Microsoft just announced “Cross Platform Extensions” for “System Center Operations Manager 2007″. (I just got carpal tunnel from typing the name of that thing!) These extensions bring SCOM (scam?) into the real world of heterogeneous management, which may provoke an all-out existential crisis for the company.
So they admitted that cross platform functionality was essential to be a serious player in the management market; the question was how. Here is where things get interesting. For years (since the mid-90s, actually) the DMTF has been working on a set of standards for managing the IT environment. One part of these standards, CIM, is a schema to describe and model the environment. As you can imagine, the model is extremely complex (over 1500 classes); as a result, it has had poor adoption except for one platform… which, ironically, is Windows!
Yes, WMI on Windows actually uses the CIM model! Of course, in true MS fashion, they embraced CIM and then blew off the standard transport that went along with it, CIM/XML, and used DCOM, which is a real pain in the *ss. We have actually ported WMI to Linux using the Samba 4 libraries.
There are several other aspects of the CIM suite of standards. CIMOM is an agent shell that sits on a managed device. WBEM defines a set of verbs that the management station can use to communicate with the CIMOM. One open source implementation of a CIMOM is OpenPegasus, which is what MS is proposing to use. OpenPegasus is installed by default on several Linux platforms, so it seems that it would be a great way to manage them.
Well, not so fast; remember that CIMOM is an agent shell. For it actually to do something, you need to write “Providers,” which are essentially plugins for the shell. The API for these things is notoriously hard to implement (as agent plugins go), and the result is that there are none that ship with OpenPegasus that actually provide even basic management functionality. What’s more, you need to implement all those CIM classes as well. Wow.
The beautiful future? Maybe MS will start implementing providers that actually do something useful. Maybe the partners they have signed up will do even more. Maybe this could even be one of MS’s first substantive contributions to open source. It would be great to have a more sophisticated agent on the Linux platform — for them, for us, and for every one with an agentless management system.
So the question is: Can the CIM suite of standards rise and fly like a beautiful Pegasus? Or will it amble along the ground, and is this just another press release that is more fluff than substance? I, for one, am hoping for real substance. What do you think?