Server powers standardizing management

The most powerful server companies join to standardize how the networked machines are managed, a move that could ease administrator burdens and the arrival of new technologies.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
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Stephen Shankland
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The most powerful companies in the server industry have joined to standardize how the networked machines are managed, a move that could ease administrator burdens and the arrival of new technologies.

Working on the standard are Dell, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems--the top four server makers--as well as Microsoft, Oracle, Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

Dell, IBM, HP and Intel led the formation

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of the group, called the Server Management Working Group, and management software specialist OSA Technologies is also a member, the companies said Monday.

The standard will create a unified way remote administration software can perform tasks such as rebooting a machine, reconfiguring a storage subsystem, assigning an Internet address to a machine or updating system software, according to Chad Engelgau, Dell's senior manager for server management planning.

Such tasks are handled differently from system to system, making it harder to create management software and keep it up-to-date, and difficult for one company's software package to control another company's servers.

The companies will begin meetings about the standard on Wednesday, and they plan to produce a first version of the standard by July 1.

Management software is already important for companies struggling to cut administration costs. Server companies expect management software to become even more important, with the arrival of new technologies such as thin-blade servers, with which remote administration is generally the only option.

In the longer run, unified server management standards also could benefit utility computing work such as IBM's on-demand technology, HP's Adaptive Enterprise and Sun's N1. A standard would make it easier to control servers from multiple companies, a key part of the promise of utility computing, which seeks to make computing infrastructure more efficient and flexible.

Indeed, the working group plans to improve the technology underlying the standard so that it can be used with blades and utility computing.

In the shorter term, though, the group plans to create a text-based command-line interface for remote management. Such text interfaces can be scripted to automate complex tasks.

The working group is part of the Distributed Management Task Force. The server management standard will fit alongside another task force already created for storage devices, called the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) and code-named Bluefin.

Both SMI-S and the server standard are part of a general management framework from the task force called the Common Information Model.