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Big Blue Won't Sign Onto WS-Management Spec

Microsoft, Intel, and Sun Microsystems on Friday published a Web-services specification designed to let IT managers better control Windows computers. Absent from the group of companies behind the spec is IBM, which is backing a competing approach.

Microsoft and the companies it's working with published their spec, called WS-Management, to a standards body called the Distributed Management Task Force. A key working group of the organization meets next week, according to Pete McKiernan, a lead product manager at Microsoft. WS-Management, originally discussed under the working name of WMX at Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Seattle in May, describes how to write firmware and software that let IT administrators turn PCs and servers on and off, and diagnose problems. Many IT departments spend about 70% of their budgets on maintaining computer systems, versus new development, says McKiernan.

Publication of the spec is part of the joint work Microsoft and Sun have undertaken since Microsoft paid Sun $1.6 billion in April to settle a lawsuit between the companies. "There's a need for us to work together and accelerate the adoption of the next set of Web-services standards," says John Tollefsrud, a director of standards at Sun. "This is what customers want us to do."

Under the WS-Management spec, Sun servers capable of running Windows could be more easily managed in Windows networks. Microsoft plans to support the spec in the next version of its Windows Server operating system due late next year, and a new version of Microsoft Operations Manager due in 2006. Intel plans to support it in its chipsets and other products. Dell and Advanced Micro Devices also say they will support the spec.

IBM is backing a different approach to systems management using Web services. Last March, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems, and Computer Associates published a specification called WS-Distributed Management that's being developed by a committee at the Oasis standards body, according to an IBM spokesman. That spec is better suited to handling a variety of client and server computers, the spokesman says, and isn't as limited to Windows PCs and handheld computers.