IBM’s Open Source Muse

IBM  is donating some of its IT management wisdom to the Apache Software Foundation.

But there’s more to it than just goodwill. You could say that Apache is Big Blue’s open source muse, or at least one of them.

The wisdom, in this case, is actually WSDM (Web Services for Distributed Management, pronounced “wisdom”), which could become a standard for management interfaces of servers, routers, switches and other IT hardware and software.

“Essentially what WSDM does is give you a Web Services mechanism for interfacing with your manageability capabilities of whatever your hardware or software is,” said Ric Telford, VP of autonomic computing at IBM.

The WSDM specification was approved in March of 2005 by e-business standards group OASIS.

The effort behind it has been underway since at least 2003, when the OASIS Web Services Distributed Management (WSDM) Technical Committee was created.

Apache Muse is an open source implementation of the WSDM standard. IBM worked on its own implementation of the WSDM standard and is now contributing code to enhance and augment Apache Muse, Telford said.

Among the contributions that IBM is making to Apache Muse is support for the latest WSDM specification version, Release 1.1.

IBM’s help also includes pre-built code for all the WSDM-defined capabilities called “Helper classes.”

Better code portability that enables the WSDM implementations to run on different Web Services runtimes is also part of IBM’s contribution.

IBM’s WSDM contributions are expected to be integrated into an Apache Muse build soon and available by the end of June. The goal is to have refreshes every 6-8 weeks after that.

Telford sees the march toward Web Services based IT management as being a logical progression.

“As enterprises move to SOA implementations for exposing all of their business services as Web services, they will move their IT management base as well,” Telford said.

WSDM is not necessarily a replacement or directly competitive with existing IT management interfaces like SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol)  or JMX (Java Management Extensions) .

“It’s very simple to put a WSDM mapper on top of an existing SNMP management interface, or a JMX interface,” Telford said. “We’ve already prototyped it.”

“You can put a WSDM interface on your application or hardware and just keep it alongside your existing SNMP, JMX or whatever else,” Telford continued. “And then over time if you want you can deprecate the SNMP implementation or just keep them both.”

So is this yet another competing IT management interface standard to help confuse the industry? Not for Telford’s money. He said it will spur competition, not hinder it.

“What I’d like to see happen is that we all try and make it as easy as possible to get consistent interfaces on the managed elements,” Telford said.

“Then let’s compete on the management function the thing that actually does something with the information that is coming out of these resources. The quicker we can all get to common interfaces on the managed entity whether it be a router, switch, server or a database, the easier it will be to build robust functionality in the management tools.”

While Apache Muse is a runtime executive of WSDM, it’s not IBM’s only open source muse. Big Blue also contributes to the Eclipse Foundation on the tooling side of WSDM as well.

And WSDM is not the only Web Services specification for IT management. In late 2004, Microsoft, Intel, Dell, AMD and Sun Microsystems published the Web Services Management (WS-Management) specification too. But Telford said the industry is moving toward convergence of the specs.

“We have an evolution plan for WSDM which we’ll be working on across the industry,” Telford said. “So that over time we have one clear set of Web Services interfaces for manageability.”

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