Microsoft IBM and several other leading high-tech vendors said they published a document illustrating how to model computer networks, applications and servers in XML.
The Service Modeling Language (SML), whose creators also include Cisco Systems EMC Dell Intel HP Sun Microsystems BEA Systems and BMC Software is designed to help businesses manage services built on hardware and software from various vendors.
If the spec becomes a standard in the coming months, it would help eradicate a major stumbling block to creating XML-based services that can be used in environments where products from multiple vendor are employed.
While companies often have to write custom descriptions of each service, SML could trigger a host of IT resource models that reduce costs and complexity for customers, said Ed Anderson, marketing director for Microsoft's Dynamic System Initiative.
"What we've done is create a new modeling language that lets us describe these IT elements so that businesses are going to have a more consistent way of managing their environments even across different vendors' solutions," Anderson said in an interview.
While XML creates certain efficiencies for the computing industry, SML is an additional salve against the different formats used to describe XML (define) services.
Having multiple formats to describe services causes a disconnect between tools and management applications. This leads to manual translations, which are often too error prone for tools and management applications to realistically use.
"SML allow both vendors like IBM and Microsoft, as well as our customers, to compose the definitions of their IT services much easier than they've ever had to before because they don't have to deal with different definitions of an operating system, or what's a server, or what's an application," said Ric Telford, vice president of autonomic computing at IBM.
"When we have to develop a change management process against six or seven different server vendors, and every server vendor has their own way of describing what a server is, it makes it six or seven times harder and more complex than it needs to be," Telford added.
The companies will consider creating a library of core models to describe generic resources, such as network elements, operating systems, storage devices, desktops, server systems, Web servers and a directory service.
The group plans to submit the SML draft specification to an industry standards organization later this year. This could include the World Wide Web Consortium, OASIS or the Distributed Management Task Force.
OASIS might be the most logical place for SML; the group has allowed most the major XML-oriented, Web services (define) specs to foment in recent years, including WS-Security and WS-ReliableMessaging.