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EDS, Opsware Launch Utility Computing Language

EDS and Opsware have teamed together on a data center language standard to reel in utility computing. More than 20 vendors have pledged support for the initiative, which was first reported by internetnews.com.

IT services provider EDS and data center automation software maker Opsware launched the Data Center Markup Language (DCML) to reduce the complexity of data center environments, where several layers of computing exist.

Data center management, which ensures that the network remains functional, is vital to running a utility computing environment, where customers access computing power and resources at a few clicks of a button.

The point of such on-demand services is that customers need to be able to shut the power on and off without worrying about downtime and without frequent monitoring by a systems administrator.

Based on XML , DCML represents a common ground on which the numerous companies can craft services to help customers gain greater control of their data centers. The standard aims to facilitate the exchange of information between key data center components and establishes a foundation to make utility computing open.

Under DCML, participating companies could share resources, such as data center application, server, software and hardware components by allowing them to communicate with each other -- in a lingua franca. Ideally, this would pare the cost and time required for expanding or consolidating the data center, as well as make data migration and replication more convenient.

Research firms such as Summit Strategies and Gartner have stressed the importance of standards for utility computing, noting that the heterogeneity of so many disparate products in a data center can be difficult to reign in.

"The DCML effort correctly identifies common, shared configuration information as a critical enabler of policy-based dynamic utility computing management," said Mary Johnston Turner, vice president, Enterprise Strategies at Summit Strategies. "Automated management is the next major battleground for customer loyalty as it's going to deliver significant ROI and is likely to be an area where vendors can differentiate by offering unique tools and best practices."

On a competitive note, experts in the space have also said EDS and Opsware would love DCML to be the standard of the space in their efforts to compete with perceived leaders such as IBM and HP, both of whom have utility computing products on the market, along with offerings from Veritas and Sun Microsystems.

Theoretically, analysts said, having an open standard could lure customers to something like DCML, as it would grant them access to products from many different vendors under the same roof. In turn, leaders like IBM and HP might be reluctant to join because it means making intellectual property available under the open standard.

"Clearly IBM's recent series of Tivoli announcements have been designed to position IBM as the leader in dynamic utility computing management," Turner told internetnews.com. "The DCML effort is an attempt to create an open alternative. Whether DCML can succeed without strong support from major players like IBM, HP, SUN, Oracle, and Microsoft remains to be seen.

Jeff Kelly, vice president of EDS Infrastructure Services, introduced the standard Tuesday at a launch event in Boston, along with Opsware Founder and CEO Marc Andreessen, the man behind Netscape.

"Until now, the industry could only provide disconnected pieces of the solution," said Kelly, in a thinly-veiled reference to proprietary offerings from the likes of IBM and HP. "It's not enough to build a utility infrastructure and deliver utility-like services to your clients."

One of the member companies to attach its name to DCML is Relicore, a Burlington, Mass.-based software vendor that makes automated configuration management systems for distributed application envrionments.

Relicore Co-founder Blair Wheeler said his company makes software systems that when installed, can give administrators key insights into what's on their network. Wheeler said Relicore's goal is to solve three major problem areas for managing data centers: complexity, change and scattered knowledge.

"We've designed a product so that you can walk into a data center with no insight, put our system in there, and it displays back to you all the applications and piece parts how they talk to each other," Wheeler told internetnews.com.

Wheeler said Relicore's goal of managing those various bits of information floating in the data center ether dovetail nicely with DCML, which he only learned about a few weeks ago and readily agreed to join.

Wheeler also said he understands why companies like IBM and HP might be reluctant to participate and DCML, noting that they are end-to-end solution providers who don't have to rely on parts from other companies to deliver a complete utility computing solution.

However, he said, DCML could conceivably become a universal standard like TCP/IP and HTML and that they'll have no choice but to join should it take on a life of its own.

Other companies who have hopped on board to support DCML include: Computer Associates, BEA Systems, Mercury Interactive, Tibco, Micromuse, Marimba, Akamai Technologies, NetIQ, Tripwire, Inkra Networks, Egenera, ITM Software, AlterPoint, BladeLogic, Blue Titan, Centrata, Configuresoft, Consera, Ejasent, Euclid, Inflow, Racemi and several Fortune 1000 companies.

An initial draft of DCML is expected to be completed in 2004. DCML will be available to companies free.