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From software to services - making management work

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I've always been a strong proponent of standards. During the years when I worked at a small software start-up, the use of standards gave us support for a broader array of hardware and software products with less development effort. It also gave us credibility. When I was with a major software vendor, standards allowed our partners to develop products that leveraged our efforts, resulting in free development of products for our market.

Of course, for users, standards can improve the interoperability of all vendor software. Sounds like a win-win situation.

Because standards help developers build products that run across different platforms from different vendors, they help level the playing field. This is great for small developers and for users. For major players, however, a level playing field goes against their competitive advantage. Standards, therefore, become a love/hate passive/aggressive arena. Everyone says they'll implement the standards. But definitions are painfully slow and actual implementations by major vendors are even slower. Given all of that, what happens when standards arise that overlap or compete? Emotions escalate further and you have a holy war. Enter SNMP and the Common Interface Model (CIM).

SNMP is the defacto standard for network management instrumentation. It is defined by the IETF and millions of devices have used it for many years. SNMP V3 last year added the security that was viewed in earlier years as a major missing piece. SNMP has served network management well, and it is here to stay for many years to come.

The DMTF, which was originally the Desktop Management Task Force but is now the Distributed Management Task Force, originally developed the Desktop Management Interface (DMI) as a way to help standardize obtaining and storing information about the internals of desktop systems. CIM was developed to provide a data model for integrating management across SNMP, DMI, Common Management Information Protocol (for telecom devices) and private applications. CIM is part of the DMTF's overall Web-based Enterprise Management (WBEM) initiative. WBEM includes CIM as the data definition, XML as the transport/encoding method and HTTP as the access mechanism.

CIM is a data model for describing managed elements across the enterprise, including systems, networks and applications. The CIM schema provides definitions for servers, desktops, peripherals, operating systems, applications, network components, users and others along with details of each. One of the main functions CIM offers is the ability to define the associations between components. CIM's object-oriented approach makes it easier to track the relationships and interdependencies between managed objects. WBEM/CIM proponents tout this as a key advantage over SNMP.

SNMP proponents disagree that management object files - a basic building block for CIM - are more object-oriented than Management Information Bases in SNMP. Proponents question whether the industry is simply equating newer with better relative to CIM and SNMP. Clearly, SNMP is firmly entrenched in terms of network devices.

CIM support is gaining ground, particularly in systems management. WBEM/CIM support is available today in products from Tivoli, Cisco, BMC, HP,, Microsoft and others. CIM's future is highly dependent on how many vendors actually implement it, how quickly, and at what level of support. Also important is whether vendors implement products as a giver of information or as a taker only. To a large extent, this will be dependent on user demand. As users' understanding of the benefits of CIM grows, pressure on vendors will increase, and CIM implementations will increase accordingly. This holds great promise for the future of the interoperability of management applications.

SNMP and CIM have contributed to the evolution of enterprise management. As to whether CIM will replace SNMP. . . that's another story.


Barb Goldworm is a director with Enterprise Management Associates in Boulder, CO, a leading analyst and market research firm focusing exclusively on all aspects of enterprise management. She has worked for 20 years in both technical and marketing positions with IBM, Novell, Storagetek and start-up companies, focusing on systems, desktop and application management. She has been a frequent speaker at industry conferences worldwide and has been quoted in numerous publications. She can be reached at goldworm@enter

For information on CIM and WBEM

For information on SNMP

CIM creeps ever closer
Network World, 06/21/99

Next generation management system structure begins to take shape
Network World, 05/31/99

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