Hyping The Common Information Model
By Bruce Boardman One year ago, the hype about Web-enabled management was as breathless as the push for this summer's Godzilla movie; it would have had us believe that by now we'd be swept up in a brave new world of Web-enabled configuration, Web-enabled network management platforms, probably even Web-enabled toasters. Leading the charge was WBEM (Web-Based Enterprise Management), a standard proposed by Microsoft Corp. to make the Web browser the best environment ever for universal network and systems management.
But like Hollywood's limping lizard, WBEM has found its intended fan base more than a little skeptical. Outside of Redmond, Wash., WBEM thus far has received little support. Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp. still sell very large network and systems management platforms, and other vendors have begun shipping Web-enabled network management products of their own. But the truth is, these solutions have amounted to little more than telnet replacements, and it's really no surprise that all the hype that described the Web as the new management paradigm missed the point. WBEM is not Web management.
Into the breach comes a concerted effort to hammer out a working standard under the aegis of the DMTF (Desktop Management Task Force). A diverse group of industry heavyweights, including Cisco Systems, Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel Corp., Microsoft, Novell and Sun Microsystems, has been meeting to create a common method of managing everything on the network. Give the DMTF credit--remember, this group changed our lives with the earth-shattering DMI (Desktop Management Interface) specification--for making a considerable amount of progress on WBEM in the past year.
Notably, WBEM has been transformed into the CIM (Common Information Model), a direct outgrowth of WBEM's HMMP (Hyper Media Management Protocol). If you want to follow the details of HMMP's journey to this point, you can read all about it at wbem.freerange.com or www.asia.microsoft. com/management.
What's in CIM CIM is a consistent, extensible mapping of management elements. Currently, it's a schema and not an implementation (see "Common Information Model Meta Schema" on page 94). CIM sets out to make accessing management data completely interoperable among management applications, including configuration, performance and change management. Think SNMP on steroids, or 3-D DMI. CIM enables correlation between management applications and heterogeneous management objects. How this will affect network and systems management is still unknown, but it promises better root-cause analysis and control of more network objects from a single management platform.
CIM promises to both enable end-to-end application management and protect the installed base of SNMP, DMI, CMIP (Common Management Information Protocol) and proprietary management bases. To achieve end-to-end management, CIM defines the way managed objects connect to the network and systems, and where they sit in relation to other objects managed on the network and systems. For example, a managed desktop running a client/
server application can be tracked not only for its version and the environment in which it runs on a user's PC, but also where it sits on the network and the path and infrastructure it must traverse to reach the server application.
It's important to note that these relationships, while mapped by CIM, don't hold any special intelligence. CIM applications will still have to understand what to do with the managed data, but they will be easier to define and offer richer content.
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By Bruce Boardman