also offers a spirited defense of SOAP-based protocols. I don’t necessarily agree with all his points (“one could easily map the web service definition I described to REST if that was important” suggests a “it’s just SOAP without the wrapper” view of REST), but I am glad he is launching this debate. We need to discuss this rather than assume that REST is the obvious answer. Remember, a few years ago SOAP was just as obvious an answer to any protocol question. It may well be that indeed REST comes out ahead of this discussion, but the process will force us to be explicit about what benefits of REST we are trying to achieve and will allow us to be practical in the way we approach it.


Filed under Automation, Cloud Computing, DMTF, Everything, HP, IT Systems Mgmt, Mgmt integration, Specs, Standards, Utility computing, Virtualization

Can Cloud standards be saved?

Then: Web services standards

One of the most frustrating aspects of how Web services standards shot themselves in the foot via unchecked complexity is that plenty of people were pointing out the problem as it happened. Mark Baker (to whom I noticed Don Box also paid tribute recently) is the poster child. I remember Tom Jordahl tirelessly arguing for keeping it simple in the WSDL working group. Amberpoint’s Fred Carter did it in WSDM (in the post announcing the recent Amberpoint acquisition, I mentioned that “their engineers brought to the [WSDM] group a unique level of experience and practical-mindedness” but I could have added “… which we, the large companies, mostly ignored.”)

The commonality between all these voices is that they didn’t come from the large companies. Instead they came from the “specialists” (independent contractors and representatives from small, specialized companies). Many of the WS-* debates were fought along alliance lines. Depending on the season it could be “IBM vs. Microsoft”, “IBM+Microsoft vs. Oracle”, “IBM+HP vs. Microsoft+Intel”, etc… They’d battle over one another’s proposal but tacitly agreed to brush off proposals from the smaller players. At least if they contained anything radically different from the content of the submission by the large companies. And simplicity is radical.

Now: Cloud standards

I do not reminisce about the WS-* standards wars just for old time sake or the joy of self-flagellation. I also hope that the current (and very important) wave of standards, related to all things Cloud, can do better than the Web services wave did with regards to involving on-the-ground experts.

Even though I still work for a large company, I’d like to see this fixed for Cloud standards. Not because I am a good guy (though I hope I am), but because I now realize that in the long run this lack of perspective even hurts the large companies themselves. We (and that includes IBM and Microsoft, the ringleaders of the WS-* effort) would be better off now if we had paid more attention then.

Here are two reasons why the necessity to involve and include specialists is even more applicable to Cloud standards than Web services.

First, there are many more individuals (or small companies) today with a lot of practical Cloud experience than there were small players with practical Web services experience when the WS-* standardization started (Shlomo Swidler, Mitch Garnaat, Randy Bias, John M. Willis, Sam Johnston, David Kavanagh, Adrian Cole, Edward M. Goldberg, Eric Hammond, Thorsten von Eicken and Guy Rosen come to mind, though this is nowhere near an exhaustive list). Which means there is even more to gain by ensuring that the Cloud standard process is open to them, should they choose to engage in some form.

Second, there is a transparency problem much larger than with Web services standards. For all their flaws, W3C and OASIS, where most of the WS-* work took place, are relatively transparent. Their processes and IP policies are clear and, most importantly, their mailing list archives are open to the public. DMTF, where VMWare, Fujitsu and others have submitted Cloud specifications, is at the other hand of the transparency spectrum. A few examples of what I mean by that:

  • I can tell you that VMWare and Fujitsu submitted specifications to DMTF, because the two companies each issued a press release to announce it. I can’t tell you which others did (and you can’t read their submissions) because these companies didn’t think it worthy of a press release. And DMTF keeps the submission confidential. That’s why I blogged about the vCloud submission and the Fujitsu submission but couldn’t provide equivalent analysis for the others.
  • The mailing lists of DMTF working groups are confidential. Even a DMTF member cannot see the message archive of a group unless he/she is a member of that specific group. The general public cannot see anything at all. And unless I missed it on the site, they cannot even know what DMTF working groups exist. It makes you wonder whether Dick Cheney decided to call his social club of energy company executives a “Task Force” because he was inspired by the secrecy of the DMTF (“Distributed Management Task Force”). Even when the work is finished and the standard published, the DMTF won’t release the mailing list archive, even though these discussions can be a great reference for people who later use the specification.
  • Working documents are also confidential. Working groups can decide to publish some intermediate work, but this needs to be an explicit decision of the group, then approved by its parent group, and in practice it happens rarely (mileage varies depending on the groups).
  • Even when a document is published, the process to provide feedback from the outside seems designed to thwart any attempt. Or at least that’s what it does in practice. Having blogged a fair amount on technical details of two DMTF standards (CMDBf and WS-Management) I often get questions and comments about these specifications from readers. I encourage them to bring their comments to the group and point them to the official feedback page. Not once have I, as a working group participant, seen the comments come out on the other end of the process.

So let’s recap. People outside of DMTF don’t know what work is going on (even if they happen to know that a working group called “Cloud this” or “Cloud that” has been started, the charter documents and therefore the precise scope and list of deliverables are also confidential). Even if they knew, they couldn’t get to see the work. And even if they did, there is no convenient way for them to provide feedback (which would probably arrive too late anyway). And joining the organization would be quite a selfless act because they then have to pay for the privilege of sharing their expertise while not being included in the real deciding circles anyway (unless there are ready to pony up for the top membership levels). That’s because of the unclear and unstable processes as well as the inordinate influence of board members and officers who all are also company representatives (in W3C, the strong staff balances the influence of the sponsors, in OASIS the bylaws limit arbitrariness by the board members).

What we are missing out on

Many in the standards community have heard me rant on this topic before. What pushed me over the edge and motivated me to write this entry was stumbling on a crystal clear illustration of what we are missing out on. I submit to you this post by Adrian Cole and the follow-up (twice)by Thorsten von Eicken. After spending two days at a face to face meeting of the DMTF Cloud incubator (in an undisclosed location) this week, I’ll just say that these posts illustrate a level of practically and a grounding in real-life Cloud usage that was not evident in all the discussions of the incubator. You don’t see Adrian and Thorsten arguing about the meaning of the word “infrastructure”, do you? I’d love to point you to the DMTF meeting minutes so you can judge for yourself, but by now you should understand why I can’t.

So instead of helping in the forum where big vendors submit their specifications, the specialists (some of them at least) go work in OGF, and produce OCCI (here is the mailing list archive). When Thorsten von Eicken blogs about his experience using Cloud APIs, they welcome the feedback and engage him to look at their work. The OCCI work is nice, but my concern is that we are now going to end up with at least two sets of standard specifications (in addition to the multitude of company-controlled specifications, like the ubiquitous EC2 API). One from the big companies and one from the specialists. And if you think that the simplest, clearest and most practical one will automatically win, well I envy your optimism. Up to a point. I don’t know if one specification will crush the other, if we’ll have a “reconciliation” process, if one is going to be used in “private Clouds” and the other in “public Clouds” or if the conflict will just make both mostly irrelevant. What I do know is that this is not what I want to see happen. Rather, the big vendors (whose imprimatur is needed) and the specialists (whose experience is indispensable) should work together to make the standard technically practical and widely adopted. I don’t care where it happens. I don’t know whether now is the right time or too early. I just know that when the time comes it needs to be done right. And I don’t like the way it’s shaping up at the moment. Well-meaning but toothless efforts like don’t make me feel better.

I know this blog post will be read both by my friends in DMTF and by my friends in Clouderati. I just want them to meet. That could be quite a party.

IBM was on to something when it produced this standards participation policy (which I commented on in a cynical-yet-supportive way – and yes I realize the same cynicism can apply to me). But I haven’t heard of any practical effect of this policy change. Has anyone seen any? Isn’t the Cloud standard wave the right time to translate it into action?

Transparency first

I realize that it takes more than transparency to convince specialists to take a look at what a working group is doing and share their thoughts. Even in a fully transparent situation, specialists will eventually give up if they are stonewalled by process lawyers or just ignored and marginalized (many working group participants have little bandwidth and typically take their cues from the big vendors even in the absence of explicit corporate alignment). And this is hard to fix. Processes serve a purpose. While they can be used against the smaller players, they also in many cases protect them. Plus, for every enlightened specialist who gets discouraged, there is a nutcase who gets neutralized by the need to put up a clear proposal and follow a process. I don’t see a good way to prevent large vendors from using the process to pressure smaller ones if that’s what they intend to do. Let’s at least prevent this from happening unintentionally. Maybe some of my colleagues  from large companies will also ask themselves whether it wouldn’t be to their own benefit to actually help qualified specialists to contribute. Some “positive discrimination” might be in order, to lighten the process burden in some way for those with practical expertise, limited resources, and the willingness to offer some could-otherwise-be-billable hours.

In any case, improving transparency is the simplest, fastest and most obvious step that needs to be taken. Not doing it because it won’t solve everything is like not doing CPR on someone on the pretext that it would only restart his heart but not cure his rheumatism.

What’s at risk if we fail to leverage the huge amount of practical Cloud expertise from smaller players in the standards work? Nothing less than an unpractical set of specifications that will fail to realize the promises of Cloud interoperability. And quite possibly even delay them. We’ve seen it before, haven’t we?

Notice how I haven’t mentioned customers? It’s a typical “feel-good” line in every lament about standards to say that “we need more customer involvement”. It’s true, but the lament is old and hasn’t, in my experience, solved anything. And today’s economical climate makes me even more dubious that direct customer involvement is going to keep us on track for this standardization wave (though I’d love to be proven wrong). Opening the door to on-the-ground-working-with-customers experts with a very neutral and pragmatic perspective has a better chance of success in my mind.

As a point of clarification, I am not asking large companies to pick a few small companies out of their partner ecosystem and give them a 10% discount on their alliance membership fee in exchange for showing up in the standards groups and supporting their friendly sponsor. This is a common trick, used to pack a committee, get the votes and create an impression of overwhelming industry support. Nobody should pick who the specialists are. We should do all we can to encourage them to come. It will be pretty clear who they are when they start to ask pointed questions about the work.

Finally, from the archives, a more humorous look at how various standards bodies compare. And the proof that my complaints about DMTF secrecy aren’t new.


Filed under Cloud Computing, CMDBf, DMTF, Everything, HP, IBM, Mgmt integration, Microsoft, Oracle, People, Protocols, Specs, Standards, Utility computing, VMware, W3C, Web services, WS-Management

Interesting links

A few interesting links I noticed tonight.

HP Delivers Industry-first Management Capabilities for Microsoft System Center

That’s not going to improve the relationship between the Insight Control group (part of the server hardware group, of Compaq heritage) and the BTO group (part of HP Software, of HP heritage plus many acquisitions) in HP.  The Microsoft relationship was already a point of tension when they were still called SIM and OpenView, respectively.

CA Acquires Cassatt

Constructive destruction at work.

Setting up a load-balanced Oracle Weblogic cluster in Amazon EC2

It’s got to become easier, whether Oracle or somebody else does it. In the meantime, this is a good reference.

[UPDATED 2009/07/12: If you liked the “WebLogic on EC2” article, check out the follow-up: “Full Weblogic Load-Balancing in EC2 with Amazon ELB”.]

Full Weblogic Load-Balancing in EC2 with Amazon ELB

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Filed under Amazon, Application Mgmt, Automation, CA, Cloud Computing, Everything, HP, IT Systems Mgmt, Manageability, Mgmt integration, Microsoft, Middleware, Oracle, Utility computing, Virtualization

Reality check on Cloud portability

SD Times recently published an interesting article about “cloud interoperability”. It has some well-informed opinions. But, like all Cloud-related discussions, it also suffers from mixing a bunch of things. The word “interoperability” is alternatively applied to the Cloud infrastructure services (in which case this “interoperability” is a way to provide application “portability”) and to the Cloud-hosted applications themselves.

Application-level interoperability (“look, my GAE-hosted app successfully sent an HTTP request to an Azure-hosted app, open the champagne”) is not very new or exciting anymore and is often used as an interoperability smokescreen (hello Many of these interop concerns are long solved and the others (like authentication and data migration) need to be solved in ways that don’t care whether the application is hosted in your Silicon Valley garage or near the Columbia river.

Cloud infrastructure compatibility (in other words application portability) is the more interesting discussion. I keep reading that it is needed (“no vendor lock-in, not ever again”) for enterprises to move to the Cloud. Being a natural-born cynic, I always ask myself whether those asking for it are naive (sometimes) or have ulterior motives (e.g. trying to catch-up with Amazon by entangling them in the standards net – some of my fellow cynics see the Open Cloud Manifesto as just this).

Because the reality is that, Manifesto or no Manifesto, you are not going to get application portability across IaaS-type Cloud providers. At least for production applications. Sorry. As a consolation prize, you may get some runtime portability such that we’ll be shown nice demos of prototype apps moving from one provider to another (either as applications or as virtual machines). Clap clap until you realize that they left behind their monitoring capabilities, or that their configuration rules don’t validate anything anymore. And that your printer ran out of red ink when printing the latest compliance report. Oops.

Maybe I am biased because they are both my friends and ex-colleagues, but the HP guys make the most sense in the SD Times article. Tim Hall has it right when he suggests “that the industry should focus on specific problems that it is going to solve around deployment and standardized monitoring”. And the other HP Tim, Mr. van Ash, rightly points out that we should “stop promising miracles”, which Forrester’s Jeffrey Hammond echoes, saying that there is a difference between a standard and “plug-and-play in reality”.

Tim Hall uses SQL as an example of a realistic common baseline. J2EE would be another one. They provide a good reality check. Standards are always supposed to prevent vendor lock-in. And there is a need for some of that, of course. But look at the track records. How many applications do you know that are certified and supported on any SQL database, any Unix operating system and any J2EE app server? And yet, standardizing queries on relational data and standardizing an enterprise-class runtime environment for one programming language are pretty constrained scopes in the grand scheme of things. At least compared to all the aspects that you need to standardize to provide real Cloud portability (security, monitoring, provisioning, configuration, language runtime and/or OS, data storage/retrieval, network configuration, integration with local apps, metering/billing, etc). And we’re supposed to put together a nice bundle of standards that will guarantee drag-and-drop portability across all these concerns? In how many lifetimes? By then, Cloud computing will have been replaced by the next big thing ( is still available BTW).

Not to mention that this standardization comes hand in hand with constraints on what you can do. That’s why I read Amazon’s Adam Selipsky’s comment that allowing customers to do “whatever they want” is vital as a way to say “get real” to requests for application portability, while allowing him to sound helpful rather than obstructionist.

This doesn’t mean that these standards are not useful. They make application portability possible if not free. They make for much improved productivity through generic tools and reusable developer knowledge. We still need all this.

Here is the best that can realistically happen in the “application portability across IaaS providers” area for at least 10 years:

  • a set of partial standards for small parts of the Cloud computing domain (see list above), many of which already exist.
  • a set of RightScale-like tools that do a lot of the grunt work of mapping/hiding/transforming between providers, with various degrees of success.
  • the need for application providers to certify their applications on Cloud providers one by one anyway and to provide cloning/migration as a feature of the application rather than an infrastructure-level task.

That’s assuming that IaaS providers become a major business, that there remains a difference between service providers and software providers. The other option is that the whole Cloud excitment goes back to SaaS only, that application creators are also hosting providers, that the only resource you get in a “utility” fashion is the application itself. At which point application portability is not a concern anymore and we go back to “only” worrying about data portability and application interoperability, an easier problem and one on which we have come a long way already. If this is what comes to pass then the challenge of Cloud portability may well be one of the main reasons. Along with the lack of revenue/margin potential for many of the actors in an IaaS world, as my CEO is fond of pointing out.

[UPDATED 2009/4/22: F5’s Lori MacVittie provides a very nice illustration of the same point, in her explanation of why OVF is not a cloud portability silver bullet.]

[UPDATED 2009/6/1: Soon after posting this entry I was contacted by people at SD Times about turning it into a “guest view” article in the June issue. It has just been published. It’s also in the paper version.]


Filed under Amazon, Application Mgmt, Articles, Cloud Computing, Everything, Google App Engine, HP, IT Systems Mgmt, Mgmt integration, People, Portability, Specs, Standards, Utility computing

HP introduces “Operations Manager i”

If you’ve seen a lot of news articles about HP’s IT management software this week (e.g. through Cote or Doug) it’s because the company held its Software Universe conference in Vienna this week and timed a bunch of announcements and PR events to match.

Most of the articles linked above just paraphrase the press releases and talking points. So if you’re going to get the company line, might as well get it straight from the horse’s mouth. Which we can now do through a new HP blog about BSM. The first article was penned by Mike Shaw and that’s enough for me to want to subscribe (I worked with Mike a few times when I was at HP and he is very sharp). I think Mike also wrote the other entries but since they are not signed (and the account name, “adsey007”, is pretty opaque) I am not sure. In any case, they are pretty good. This one gives an overview of the Vienna announcements. The next one describes in more details the OMi product. I am not in position to know how well it works but, according to the article, OMi takes the important step of modeling and managing events in the context of the overall model in the CMDB. Such that the event management features (e.g. correlation) can use the already-discovered relationships between the IT elements involved in the events (e.g. dependencies). The article also implies that the CMDB has been integrated with NNM (OpenView), Service Manager (Peregrine) and Server Automation (Opsware). Which is a lot of progress in 16 months since I left HP, so I am taking it with a grain of salt (we all know there are different levels of integration). The press release says that the CMDB is now integrated with 17 HP BTO applications, so you may need a whole salt shaker. In any case it’s great to see that Ramin and team are forging ahead, delivering products and driving the integration of the BTO portfolio.

The last paragraph (“OMi actually sits on top of existing HP Operations Manager installations…”) is intriguing and may provide a clue about the depth of the integration. In any case, OMi is something to keep an eye on as it is positioned to leverage a lot of the key strengths of the HP BTO portfolio.

BTW, this OMi product has nothing to do with this OMI which was a precursor to WSMF, WSDM and WS-Management. And which most people currently working in HP Software have never heard of.


Filed under Application Mgmt, Conference, Everything, HP, IT Systems Mgmt, Mgmt integration, Modeling, People

WS Resource Access working group starting at W3C

Things went quiet for a while, but the W3C Web Services Resource Access Working Group has finally taken life, as was announced last week. It’s a well-know PR trick to announce bad news on a Friday such that it goes undetected, is it a coincidence that W3C picked a Friday for this announcement?

As you can tell by this last remark, I have no trouble containing my enthusiasm about this new group. Which should not come as a surprise to regular readers of this blog (see this, this, this and this, chronologically).

The most obvious potential pushback against this effort is the questionable architectural need to redo over SOAP what can be done over simple HTTP. Along the lines of Erik Wilde’s “HTTP over SOAP over HTTP” post. But I don’t expect too much noise about this aspect, because even on the blogosphere people eventually get tired of repeating the same arguments. If some really wanted to put up a fight against this, it would have been done when the group was first announced, not now. That resource modeling party is over.

While I understand the “WS-Transfer is just HTTP over SOAP over HTTP” argument, this is not my problem with this group. For one thing, this group is not really about WS-Transfer, it’s about WS-ResourceTransfer (WS-RT) which adds fine-grained resource access on top of WS-Transfer. Which is not something that HTTP gives you out of the box. You may argue that this is not needed (just model your addressable resources in a fine-grained way and use “hypermedia” to navigate between them) but I don’t really buy this. At least not in the context of IT management models, which is where the whole thing started. You may be able to architect an IT management system in such RESTful way, but even if you can it’s too far away from current IT modeling practices to be practical in many scenarios (unfortunately, as it would be a great complement to an RDF-based IT model). On the other hand, I am not convinced that this fine-grained access needs to go beyond “read” (i.e. no need for “fine-grained write”).

The next concern along that “HTTP over SOAP over HTTP” line of thought might then be why build this on top of SOAP rather than on top of HTTP. I don’t really buy this one either. SOAP, through the SOAP processing model (mainly the use of headers, something that WS-RT unfortunately butchers) is better suited than HTTP for such extensions. And enough of them have already been defined that you may want to piggyback on. The main problem with SOAP is the WS-Addressing tumor that grew on it (first I thoughts it was just a wart, but then it metastatized). WS-RT is affected by it, but it’s not intrinsic to WS-RT.

Finally, it would be a little hard for me to reject SOAP-based resources access altogether, having been associated with many such systems: WSMF, WSDM/WSRF, WS-Management and even WS-RT in its pre-submission days (and my pre-Oracle days). Not that I have signed away my rights to change my mind.

So my problem with WS-RAWG is not a fundamental architectural problem. It’s not even a problem with the defects in the current version of WS-RT. They are fixable and the alternative specifications aren’t beauty queens either.

Rather, my concerns are focused on the impact on the interoperability landscape.

When WS-RT started (when I was involved in it), it was as part of a convergence effort between HP, IBM, Intel and Microsoft. With the plan to use this to unify the competing WS-Management and WSDM/WSRF stacks. Sure it was also an opportunity to improve things a bit, but 90% of the value came from the convergence/unification aspect, not technical improvements.

With three of the four companies having given up on this, it isn’t much of a convergence anymore. Rather then paring-down the number of conflicting options that developers have to chose from (a choice that usually results in “I won’t pick either sine there is no consensus, I’ll just do it my own way”), this effort is going to increase it. One more candidate. WS-Management is not going to go away, and it’s pretty likely that in W3C WS-RT will move further away from it.

Not to mention the fact that CMDBf (and its SOAP-based graph-oriented query protocol) has since emerged and is progressing towards standardization. At this point, my (notoriously buggy) crystal ball shows a mix of WS-management and CMDBf taking the prize overall. With WS-Management used to access individual resources and CMDBf used to access any kind of overall system view. Which, as a side note, means that DMTF has really taken this game over (at least in the IT management domain) from W3C and OASIS. Not that W3C really wanted to be part of the game in the first place…


Filed under CMDBf, DMTF, Everything, HP, IBM, IT Systems Mgmt, Manageability, Mgmt integration, Microsoft, Query, REST, SOAP, SOAP header, Specs, Standards, W3C, WS-Management, WS-ResourceTransfer, WS-Transfer

HP Systinet 3.00: now with more significant digits!

My ex-colleagues at HP have just released a new version of the HP Systinet SOA governance product. Congrats guys.

Just a question. What’s up with the “version 3.00” thing? We used to talk about “v1” and “v2”. Then came the whole “Web 2.0” silliness and we all replaced the “v” prefix with a “dot oh” suffix. Fine. But am I now supposed to say “dot oh oh”? And, more important, where will it stop? Is Santa Claus going to be bellowing “dot oh oh oh” later this year?

Or is it the price? Three dollars?

Since versioning is a big part of SOA management, I guess HP wanted to show that they had thought extra hard about the question and reflect this in their product name. In any case, no-one beats Oracle for granular version number (for example, JDeveloper was released today).

More seriously, I noted with interest mentions of BPEL and SCA support in Systinet 3.00, but I couldn’t find any specific about what this means on the HP site. Anyone has more info? Also, no mention of GIF in the release announcement?

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Filed under Application Mgmt, Everything, Governance, HP

Grid cloudification

Grid computing is moulting and, to no surprise, the new skin has “cloud” written all over it.

That’s one way to interpret the announcement today that HP, Intel and Yahoo are going to launch a compute cloud. Seeing Intel and HP work together on this is no surprise. Back at HP I had some involvement with the collaboration between HP Labs and Intel on PlanetLab.

I have only read the Gigaom article and Steve’s, so this post is not an analysis of the announcement. Just a few questions that come to mind. They can be most concisely expressed by trying to understand the difference with Amazon’s EC2. The quotes below all come from the Gigaom article.

“six physical locations” -> Amazon has availability zones, including the choice of three geographies.

“between 1,000 and 4,000 mostly Intel cores” -> According to this well-publicized story, Amazon can deliver 5,000 servers (each linked to at least one physical core) to one customer without breaking a sweat.

“We want, unlike other partnerships including Google and IBM’s where the lower-level stacks are not provided in a open manner to the world, open access to all levels of the hardware” -> The quote seems to conveniently avoid comparison with EC2 which provides a much lower abstraction level: virtual machines with mountable raw block storage devices. How much lower can you go without handing out access cards to physically walk into the datacenter? Access to the BMC on the motherboard? Access to some internal bus? Remote-controlled little robots that will slide cards in and out of a chassis?

“researchers will be able to access the cloud through a proposal process later this year” -> Ec2 offers pay-as-you go, which tends to be a good driver for people to use the infrastructure efficiently. And of course someone can always give researchers a grant in the form of EC2 rent money.

Just to be clear, I am not belittling the announcement because for one thing I haven’t read much about it and for another I probably know many of the HP Labs people involved and they are part of the “mucho sapiens” branch of “homo sapiens”. I know they wouldn’t bother putting this out if it was nothing more than giving researchers some free EC2 time.

But these are the questions I’ll be trying to answer for myself as I read more about this project.

[UPDATED 2008/9/19: Russ Daniels (who was HP Software CTO when I was at HP and is now CTO of Cloud Services Strategy) comments on the announcement.]

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Filed under Amazon, Everything, Grid, HP, Manageability, Tech, Utility computing, Virtualization, Yahoo

Did someone at EDS miss the memo?

Two months ago, HP announced the acquisition of EDS.

One month later, HP Software announced a slew of new service management products, including an updated version (7.5) of Universal CMDB (from the Mercury acquisition).

One month later (today), according to BMC (with supporting quote from an EDS exec), “EDS Asia Pacific Standardises on BMC Software Atrium CMDB to Improve Service Delivery”.

As an ex-colleague pointed out to me, the acquisition isn’t closed yet. Still.


Filed under BSM, CMDB, Everything, HP, IT Systems Mgmt

Moving towards utility/cloud computing standards?

This Forbes article (via John) channels 3Tera’s Bert Armijo’s call for standardization of utility computing. He calls it “Open Cloud” and it would “allow a company’s IT systems to be shared between different cloud computing services and moved freely between them“. Bert talks a bit more about it on his blog and, while he doesn’t reference the Forbes interview (too modest?), he points to Cloudscape as the vision.

A few early thoughts on all this:

  • No offense to Forbes but I wouldn’t read too much into the article. Being Forbes, they get quotes from a list of well-known people/companies (Google and Amazon spokespeople, Forrester analyst, Nick Carr). But these quotes all address the generic idea of utility computing standards, not the specifics of Bert’s project.
  • Saying that “several small cloud-computing firms including Elastra and Rightscale are already on board with 3Tera’s standards group” is ambiguous. Are they on-board with specific goals and a candidate specification? Or are they on board with the general idea that it might be time to talk about some kind of standard in the general area of utility computing?
  • IEEE and W3C are listed as possible hosts for the effort, but they don’t seem like a very good match for this area. I would have thought of DMTF, OASIS or even OGF first. On the face of it, DMTF might be the best place but I fear that companies like 3Tera, Rightscale and Elastra would be eaten alive by the board member companies there. It would be almost impossible for them to drive their vision to completion, unlike what they can do in an OASIS working group.
  • A new consortium might be an option, but a risky and expensive one. I have sometimes wondered (after seeing sad episodes of well-meaning and capable start-ups being ripped apart by entrenched large vendors in standards groups) why VCs don’t play a more active role in standards. Standards sound like the kind of thing VCs should be helping their companies with. VC firms are pretty used to working together, jointly investing in companies. Creating a new standard consortium might be too hard for 3Tera, but if the VCs behind 3Tera, Elastra and Rightscale got together and looked at the utility computing companies in their portfolios, it might make sense to join forces on some well-scoped standardization effort that may not otherwise be given a chance in existing groups.
  • I hope Bert will look into the history of DCML, a similar effort (it was about data center automation, which utility computing is not that far from once you peel away the glossy pictures) spearheaded by a few best-of-bread companies but ignored by the big boys. It didn’t really take off. If it had, utility computing standards might now be built as an update/extension of that specification. Of course DCML started as a new consortium and ended as an OASIS “member section” (a glorified working group), so this puts a grain of salt on my “create a new consortium and/or OASIS group” suggestion above.
  • The effort can’t afford to be disconnected from other standards in the virtualization and IT management domains. How does the effort relate to OVF? To WS-Management? To existing modeling frameworks? That’s the main draw towards DMTF as a host.
  • What’s the open source side of this effort? As John mentions during the latest Redmonk/Willis IT management podcast (starting around minute 24), there needs to a open source side to this. Actually, John thinks all you need is the open source side. Coté brings up Eucalyptus. BTW, if you want an existing combination of standards and open source, have a look at CDDLM (standard) and SmartFrog (implementation, now with EC2/S3 deployment)
  • There seems to be some solid technical raw material to start from. 3Tera’s ADL, combined with Elastra’s ECML/EDML, presumably captures a fair amount of field expertise already. But when you think of them as a starting point to standardization, the mindset needs to switch from “what does my product need to work” to “what will the market adopt that also helps my product to work”.
  • One big question (at least from my perspective) is that of the line between infrastructure and applications. Call me biased, but I think this effort should focus on the infrastructure layer. And provide hooks to allow application-level automation to drive it.
  • The other question is with regards to the management aspect of the resulting system and the role management plays in whatever standard specification comes out of Bert’s effort.

Bottom line: I applaud Bert’s efforts but I couldn’t sleep well tonight if I didn’t also warn him that “there be dragons”.

And for those who haven’t seen it yet, here is a very good document on the topic (but it is focused on big vendors, not on how smaller companies can play the standards game).

[UPDATED 2008/6/30: A couple hours after posting this, I see that Coté has just published a blog post that elaborates on his view of cloud standards. As an addition to the podcast I mentioned earlier.]

[UPDATED 2008/7/2: If you read this in your feed viewer (rather than directly on and you don’t see the comments, you should go have a look. There are many clarifications and some additional insight from the best authorities on the topic. Thanks a lot to all the commenters.]


Filed under Amazon, Automation, Business, DMTF, Everything, Google, Google App Engine, Grid, HP, IBM, IT Systems Mgmt, Mgmt integration, Modeling, OVF, Portability, Specs, Standards, Utility computing, Virtualization

BMC acquires ITM Software

Another BMC acquisition today: ITM Software. Their software suite is designed to help drive IT decisions from the point of view of their business impact.

This is important, of course, for all the reasons that BMC, HP, Oracle and others have been explaining for a while (how often have you heard the word “alignment” over the last three years, compared to the previous thirty?). It’s becoming even more important now, as the options for IT sourcing (from the traditional “give it all to Unisys”, to SaaS, to running your own apps in a utility computing environment…) are multiplicating. Choosing between Intel and AMD CPUs in your datacenter is a technical decision, but choosing between an on-premise application, a SaaS application and running your application on EC2 is driven by business considerations of cost, risks, control, flexibility, etc. And it’s not just a one-time decision, it’s the day to day management that follows these decisions.

I don’t know much about the current ITM offering, but it was never clear to me how much they could deliver as a narrow layer, separate from the heavy-duty IT management stack (I can see how they would deliver financial and project management tools, but what about *really* linking day to day IT administration decisions to the business impact). Being part of BMC, presumably allowing deeper integration into real IT management operations, seems to make sense.

I just wish they didn’t make it sound so easy: “BMC’s purchase of ITM Software creates a unique, integrated solution that provides customers with a single comprehensive view into…”. So just signing the check creates the integration? Now I am going to get calls from our execs asking why it takes so much work to integrate acquired products, if BMC can do it the same day they sign the deal…

While I am at it, here is the press release that HP put out to list the announcements at their Software Universe conference this week. I notice that it’s all about new versions of ex-Mercury products. No OpenView, Peregrine or Opsware content, as far as I can tell. Without looking at it in more details I don’t know how different these new versions really are. What appears pretty new is the SaaS offering (also based on Mercury products) at the end of the press release. On the nitpicking side, can anyone tell me what these “static configuration management databases” are that are “unable to support the real-time needs of today’s complex technology environments”? I can see how a “static” database would be hard-pressed to help, but I haven’t noticed any vendor selling read-only config stores.

[UPDATED 2008/6/18: More details about the HP announcement at InfoWorld. Including quotes from my ex-boss Ramin. Congrats on getting UCMDB 7.5 out of the door!]


Filed under Application Mgmt, BSM, Business, CMDB, Everything, HP, IT Systems Mgmt, ITIL, Mgmt integration

I have seen the future of CMDBf

I got a sneak peak at CMDBf v2 today.

I am calling it v2 based on the assumption that the one being currently standardized in DMTF will end up being called 1.0 (because it’s the first one out of DMTF) or 1.1 (to prevent confusion with the submitted version).

At the Semantic Technology Conference, David Booth from HP presented his work (along with his partner, Steve Battle from HP Labs) to provide a SPARQL front-end to HP’s Universal CMDB (the engine under what was the Mercury MAM product). Here are the slides.

The mapping from SPARQL to TQL (the native query interface for UCMDB) was made pretty easy by the fact that TQL is a graph-oriented query language. How much harder would it be to similarly transform a CMDBf (v1) query interface into a SPARQL query interface (and vice-versa)? Not much. The only added difficulty would come from the CMDBf XPath constraints. TQL has a property value mechanism that is very similar to CMDBf’s “propertyValue” constraint and maps well to SPARQL functions. The introduction of XPath as a constraint language in CMDBf makes things harder. It could be handled by adding XPath support to the SPARQL engine using function extensibility. Or by turning the entire XML into RDF and emulating XPath in SPARQL. But in either case, you’ll have impedence mismatch at some point because concepts such as element order that exist in XPath have no native equivalent in RDF.

The use of XPath in selectors on the other hand is not a problem. HP’s prototype uses Gloze (available as a Jena package) to turn the XML returned by UCMDB into RDF. An XSLT transform could turn that same XML into a CMDBf-valid XML response instead and that XSLT could easily handle the XPath selectors from the query request. This is another reason why constraints and selectors should remain separate in CMDBf (fortunately the specification is back to doing this properly).

Here is why I call this prototype CMDBf v2: The CMDBf effort (v1 or 1.1), in its current form of re-inventing a graph query, can succeed. Let’s assume the working group strikes a reasonable balance between completeness and complexity, and vendors choose to compete on innovation and execution rather than lock-in (insert cynical comment here). CMDBf may then end up being supported by the main CMDB vendors. It wouldn’t provide federation capabilities, but having a common CMDB query interface supported by the Big Four would help with management integration. And yet, while the value would be real, it would only provide a little help to solve a larger problem:

  • As a technology limited to IT systems management, it would be unlikely to see widely available tools (e.g. user consoles and language-specific libraries).
  • It wouldn’t get the kind of robustness and interoperability that comes from wide adoption. While pretty similar, there might be some minor differences in the various implementations. Once your implementation has been tweaked to work with the implementations from the Big Four, you’ll call it done. Just like SNMP, another technology that is specific to IT systems management (see it happen here).
  • Even if it works perfectly at the query level, it will just hasten the time when developers run into the real problem, model interoperability. CMDBf doesn’t help at all with this. In fact, it makes it harder by hard-coding some dependencies on an XML back-end (the XPath constraints).

In the long run, IT management has to become more automated and integrated. That’s a given. The way it happens may or may not go through CMDB-like configuration stores. But if it does, we’ll have to eventually move beyond CMDBf (v1) towards something that addresses the three requirements above. And federation. I don’t know if it will be called CMDBf v2, and/or if it will come from the DMTF (by then, the CMDBf brand might be an asset or a liability depending on developer experience with the specification). But I strongly suspect (“probability 0.8” as a Gartner analyst might put it) that it will use semantic technologies. Because the real, hard, underlying problem is a problem of semantic integration. In that sense, David and Steve’s prototype is a sneak peek at what will come after CMDBf v1/1.1.

Pretty much since the beginning of CMDBf I have been pushing for it to ideally embrace SPARQL (with no success) or to at least stay close to it conceptually in order to make the eventual mapping/evolution smooth (with a bit more success). This includes pushing for a topological query language, trying to keep XML idiosyncrasies at bay and keeping constraints and selectors cleanly separated. Rather than working within the CMDBf group, David took the alternative approach of simply doing it. Hopefully this will help convince people of the value of re-using semantic web technology for IT systems management. Yes semantic technologies have been designed for a much more general use case. But the use cases that CMDB systems address are a subset of the use cases addressed by semantic technologies. It’s hard for domain experts to see their domain as just a subset of a larger problem, but this is the case here. Isn’t HTTP serving the IT management community better than a systems management-specific alternative would?

By the way, there is no inferencing taking place in the HP prototype. We are just talking about re-using an existing, well though-through graph query language. Sure OWL inferencing and some rules could be seamless layered on top of this. But this is in no way required to do (better) what CMDBf v1 tries to do.

And then there is the “federation” question. Who do you trust more to deliver this? A bunch of IT system management architects in DMTF or the web and query experts at W3C, HP Labs etc who designed and implemented SPARQL over many years? BTW, it sounds like SPQARL federation was discussed at WWW 2008, based on these meeting notes (search for “federation”).


Filed under Automation, CMDB, CMDB Federation, CMDBf, Conference, DMTF, Everything, Graph query, HP, IT Systems Mgmt, Query, RDF, Semantic tech, SPARQL, Standards, W3C, XPath

Various IT management stories

Apparently Coté’s upstairs neighbors were having a party last night and he could not sleep. That’s good for us because as a result he bookmarked a long list IT systems management stories. Several of those picked my interest:


Filed under Application Mgmt, Articles, Everything, HP, IT Systems Mgmt, Manageability, Microsoft, Open source, Oracle

WS-ManagementHammer: don’t do it but if you are going to do it anyway then…

With the IBM/Microsoft/Intel/HP WSDM/WS-Management convergence now implicitly (if not yet officially) dead, it will be interesting to see what IBM is going to do with WSRF. WSRF is being used today, rarely explicitly but rather in an embedded fashion. People who use WSDM use it, people who use CDDLM use it, people who use the Globus Toolkit use it, etc. IBM could write off the convergence work (WS-ResourceTransfer, which was published as a draft, and WS-ResourceEnumeration and WS-EventNotification which were never published) and stick to using the existing WSRF specifications when they need the corresponding functionality. That’s what I hope they do.

Alternatively, they could decide to get the forceps out of the drawer. They can create a new, IBM-friendly (e.g. Fujitsu, CA, Cisco…) private consortium to take over the unfinished drafts (if the IBM/Microsoft/Intel/HP legal agreement allows this) or start new ones. Or they could go directly to W3C, OASIS or OGF and push for a new working group to do the work in the open (and since no-one else would really care about this work IBM should have relatively free hands there, the way Microsoft did in DMTF when IBM chose to boycott WS-Management). Why W3C would care and why OASIS or OGF would want to start commitees to obsolete their existing work is a separate question.

While I hope that IBM doesn’t try to push another pile of WS-* resouce management specifications on an industry that already has too many, if they do I hope that at least they’ll do it right. And that means doing away with the approach embedded in WS-ResourceTransfer. Having personally been involved in many iterations on this problem, I hope to have some insight to contribute.

Along the lines of the age-old parental advice “don’t do it but if you are going to do it then use a condom”, here is my advice to anyone thinking of doing another iteration on the WSRF question: don’t do it but if you are going to do it then be specific about what problem you are addressing.

First, let’s separate three scenarios.

Database query

WS-ResourceTransfer should not be seen as a way to query an XML database. Use XQuery for this.


While architecturally it should be possible to build RESTful applications on top of WS-Transfer‘s operations, this is simply not what is happening. WS-Transfer is being used either by CIM people (who get to it via WS-Management) or by big-SOA people (who get is as part of the whole WS-* stack) and neither of them is doing anything remotely RESTful. So just leave that aside and don’t see WS-ResourceTransfer as a way to do “fine-grained REST”. No REST user is loosing sleep over WS-ResourceTransfer being in limbo.

A flexible way to interact with a complex system

This is the use case that you should focus on. You have a system made up of many parts (e.g. a composite application or a server that is made of many components) that you can represent as an XML document. The XML repesentation contains some important information about the system, but it isn’t the system. There are identified resources within the system that have lifecycles, management capabilities and internal parameters. Not everything relevant is captured in the XML model. This is why it is different from an XML database.

In general, I don’t think that XML is the best way to represent complex IT systems. It has plenty of complications that are not relevant to IT management and it doesn’t elegantly support the representation of graphs, often the most natural way to represent such a system (more on this here). CMDBf, with its graph-oriented approach, is a better choice in general. But there are plenty of areas (especially smaller, well-defined, sub-systems) in which XML formats have been defined to represent systems. SCA and SML for example.

In the case where you are dealing with such an XML-described system, then there is value in standard ways to simplify interactions with the system and its parts. But here too, we need to distinguished different patterns rather than trying to handle them all in the same way.

Filtering/sequencing of returned data

Complex IT systems can generate a lot of configuration and/or monitoring data and often you only care for a small subset. For example, an asset record has dozens of elements (lease terms, owner, assigned user…) but you may only care to retrieve the date the lease expires. When you do a GET on the record, you want to qualify it by specifying that only that date needs to be returned. That’s what WS-RP, WS-RT and the WS-Management wsman:TransferFragment header allow. In a variation of this, you want all the data but you don’t want it in one go, you want to pull it piece by piece. That’s what WS-Enumeration gives you. The problem with all these specifications is that they only offer that feature when you are retrieving the resource representation (a WS-Transfer GET or equivalent), not for other operations. But how is this different from invoking an AirlineBooking operation and saying that you only want to be sent the confirmation code, not the full itinerary, equipment type, assigned seat, etc? Bundling this inside WS-RT (or equivalent) is not helpful. A generic SOAP header that can go on any message would be more appropriate (the definition of this header would need to pay special attention to security considerations, especially if the response is signed, because it could be abused to trick the server into sending, and signing, specifically-crafted messages).

Interacting with a sub-element of the system

If you have a handle to a computer system resource and you know that it has one CPU and that this CPU is represented by the /comp:CPU element of the system, why would you need to use some out-of-band discovery mechanism to interact with that CPU? It’s right there, you can see it, you can point to it. Surely there must be a way to address operations to it directly, right? WS-Management tries to do it with its wsman:Selector mechanism, but the selectors are not tied to the model and require, effectively, a separate out-of-band agreement for addressing. There shouldn’t be a need for such an additional agreement once an agreement has already been reached on the model.

What is needed is a way, for systems that have a known XML model, to address message to subpart by using the model itself to support that addressing. Call it SOAPy mashup if you want to feel like you are part of the cool kids. I described such a mechanism a while ago. In effect, it is an improvement on wsman:Selector that an eventual new iteration of WSRF should at least consider.

In some cases, namely when the operation is a WS-Transfer GET, this capability overlaps with the “filtering of returned data” capability. One way to look at it is that you are doing a GET at the level of the overall computer system and filtering the results down to the part that represents the CPU. Another way to look at it is that you are pinpointing the message to a subset of the model (the CPU part) and doing an unmodified GET on it. It doesn’t matter how you choose to think about it. In my proposal, these two ways produce the same message. Like the wave view and particle view of a photon, that in the end, describe the same physical entity with each being the best representation for a set of situations.

The problem with WS-RT and its predecessors is that it doesn’t recognise that this is just the intersection of two orthogonal concerns (filering of output versus addressing of sub-elements) and only handles that intersection.

Interacting with a set of resources as a set

The same kind of expression (typically XPath) that lets you point at a sub-element inside of a system also lets you point at a set of such sub-elements. But even though from an XPath perspective there isn’t much of a different (the first one just happens to return a nodeset that contains only one node), from an architectural perspective it is a very different use case. If you want to support such a use case then you have handle it as such and define all the associated semantics (sequential/parallel execution, fault handling, partial completion, resource-specific permissions…). You can’t just cross your fingers and assume that you get such features “for free” just because XPath can return a nodeset.

I know that this post illustrates a way of giving free advice that virtually ensures that it gets ignored. Similar (if you’ll allow the big stretch) to the way Chirac and Villepin were arguing againt an Iraq invasion in ways that probably reinforced the Bush administration’s determination to do it. When will the world finally learn to appreciate the oh-so-slightly obnoxious undertone that is inherently French (because, let me tell you, we’re not about to loose it)? At least, when my grandchildren ask me “where were you when IBM invented WS-ManagementHammer?” I can point to this post and say “I tried to stop it, I tried”.

[UPDATED 2008/5/15: How timely! Just after publishing this I find, via Coté, what looks like another example of French abrasiveness in the systems management world: the attitude, name and the way Jeff ends with a French-language quote make it quite likely that the “Jacques” person discounting the fact that his company’s SNMP agent is broken is indeed a compatriot. French obnoxiousness aside, and despite my respect for standards, my advice to Jeff is that if a given SNMP agent works with HP, IBM, BMC and CA you will probably save yourself time in the long run by finding a way to support it (even if it is not spec-compliant) rather than getting the vendor to change. There are lots of sites out there that work fine with Firefox and IE but are not compliant with Web standards. Good luck getting them all fixed.]

[UPDATED 2008/7/14: I don’t really plan to turn this post into a ongoing set of updates about “French attitude” but since today is Bastille Day I’ll point to this map of the world as seen from Paris. If I wasn’t on strike right now, I’d explain why the commenter is wrong to assert that “French self-deprecating humour” is rare.]


Filed under Everything, HP, IBM, IT Systems Mgmt, Mgmt integration, Microsoft, SCA, SML, SOAP, SOAP header, Specs, Standards, WS-Management, WS-ResourceTransfer, WS-Transfer, XMLFrag, XPath

Management product releases

A couple of product updates related to applications management were announced over the last couple of weeks:

  • My ex-colleagues at HP working on SOA management have released a new version of SOA Manager (the product that originated with the TalkingBlocks acquisition, when coolness first entered the gloomy 42-Lower floor of HP Cupertino) plus some SOA-buzzword-compliant improvements to Mercury-inherited products (testing tools and BAC). Or so at least says this article (I couldn’t easily find any specifics on the HP site).
  • The JBoss guys announced last week version 2.0 of JBoss ON (Operations Network) their application management console. I assume it is a follow-on to the previously announced work with Hyperic even though the press release does not mention anything about it.

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Filed under Everything, HP, IT Systems Mgmt

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

It is now safe to steal my identity

Note to whoever stole the laptop of a Fidelity employee two years ago, with personal information (SSN and more) for everyone enrolled in HP’s retirement plan: it is now safe to make use of the information. Congratulations on being patient.

I received an email telling me that the “credit watch” service in which all affected HP employees (and ex-employees) were enrolled for free has expired. Of course, we are invited to start paying Equifax to keep it running. $65 per year (and that’s supposedly a discounted rate, mind you, half the “normal” price) to run a DB query once a week on my behalf. Not bad. I should be in that business.

In what ways is the lost data less dangerous two years later? The “1 or 2 years of free credit watch” offer that is typical after events such security violations is obviously just a PR move to allow the guilty party to look like they are taking responsibility for their embarrassing display of incompetence. And it probably costs them very little, if anything, to provide this, considering how good a customer acquisition strategy it is for the “credit watch” department of the credit agencies. The fact that Fidelity and their pears don’t have to bear any real cost for this is the reason why it keeps happening.

If I sound a bit detached about this, it’s not that I am not worried about someone impersonating me by using my SSN and birth date. It’s just that I am not more worried about that specific laptop theft than I am about the hundreds of employees at medical offices, dental offices, insurances companies, banks etc that already have access to this information.

The solution is to publish every single SSN on a web site and stop pretending they can be used for authentication.

[UPDATED 2008/7/7: One more name in the long list of companies that have (often through a subcontractor) leaked so-called “personal” information about their employees. It’s only news because the employer is Google and anything Google-related is for some reason considered newsworthy. Danny is kind to be appreciative for the one year of free credit monitoring. It probably costs Google close to nothing. Which is why Google and the others don’t really care about the problem.]

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Filed under Everything, HP, Identity theft, Security, SSN

Where will you be when the Semantic Web gets Grid’ed?

I see the tide rising for semantic technologies. On the other hand, I wonder if they don’t need to fail in order to succeed.

Let’s use the Grid effort as an example. By “Grid effort” I mean the work that took place in and around OGF (or GGF as it was known before its merger w/ EGA). That community, mostly made of researchers and academics, was defining “utility computing” and creating related technology (e.g. OGSA, OGSI, GridFTP, JSDL, SAGA as specs, Globus and Platform as implementations) when Amazon was still a bookstore. There was an expectation that, as large-scale, flexible, distributed computing became a more pressing need for the industry at large, the Grid vision and technology would find their way into the broader market. That’s probably why IBM (and to a lesser extent HP) invested in the effort. Instead, what we are seeing is a new approach to utility computing (marketed as “cloud computing”), delivered by Amazon and others. It addresses utility computing with a different technology than Grid. With X86 virtualization as a catalyst, “cloud computing” delivers flexible, large-scale computing capabilities in a way that, to the users, looks a lot like their current environment. They still have servers with operating systems and applications on them. It’s not as elegant and optimized as service factories, service references (GSR), service handle (GSH), etc but it maps a lot better to administrators’ skills and tools (and to running the current code unchanged). Incremental changes with quick ROI beat paradigm shifts 9 times out of 10.

Is this indicative of what is going to happen with semantic technologies? Let’s break it down chronologically:

  1. Trailblazers (often faced with larger/harder problems than the rest of us) come up with a vision and a different way to think about what computers can do (e.g. the “computers -> compute grid” transition).
  2. They develop innovative technology, with a strong theoretical underpinning (OGSA-BES and those listed above).
  3. There are some successful deployments, but the adoption is mostly limited to a few niches. It is seen as too complex and too different from current practices for broad adoption.
  4. Outsiders use incremental technology to deliver 80% of the vision with 20% of the complexity. Hype and adoption ensue.

If we are lucky, the end result will look more like the nicely abstracted utility computing vision than the “did you patch your EC2 Xen images today” cloud computing landscape. But that’s a necessary step that Grid computing failed to leapfrog.

Semantic web technologies can easily be mapped to the first three bullets. Replace “computers -> computer grid” with “documents/data -> information” in the first one. Fill in RDF, RDFS, OWL (with all its flavors), SPARQL etc as counterparts to OGSA-BES and friends in the second. For the third, consider life sciences and defense as niche markets in which semantic technologies are seeing practical adoption. What form will bullet #4 take for semantic technology (e.g. who is going to be the EC2 of semantic technology)? Or is this where it diverges from Grid and instead gets adopted in its “original” form?

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Filed under Everything, Grid, HP, IBM, RDF, Research, Semantic tech, Specs, Standards, Tech, Utility computing, Virtualization

HP is starting to pull out of Identity Management

Rumors prompted me to do a Google search on << HP “identity management” exit >>. The second resulting link brought confirmation in the form of this Burton Group article.

From the article, HP is not declaring “end of life” on its IDM products (the “Select” family, made up of Select Access, Select Audit, Select Federation and Select Identity) but they are restricting them to the current customers rather than going after new ones. Which sounds like an end of life, albeit a slow one that gives customers plenty of time to plan and execute their transition. Good for HP, because that’s one area in which you really don’t want to make precipitous decisions (as sometimes happens when an IDM effort is kicked off as a result of a negative security event).

My first reaction is to wonder what this means for my ex-colleagues, including the IDM people I sat next to (most of them from the Trustgenix acquisition) and the remotes ones I interacted with in the context of HP’s software standards strategy (Jason Rouault and Archie Reed, both well-known and respected in the corresponding standards efforts). These are all smart people so I am sure they’ll find productive work either in HP or outside (the IDM domain is booming).

My second reaction is puzzlement. This move is not very surprising from the point of view of the market success and financial returns of HP’s IDM suite so far. But it is a lot more surprising in the context of HP’s BTO strategy. I am sure they realize the importance of IDM in that context, I guess they must have decided that they can do it based on partner products rather than HP products. Hopefully they can maintain the expertise even without further developing products.

The Burton Group article quotes Eric Vishria, “HP Software Vice President of Products”. Based on his title I would have been in his organization so I would have known him if he had been there when I was at HP. Which tells me that he probably came from the Opsware acquisition, soon after I left. The Opsware people now have a lot of influence in HP Software and it looks like they are not shying away from bold moves.

[UPDATED 2008/5/22: HP appears to have struck a deal to migrate its IDM users to Novell.]

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Filed under Everything, HP, Security