Technical standards for managing a virtual environment

* The DMTF's System Virtualization Management and Open Virtualization Format

If you've been working with computers for a while, the acronym "DMTF" should be a familiar one to you. But if you still think of it as "Desktop Management Task Force," then you probably aren't aware of what this group - now know as the Distributed Management Task Force - does to make your life so much easier. Without the interoperability standards developed by DMTF, you'd find it very hard to manage a heterogeneous computing environment. Now, the DMTF is working to standardize how virtual environments work.

The Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) is the unsung hero of the enterprise computing environment. Without the groundbreaking work of the DMTF, it would be much harder – and way more expensive – to have a heterogeneous collection of PCs, servers, and storage devices. The DMTF is the global industry organization that leads the development, adoption and promotion of management standards and interoperable systems management.

The DMTF has been around since 1992. One of its earliest accomplishments was the industry’s first desktop management standard, called the Desktop Management Interface or DMI, which gave component vendors a consistent and non-proprietary way to make their products manageable. Previously, the information from a computer’s BIOS and system components was not standardized, meaning products from different vendors – and often different products or brands from the same vendor – had to be managed separately.

Since then, the DMTF has built on its successes with worldwide support from more than 3,500 participants who are actively involved in developing and advocating even more interoperable management initiatives and standards. This leads to end-to-end management solutions that make your job a lot easier.

The DMTF is probably best known for its technology standards, which benefit both developers implementing management solutions and IT administrators who need to simplify the management of their environments. Important DMTF standards include Common Information Model (CIM); Common Diagnostics Model (CDM); Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM); Desktop and mobile Architecture for System Hardware (DASH); Alert Standard Format (ASF); Systems Management Architecture for Server Hardware (SMASH); and System Management BIOS (SMBIOS).

Now the DMTF has taken on developing standards specifications for managing a virtualized environment. Called System Virtualization Management, or VMAN, this technology provides a standardized approach for IT managers to:

* Deploy virtual computer systems.

* Discover/inventory virtual computer systems.

* Manage the lifecycle of virtual computer systems.

* Create/modify/delete virtual resources.

* Monitor virtual systems for health and performance.

As virtualization sweeps the data center, it is important that the IT industry adopt a vendor-neutral standard for the packaging of virtual machines (VM) and the metadata that are required to automatically and securely install and deploy the virtual appliance on any virtualization platform. The DMTF has introduced a packaging standard, Open Virtualization Format (OVF), to address the portability and deployment of virtual appliances. Like other DMTF initiatives, VMAN enjoys broad support from the hardware and software vendor communities.

According to the DMTF, OVF provides significant benefits to enterprise organizations deploying virtual applications. OVF enables simplified and error-free deployment of virtual appliances. Virtual appliance hardware requirements can be automatically validated during installation using OVF metadata. Virtual appliances can be quickly deployed with pre-built configurations using OVF metadata and can be easily customized during installation. Multiple virtual machines can be packaged as a virtual appliance and deployed easily in a single OVF package. This simplifies deployment of complex multi-tier enterprise applications (where there is one or more VMs per-tier) as well as large scale deployment of a cluster of VMs in a cluster.

OVF metadata can be extended to further simplify the management of VMs and lower costs. For example, OVF metadata can be extended to include URL information that the virtual appliance can use to download the latest patches and update itself. Another example for OVF metadata is to specify the security requirements for virtual appliance.

If you’re interested in learning more about the VMAN initiative and the Open Virtualization Format, check out these technical resources on the DMTF Web site. Read about the OVF standard's release at the September VMWorld 2008. Sign up to join the VMAN Facebook network.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.