Who will set agent standards?
In order to create a really good management model of the IT infrastructure, it is necessary to be able to collect event information from every component that exists within. It's not that every component is vital to the overall quality of service but you never can tell which is important and which is not. This applies to operating systems, server hardware, network hardware, packaged applications, business applications - everything. Who should be responsible for delivering the technology to monitor these components?
At the moment it is clear that nobody really wants to own this problem. The most obvious owners would be the suppliers of the components themselves. Surely, they are the people that know what is going on within their products and they should be able to instrument them most effectively. However, there are very few cases where such instrumentation is available. Instead the problem falls into the lap of the management tools providers.
We have always taken for granted the fact that Computer Associates, IBM, HP, BMC and other bigger players will provide agents that allow their enterprise solutions to work in just about every environment. It is because of this that no one organisation seems to have taken control. This demand to produce agents has always caused a problem for the smaller solutions providers because they do not have the resources to put into this and they do not get good levels of support from the third party component providers. Something needs to change to make the whole process of developing managed infrastructure easier.
The obvious and easiest solution to the problem is for all organizations to demand that the products they buy have a documented management API. For most products the API already exists; it's only the documentation that would be missing. Once this has been achieved, anybody and everybody can write their own interfaces to the components.
The next question, though, is whether the agent layer should become a middleware function with a common interface into the management tools. All of the enterprise solutions are working in the basis that the agents already existing within an infrastructure don't need to be changed if you change the management solution above.
The best example comes with BMC's Knowledge Modules. They are everywhere. However, the other big name vendors are working at integrating event information from them into their respective products. If there was a common message format then this work would not be necessary. Please don't mention SNMP at this point. It doesn't do the job but it does raise the topic of standards.
There are clear issues with both sides of the management interface that make it very hard for a newcomer or a small player to enter the systems management market. Isn't it perhaps time for the players in this market to save some of the resource they are putting into developing interfaces to everything and to settle on a common way of working?
The ideas have been around for a while - we have the Common Information Model (CIM) and SNMP, poor though it is. Surely vendors can stop competing for a little while and work this one out for the benefit of us all.
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