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Cash and Burn: Of Standards and 'Marketecture'

Without the collaboration of competing vendors, UXcomm's SOMA looks less like a solution to managing the virtualized data center and more like a marketing move at short-lived media attention.

All this would seem to make UXcomm a vendor to watch. "It's a simple argument to make to CIOs," says Earl Hines, director of product marketing at UXcomm. "For every dollar you spend on virtualization, for 15 or 20 cents you can increase throughput by 50 to 60 percent." Sounds good, right? Simple to explain, cheap and great performance improvements; you can't ask for more than that.

On the face of it, I agree; it does sound great. An open, Web services-based architecture is exactly what this industry needs. Blending a WSDL interface with an understanding of virtual and physical infrastructure will undoubtedly simplify the management of tomorrow's virtual data center. Unfortunately, that's not what we're getting.

UXcomm's efforts would be far more credible if the company was working with competing vendors to develop an industrywide SOA definition for system and network management--but they aren't. SOMA, as it stands today, appears to be simply another marketing move to gain short-lived media attention. The interface carries no major industry backing, no standards committees, and misses on a number of key server-based interfaces, such as SMASH (Systems Management Architecture for Server Hardware).

SOMA also lacks the third-party developer support needed to form a coherent view of the entire virtualized environment. For example, UXcomm competitor Cassatt provides support for VLANs and enables the movement of server images between virtual LANs. To be effective, SOMA must provide a holistic view of the environment--and that requires VLAN support as well as awareness of the entire virtualized infrastructure, from storage systems to server farms, routers and switches. UXcomm can't go it alone; such a universal view requires the active participation of a broad vendor consortium or standards body.

There's no doubt that UXcomm is on to something. The idea is a good one, and using XML fundamentals to implement the exchange of systems management data is also the right way to go. However, it's equally certain that UXcomm doesn't have the influence or capacity to deliver all the pieces of a holistic management system. If UXcomm really wants to make an impact on systems management, it must turn over SOMA to a standards body and hope that enough major vendors become interested to achieve critical mass--otherwise it's just one more good idea that never made it much beyond the idea stage.

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