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SOA changing management, monitoring

SOA management tools are emerging, especially those using grid, virtualization technologies and legacy systems.

Emerging service-oriented architecture (SOA) environments require SOA management technology.

SNMP is used in network management systems to monitor network-attached devices, which are not SOA-oriented.
David Dennis
Senior Director of Product MarketingGroundWork Open Source Inc.

This is the argument made by David Dennis, the senior director of product marketing at GroundWork Open Source Inc., an open source-based systems and network management vendor, who sees SOA as the future of his industry.

"Any system management product that's going to be designed in the next five to 10 years, needs to be geared to service-oriented architecture and Web services," he said in an interview this week.

The challenge in managing hardware and software systems in most enterprises it that they are an accumulation of legacy hardware, operating systems and applications that pre-date SOA and even Web services, he said. The management technology that system administrators rely on to keep the heterogeneous hodgepodge running smoothly also largely pre-dates SOA.

One of the most popular legacy management technologies is Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), which is part of the Internet protocol defined by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), Dennis said.

"SNMP is used in network management systems to monitor network-attached devices, which are not SOA-oriented," he explained. "There is also SSH (Secure Shell) logging, which is not particularly service-oriented either."

In Microsoft Windows environments management systems use remote procedure calls (RPC) as a standard, Dennis added.

"Those are pretty much the top standard traditional ways to monitor things," he said. "The fact that you have so many different mechanisms and the fact that they were designed a long time ago, it's reaching the point where it's unwieldy at best."

In heterogeneous environments, systems administrators are working with a mix of monitoring standards and technology for managing systems, he said. As grid and virtual systems have emerged, the management problem has gotten even more complex for the management systems that pre-date them.

"It's not well suited for the kinds of environments that people are moving to now that are more sophisticated than they were 10, 15 and even 20 years ago when most of these things were designed," Dennis said. "These days more cutting edge data centers are looking at environments that combine things in a virtualized way and the traditional ways of monitoring them isn't so appropriate anymore."

An example of an emerging environment, Dennis points to one that is running Java application servers using grid and virtualization technology.

"Individual nodes aren't running on actual physical machines," he said. "They are running on VMs scattered across VM servers. The traditional ways of monitoring things isn't going to give you the kind of data you're looking for, an aggregate holistic assessment."

However, these new technologies use Web services standards, which is where SOA-based management tools fit into the emerging picture.

"A lot of the modern containers and components that people are using now are directly query-able over SOAP and respond back with information typically in a WSDL-oriented set of XML," Dennis said. "Things like JMX containers, VMWare containers, a lot of virtual machine components are pretty much oriented and instrumented via service-oriented architecture. That means we don't even have to have monitoring set up in the classic sense. You are querying the object in question, having it sent back to you in an XML stream."

Data from legacy monitoring systems can be converted into XML so along with the native XML coming from the new systems it can be aggregated in Ajax-based dashboard presentation for the systems administrators, he said.

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"We're not in a position where we can kick all the SNMP stuff to the curb," he said, explaining why conversion of legacy standard performance data to XML is important. "Systems management needs to provide an umbrella that can equally handle modern service-oriented ways of gathering data for things that are instrumented that way, such as JMX, and at the same time deal with legacy systems."

The Ajax views for the XML data provide metrics that can be customized for specific performance issues such as uptime availability or processor performance.

"Because it's going to be open ended and using XML standards allows you to slice and dice and combine the data as the end user's requires," he said.

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