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DCML’s critical role in data centers

Apr 27, 20043 mins
Data Center

* Data Center Markup Language promises to be extremely useful

The promise of a malleable data center that reconfigures itself automatically to respond to an enterprise’s needs is enticing. The catch is, there’s no universal way to describe a data center. Unless you can describe it, how can you build it? Provisioning, configuration, patching, monitoring and management tools all have individual “views” of data center components and their interdependencies, and these tools communicate via proprietary formats.

Data Center Markup Language (DCML) promises to change that with a standards-based way to define data center views. DCML will be a vendor-neutral markup language (based on XML) and set of data models (XML schemas) that describe a data center, including its components (servers, software infrastructure and applications, network devices and storage devices), their configuration and patch-level requirements, and the dependencies between them.

As a descriptive language, DCML could be used to create a data center blueprint defining every element that must be configured and provisioned to re-create the environment automatically. More than a simple catalogue of components (such as that provided by the Common Information Model) or an interface description (such as that provided by SNMP), DCML is intended to be a prescriptive language, a “recipe.”

As envisioned, a modeling tool creates a DCML document describing a particular data center. This document can then be entered in a provisioning and configuration tool that “builds” a fully configured data center environment.

The DCML Organization is the consortium responsible for creating the DCML standard. It includes companies such as EDS, Opsware, Computer Associates, Tibco, Mercury Interactive, Micromuse, NetIQ and Inkra. The group was founded in October, and the first working groups started up in March. An open group that can be joined by any company or individual, the DCML Organization’s goal is to create a royalty-free reference implementation of DCML.

When complete, DCML should be able to describe, construct, replicate and recover data centers:

* When an enterprise needs to construct or reconstruct a data center (or a part of it) to deliver an application, DCML provides the blueprint for automated component provisioning.

* As the data center undergoes change (configurations, patches, etc.), DCML describes and communicates these changes so that they can be automatically applied by provisioning and configuration tools.

* DCML’s up-to-date representation of components and their interdependencies can facilitate management of the data center as a whole (rack space, cooling, power requirements, etc.).

* Finally, DCML-based monitoring and management tools gain increased visibility into the data center components and their interdependencies, enabling them to replace real-time “network discovery.”

A standard language that describes the data center could have an enormous impact on automation, and eventually the realization of grid computing in heterogeneous environments. While many of the functions that can be realized with DCML can be found in tools today, a universal, open language is needed to achieve the full promise of data center automation.