Data Center Markup Language (DCML) is the first vendor-neutral, open language to describe data center environments, dependencies between data center components and the policies governing management and construction of those environments. DCML provides a structured data format to describe, construct, replicate, recover and communicate about data center environments. DCML encompasses a wide array of data center elements, including UNIX, Linux, Windows and other servers, software infrastructure and applications, network components, and storage components. In addition, DCML can be extended to support other technologies as needed. The adoption of DCML will help organizations realize the benefits of utility computing: greater operational efficiencies, increased visibility into data center environments and operations, and reduced time and cost to implement strategic IT initiatives, such as data center security, consolidation, disaster recovery, metered service delivery and operations outsourcing.
What is the underlying IT problem driving the need for such a specification?
The dramatic shift in enterprise computing from client-server to Internet architectures has resulted in an explosion of servers and applications in today's data centers. In most enterprises, the resulting exponential increase in data center complexity is currently handled by armies of IT staff and dozens of disconnected management and IT systems that do not effectively communicate with one another. This has resulted in a data center management crisis. The lack of interoperability between management, emerging automation and utility computing systems prevents even the most basic IT process improvements from taking hold. A data center standard is imperative to realizing a true utility computing environment.
What is the primary mission of DCML?
The primary mission of the DCML is to enable the realization of the data center automation vision of lower costs, enhanced security, higher quality and quicker responsiveness by creating a standard mechanism to describe the contents of the data center and the policies governing the construction and management of that content. DCML is intended to ensure interoperability between existing management and emerging automation and utility computing systems, enabling fundamental IT process improvements to take place.
What is unique about this approach? Are there other standards or initiatives that do the same thing?
While there are several management standards, most notably the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and the Common Information Model (CIM), none target the specific need that DCML addresses. The need for DCML is driven by customers looking to reduce costs and improve quality in the data center by implementing utility computing and automation systems. These systems need more than a simple catalogue of components; they need an actual recipe to build an environment and an automation-friendly description of the operational policies that govern its management. DCML provides a standard way to define those recipes and operational policies to enable the realization of the automated data center vision.
Who will benefit from DCML?
Enterprises and government agencies with large IT environments will be the primary beneficiaries of DCML. These groups have been hit hardest by the explosion of complexity in the data center and are aggressively implementing utility computing and automation solutions in an effort to reduce operational costs and improve quality. Over time as more and more organizations move to automated operations, all customers with large computing infrastructures will benefit. For IT vendors who provide solutions to these customers, ranging from traditional Enterprise Systems Management (ESM) vendors to newer utility computing and automation vendors, DCML provides opportunities to bring unprecedented value to customers in the form of reduced costs of ownership, easier implementation, higher quality and previously unattainable leaps in innovation.
Are there any proven financial benefits from DCML?
All of the companies who have pledged to adopt and implement DCML believe there will be considerable cost-savings and efficiency gains realized by these specifications. Projected financial benefits for companies operating a DCML-compliant data center include: labor savings through data center operations automation, cost reductions resulting from improved security levels and reduced impact of viruses, reduced integration expense when bringing in new data center automation and management tools, and reduced business impact resulting from system downtime.
How will the industry benefit from DCML?
DCML opens important new avenues for IT innovation. The interoperability established by DCML allows the IT vendor community to begin to address customer requirements with unprecedented creativity and far-reaching results. DCML will prevent fragmentation to proprietary silos and unite automation and utility computing technologies and their vendors around a unified goal of helping IT organizations do more, faster, with less by ensuring interoperability between systems.
How will DCML advance utility computing?
Today, there are several key technology hurdles that prevent the realization of the utility computing promise of lower costs, higher quality and quicker responsiveness. In order to realize the utility computing vision, there are three key technologies needed - automation, virtualization and metering - in addition to the traditional IT management systems in use today. There is no one system that can provide all these aspects of utility computing across a heterogeneous environment. The key technological hurdle is that these systems are completely disjointed today. DCML will enable these systems to communicate and work with each other to enable the utility computing vision.
Is DCML an open industry initiative?
Yes, membership is open to any company or individual with an interest in and commitment to achieving the goals of the OASIS DCML Technical Committees.
What are the next steps for DCML?
Next steps for DCML include the release of the Server, Network and Applications and Services sub-specifications and the availability of the first DCML-compliant products.
What specifications have been released to date?
The DCML Draft 1.0 Framework Specification was released in May 2004. The DCML specification will continue to evolve in the OASIS DCML Technical Committees and as we receive feedback from the public.
Is DCML a data format, a protocol, or an application programming interface (API)?
DCML is a data format and corresponding data model. This gives implementers of DCML flexibility in determining how DCML should best be accessed and produced by their product, while still providing tremendous value to customers.
Is DCML Web-services compliant? Is it a Web service?
DCML can and likely will be exchanged over Web services interfaces. DCML itself, however, is not a Web service, rather it is the data that would be exchanged over a Web service.
Is DCML secure? What are the security implications for DCML?
DCML is secure and there is a standard way to encrypt and sign information contained in a DCML document. DCML will help customers secure their data center environments by enabling standardization and policy enforcement.
Does DCML help with disaster recovery? How?
Yes, DCML will help tremendously with disaster recovery efforts. Cornerstone to DCML is a blueprint of the operational environment. This blueprint is essentially a recipe of how to build the environment and could be used in disaster recovery scenarios.
How is DCML different from the Common Information Model (CIM)? How does DCML work with CIM?
(CIM) is a Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) standards effort for describing overall management information in a network/enterprise environment. CIM defines an abstract data model, method for instantiation in XML, and mappings to other management and information standards like SNMP and the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP). CIM's focus is on defining abstract models of managed objects to be used by monitoring and other traditional management systems. While CIM is quite comprehensive in this area and therefore overlaps somewhat with DCML, CIM is not well-suited to the data center automation problem that is DCML's focus. DCML describes not just the state of an environment, but also how to construct the environment and the policies governing the management of that environment, neither of which CIM describes. Where CIM concepts and data elements can be mapped onto DCML for use with data center automation tools, DCML references CIM to avoid duplicating work.
How is DCML different from Microsoft's Systems Definition Model (SDM)? How does DCML work with SDM?
(SDM), part of the Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), is complementary to DCML. SDM establishes a technical contract between development and operations. By providing a standard format for encoding Windows application component requirements, SDM can help automate the creation of a production server for Windows-based applications. For example, developers can use SDM to encode requirements such as minimum hardware configurations, IIS version, and which ports need to be listening. However, while SDM provides operational requirements for a Microsoft Windows application component, DCML provides the blueprint for constructing and managing the entire heterogeneous environment in which that application is running. Ultimately, SDM component requirements can feed directly into the DCML-defined constraints for Windows applications.
How does DCML apply to the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL)?
ITIL is a collection of standards defining best practice IT processes. ITIL standardizes processes such as service desk, change management, service level management, and more. ITIL does not specify how these processes are implemented. DCML is an important implementation component of these ITIL processes in automated environments, making them more reliable, consistent, and vendor-independent.
How is DCML different from DMTF's Systems Management Architecture for Server Hardware (SMASH)? Can DCML work with SMASH?
SMASH is similar to the development of SMI-S for storage - domain-based management (in this case, server domain) - and is complementary to DCML. DCML can leverage SMASH in rolling up server management and its associated information into operational, cross-domain intelligence for service-oriented IT management, visibility, and business-facing intelligence. DCML can maximize the benefits of SMASH in the server extension specifications of DCML.
How can I find out more about the OASIS DCML Member Section?