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Data center standard gains backers

BMC Software and Fujitsu Siemens Computers join an effort to build a standard to link data center software, an important step toward making utility computing systems work.

BMC Software and Fujitsu Siemens Computers on Tuesday joined an effort to create an industrywide standard for reducing the cost of operating corporate data centers.

The companies joined the DCML Organization, a group of 37 companies working to establish a Data Center Markup Language standard that will enable computing gear from multiple providers to share important operational information.

Such data center automation technologies are in their infancy but are seen as crucial by analysts and technology buyers at large companies. Establishing a vendor-neutral way to automate data center tasks is also viewed as an important step toward making utility, or on-demand, computing services a reality.

Systems compliant with DCML are expected to be less costly to run, because many manual tasks, such as provisioning servers or applying software patches, can be automated, according to the group, which is also expected to hold its first working group session today in San Francisco.

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DCML was proposed last month by Electronic Data Systems and Opsware. In addition, BEA Systems, Computer Associates International, Tibco Software, Mercury Interactive and Akamai Technologies have joined the organization.

But so far, major systems makers such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and Dell have not joined the organization. And Microsoft, which has proposed its own Extensible Markup Language (XML)-based alternative to DCML, called System Definition Model, is not a member.

Analysts said the likelihood of DCML succeeding without the backing of major systems players is unlikely.

DCML provides a "blueprint" of the state of the different components within a company data center. Based on XML, it is analogous to the Hypertext Markup Language, which provides a common language for displaying Web pages. DCML can be used as a common format for sharing status information of both hardware and software components.

The DCML information is designed to be read by systems management applications, which can automatically take actions such as provisioning a server or bringing up a standby server in the case of a failure.

An initial draft of DCML is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The description will be available to companies free of charge and without royalty fees. Opsware expects to have DCML-compliant software in early 2004.