REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 8, 2004 — Today, more than ever, operational efficiency is a top priority for businesses. IT professionals are expected to manage all of the devices across their organizations network — from the largest, most powerful server down to the smallest PocketPC — with little or no downtime and without expending too many resources. A new Web services specification, WS-Management, is designed to make it easier to meet those expectations.
Formerly known by the working title WMX (for Web services Management eXtensions), WS-Management describes how to use Web services as a remote management access protocol. WS-Management is a key part of the Microsoft Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI), which is focused on reducing the complexity of IT and helping customers get more business value out of the technology they use.
To learn more about WS-Management, DSI and Microsofts Web services strategy, PressPass spoke with David Hamilton , Director, Windows and Enterprise Management Division at Microsoft, and Dave Mendlen , Microsofts Director of Web Services.
David Hamilton, Director, Windows and Enterprise Management Division.
PressPass: What exactly is WS-Management?
Hamilton: WS-Management defines a way to use the existing set of core Web services specifications, what we call WS-* [pronounced “WS-Star”], the industry-supported Web services architecture, to provide a consistent method for remote management of devices, for traditional distributed systems and new service-oriented architecture-based applications.
WS-Management provides a universal language that all types of devices can use to share data about themselves so they can be maintained more easily. WS-Management also plays an important role in the Microsoft Dynamic Systems Initiative, or DSI. Through DSI, Microsoft strives to reduce the complexity of — and drive down the costs associated with — IT management. We are doing this by building more manageability into applications and systems early on in the product lifecycle so that management is an inherent part of an application and the operating system. That makes it much easier to manage systems and applications, particularly in heterogeneous environments and across different multiple, co-operating enterprises.
PressPass: Why create this specification?
Hamilton: Customers have told us they want a more consistent way to capture data from various devices, be they hand-held devices, laptops, desktops or even a big server in the data center. Were working with industry partners AMD, Dell, Intel and Sun to provide a common mechanism to collect various pieces of management data.
For instance, today customers can use a product such as Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) to manage an Exchange server and provide detailed information about the operational state of Exchange and resolve problems more quickly. With this specification, the possibilities are even greater. With WS-Management support built into the firmware by companies such as Intel, MOM could manage devices as diverse as point-of-sales devices without operating systems all the way to distributed applications running across multiple servers in a datacenter, all from a single console in a consistent fashion.
One of the benefits of WS-Management is that its in full alignment with the rich security, reliability and transactional features of WS-*. That means it can be used as a way to unify management access to environments that might be dramatically different behind the scenes.
PressPass: How does WS-Management work?
Hamilton: WS-Management defines an access protocol, a way for devices of all types to exchange data, that will work with both hardware and software. For instance, I can query a piece of firmware created by Intel and get critical management information about that particular component. Is it overheating? Is it working efficiently? Similarly, I can use that same access protocol to get management data about a device driver or service an application. Although the hardware may be instrumented in Intels Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) and the software using Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), a management system would only be able to access and act on each in a consistent manner by hosting a single set of common Web service protocols.
Dave Mendlen, Director of Web Services.
PressPass: How does WS-Management fit into Microsofts Web services strategy?
Mendlen: WS-Management is built on the core parts of WS-*. It doesnt add many new protocols or message formats. Rather, it takes advantage of existing architecture to perform management activities. One of the central design tenets we were working with was to offer new approaches only when absolutely necessary.
So WS-Management is a straightforward use of existing protocols in the Web services architecture. Since management is a pervasive type of function, something that virtually every device needs, Web services are a really good way to create a protocol that can span the breadth of networked devices.
PressPass: What are the differences between WS-Management and the Web Services Distributed Management (WSDM) specification?
Hamilton: Fundamentally, the WSDM model for managing distributed services suggests a solution thats geared for datacenter environments that can afford to maintain a large system and all that goes with it: an expensive protocol, network bandwidth, experienced IT staff, and high-end management systems. Were taking a different approach. With WS-Management, we aim to make management using Web Services something useful to everyone, however disconnected or challenging their IT environments might be, however small or large the devices on their network are.
PressPass: What are the benefits of WS-Management for developers, IT pros and business people?
Hamilton: Most management solutions today occur after the fact and are used only by IT professionals. We want to draw a tighter connection among developers, IT professionals and business users so that management becomes an integral part of every system, from design through system implementation and beyond. This approach is at the heart of our Dynamic Systems Initiative — connecting the developer and the IT professional by building management into the application lifecycle.
Overall, we think this will provide better solutions, more quickly, to business users while also reducing the cost of IT support. Delivering these benefits is what drives our DSI efforts. But to achieve this, management information must be able to be communicated between different systems and management models — from the simplest to the most complex — and across the lifecycle of an application, from development to operation. This is the job of WS-Management, which is why we think it so important.
Mendlen: For developers, this means they can use the same programming model, whether theyre talking to a device or a server. For IT pros, it means their management tools can converge into one unified system over time. For the business person, it means their infrastructure will be better managed over time. We expect that to lead to higher availability, reduced total cost of management and increased productivity.
PressPass: Tell us a little more about how WS-Management helps customers.
Mendlen: WS-Management will provide consistent, unified remote access that brings hardware and software management together. Today, if youre trying to manage the software thats on a client PC or a server, you use a different set of technologies than if youre trying to manage the hardware. So you end up with a lot of duplication of systems and more demands on IT staff, in terms of training and tasks. The flexibility WS-Management offers will enable you to connect to systems where the component pieces are running in completely different environments, yet maintain a very high level of interoperability.
Hamilton: IT organizations spend millions of dollars trying to manage their systems, but theyre not necessarily satisfied with the results they get. They find that todays management tools may work great in a datacenter environment but dont manage all the different kinds of devices IT organizations are being asked to manage, whether its a Pocket PC, Smartphone or some other device. Were providing a solution that takes a lot of the complexity out of IT management.
PressPass: You mentioned Smartphones and PocketPCs. What other types of devices will WS-Management support?
Hamilton: WS-Management is designed to be supported by any device, on any platform. Anything that has a baseboard management controller, or BMC, is accessible through the WS-Management protocol — even an operating system that isnt booting up. The combination of AMD, Dell and Intel, with their broad applicability to hardware, and Sun and Microsoft, with our broad applicability to software, allows a real end-to-end solution for any type of device and for both small and large enterprises. This solution is relevant for a multitude of environments.
PressPass: Can you give some examples of what businesses can do using the new spec?
Mendlen: If youre using WS-Management with WS-Eventing, the Web services eventing protocol, you can connect it to a Web service thats running your ERP system because they are speaking the same language.
Then you can, for example, have a printer automatically reorder toner or parts when needed. A projector thats bolted to the ceiling of a conference room can communicate with the ERP system to order a new lamp, using the same protocol it uses to file a trouble ticket in another system. Its all about having this common language for management events. While that has many benefits by itself, it also means youll be able to connect your management systems with all the other Web services-based systems in your enterprise.
Hamilton: Most of todays application-management products need the base operating system and application to be present to collect management information. IT professionals dont have that luxury when theyre trying to get management information from a system thats just out of the box or is down and in an unknown state. Instead, they resort to separate hardware management tools to help fix that unknown state.
This specification allows a single management system to work all the way down to the level of a BMC in the firmware on a non-operational server. IT pros will be able to use a product like Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) to monitor events coming from systems that dont yet have operating systems or dont have working operating systems. You couldnt do that before. But because were building this instrumentation in at a much deeper layer, management products like MOM will be able to access and fix problems at a lower level than ever before, and that will reduce the time and costs associated with sending an engineer out to fix those problems.
PressPass: What is the roll-out schedule for WS-Management?
Hamilton: The new protocol will be available in the next version of Windows Server and the next version of our management products, such as Microsoft Operations Manager. We expect other industry leaders to announce their plans for WS-Management in the near future.
PressPass: How can the IT community get involved with the development of this specification?
Mendlen: Well be presenting this specification to the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) later in October. Well have people there to answer questions and review the new specification in detail. After that, well hold a series of open invitation feedback workshops. Well post information about when those will be held on the Microsoft Web Services Developer Center on MSDN ( www.msdn.microsoft.com/webservices ). Ultimately, we expect to submit this to a standards body for final standardization once we make sure weve made it as high-quality as we can possibly make it and have demonstrated interoperability.
PressPass: Whats the most important thing people should understand about WS-Management?
Mendlen: WS-Management represents the next step in delivering on the promise of our Dynamic Systems Initiative. Its a new specification created to reduce the overall complexity of management and build management into the platform itself. In the same way weve taken interoperability and made it part of the core Web services architecture, were doing the same thing with management.
WS-Management is a comprehensive solution, so its been designed to scale from small footprint devices all the way up to enterprise-class servers, so were truly solving every part of a very large problem. As Web services continue to emerge as the preferred way to build applications, WS-Management will factor in and be able to interoperate very well with them.