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The Open Group Distributed System Management

Nick Stoughton <> reports on the Open Group Distributed System Management meeting in Copenhagen, July 28- 30.

Not So Fast!

Well, in the last issue, I reported on the progress of XSMU in the Open Group Distributed System Management Specification Group. I thought that all was well, and the document would progress rapidly towards a Common Application Environment (CAE) specification. Alas, I was wrong. The Technical Managers Committee in the Open Group decided they were unhappy with the consensus achieved and the contention that remained over some issues and asked us to revisit the issue. This is happening as I write. There is a feeling among several of the members that system management command line utilities are not what is needed ­ they do not help sell hardware. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps system administrators should just learn different commands for every type of system they have to deal with. Perhaps portable administration shell scripts are a thing of the past. Perhaps we should all be using NT's administration tools from now on, and the Open Group should simply worry about the "wider" issues, and to hell with the detail.

Managing the IT Dialtone

The following is extracted from a publication by the Open Group, describing their new vision:

What it means to be "open" in today`s world of IT is continually changing, not in the least because of the rapid evolution of the technology itself. The time is right to review the Open Group`s mission and strategy and adjust its key programs accordingly.

The new Internet technologies promise to change the way we live and work, from company intranets through electronic commerce to telemedicine. However, to enable business to extract the full potential of this technology, we need a global information infrastructure that is ubiquitous, trusted, reliable, and as easy to use as the telephone. The Open Group calls this the IT Dialtone, and they believe it can emerge only through an effective cooperation between suppliers and customers.

The ability to mix and match best-of-breed technology from multiple vendors to rapidly build solutions to the changing needs of business remains a key requirement. In addition, it is recognized that existing "legacy" systems will stay with us, and organizations need a way to protect their investments in these systems and the invaluable information they contain.

With the IT Dialtone as the vision, the Open Group intends to be instrumental in furthering these objectives, enabling businesses to get maximum value from information systems both within and beyond their organizations. As a trusted, neutral organization with (thanks to our members) the necessary in-depth technical know-how, the Open Group is ideally placed to lead in the realization of the IT Dialtone.

Our key task will be to cause the realization of the IT Dialtone ­ a viable, global, open information infrastructure. This will be supported by a trusted forum of customers and suppliers and underpinned by a range of cost-effective enabling services such as collaborative development, testing, and branding.

To do this, the Open Group must itself adapt by expanding its scope to address the whole challenge and by shifting its role from its former technology focus to become a true forum for information, discussion, and resolution. This involves increasing the influence of the "buy-side," reducing financial reliance on a small number of large sponsors and aligning its technical programs more closely with the customer and supplier needs that the forum identifies.

Essentially, the concept is to provide a coherent set of services and facilities to provide a pervasive, ubiquitous, global IT infrastructure as easy to use as the telephone. The System Management Working Group is looking at what services are required to manage this infrastructure: what exists and is implemented, what is under development that needs to be steered into this endeavor, and what is missing and needs development work from the vendors. The IT Dialtone will be implemented in three phases, in as short a time frame as possible. Phase one gathers those identified, existing, implemented technologies and places them into the framework, possibly noting rough edges that will need future attention. This phase is under way now and needs to be completed by the end of this year. Phase two provides the technical infrastructure, with a far greater emphasis on reliability and security. Phase three is the long-term goal and should be largely in place by the end of 1999. The IT Dialtone is a significant shift in the Open Group's direction.

No longer are source code portability and command line interfaces the primary focus for their specifications. Overall, end-to-end services are the new focus. Branding, long a cornerstone of the Open Group process, could now be applied to service providers, in particular, to ISPs. Managing the IT Dialtone means identifying interfaces and services required to build a management server, a manageable application, and a manageable platform. It also places demands upon network service providers for transporting, managing, and monitoring facilities required for that infrastructure.

It is early yet. But watch this space ­ the entire organization is now focusing on this almost exclusively.


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Last changed: Oct 23, 1997 efc
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