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OS/400 Edition
Volume 12, Number 42 -- October 20, 2003

EDS, Opsware Propose Data Center Markup Language

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

The Extensible Markup Language (XML), which is the follow-on to the HyperText Markup Language (HTTP), the foundation of the World Wide Web, spawned another variant yesterday, this time aimed at helping the systems in data centers to communicate better with one another and with systems management and provisioning tools. Data Center Markup Language, or DCML, is being spearheaded by outsourcing specialist EDS and its systems management software partner, Opsware, which sells provisioning software for servers.

On the Web, TCP/IP is the protocol that carries HTML documents and displays them in a browser for people to see as they surf. As its name suggests, XML is an extension of HTML that is more flexible and that can be used as a kind of data exchange media among different applications, which, under normal circumstances, would otherwise not be able to communicate. Different industries--such as banking, finance, and telecommunications--have created their own XML derivatives to address the peculiar data exchange needs that they have.

EDS and Opsware are proposing a derivative of XML that is not focused on a particular industry, but is a pesky communication problem that affects all industries: that is, how to get all of those incompatible servers and applications in the data center and in departments to all talk in a way that centralized systems management programs can understand. Such a language would also put incompatible servers and applications under the control of a central DCML-driven console.

Opsware is spearheading the DCML effort for very good self-serving reasons. Opsware's eponymous provisioning and management tool automates the initialization of operating systems and applications from bare metal to a running stack; it also reprovisions that server as needed and can be used to apply software patches to dozens of popular programs. If a language like DCML could be developed and accepted by the industry, Opsware could bring many more types of machines under its control. Then again, so could another software vendor, which is always the risk in proposing and championing any standard.

IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, and Microsoft all have their own ideas about delivering utility-based computing and centralized control of heterogeneous systems and incompatible applications, and none of the three big IT platform providers were part of the DCML launch. The big industry players never champion a standard unless it is one of their own, so this is not surprising. If DCML gathers steam, they will get on board and try to differentiate themselves, their tools, and their approaches to systems management and to utility computing. Right now, they are undoubtedly holding back to see which way the wind will blow. Oddly enough, DCML may be just the tool that allows each of these vendors to attack what are essentially proprietary approaches to systems management and utility computing among IBM, HP, Sun, and Microsoft platforms. What IBM might do with DCML for its OS/400, z/OS and AIX platforms is anyone's guess right now.

EDS wants DCML to fly because such a language will, in theory, make it easier for it to control the machines that it uses to run outsourced applications. But the sword will cut both ways. What is easier for EDS will also be easier for IBM Global Services, HP Services, Sun Services, Control Data, and other outsourcers who also use DCML-based tools. And just in case utility computing takes off as an outgrowth of outsourcing, EDS wants to be ready and have the right tools, partnerships, and technologies in place. That's why EDS is always seen standing next to Opsware. The support that EDS is giving to Opsware has very little to do with the acquisition of the former Loudcloud hosting business that turned Loudcloud into a software vendor called Opsware.

DCML will be steered by the DCML Organization (, a nonprofit, vendor-neutral consortium that hopes to have the initial draft of the DCML specification finished by the end of the year. Opsware is obviously going to try to be first out the door with DCML-compliant products, and has said that early next year it will do just that. Opsware is betting that by pushing DCML, it can do some good for the industry and stay enough ahead of the competition to do some good for itself. Computer Associates, which is a governing member of the consortium, like Opsware and EDS, is obviously making the same bet: that it can use DCML to extend its reach into the market, with its Unicenter systems management product. Akamai Technologies, BEA Systems, Marimba, Mercury Interactive, Egenera, Tibco, and several other founding members also believe the same, as do the remaining general members of the consortium.

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EDS, Opsware Propose Data Center Markup Language

As I See It: Dissecting Diversity

But Wait, There's More

Timothy Prickett Morgan

Managing Editor
Shannon Pastore

Contributing Editors:
Dan Burger
Joe Hertvik
Kevin Vandever
Shannon O'Donnell
Victor Rozek
Hesh Wiener
Alex Woodie

Publisher and
Advertising Director:

Jenny Thomas

Advertising Sales Representative
Kim Reed

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