25 companies have unveiled an XML-based standards initiative, called the Data Center Markup Language (DCML).
The DCML specification is designed to serve as the foundation on which users can build and deploy enterprise-capable applications.
Led by Opsware, EDS, Computer Associates International and BEA Systems, the founding companies also announced the formation of the DCML Organisation, which will be largely responsible for advancing and maintaining the proposed standard.
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The long-term goal of the standard is to introduce a simpler way to achieve interoperability among widely disparate IT systems, thereby encouraging the use of utility computing among large datacentres.
"Without a standards-based mechanism that better defines datacentre relationships, IT operations management will continue to struggle with implementing configuration and change management processes, which would continue to remain very labour intensive," said Donna Scott, a senior analyst with Gartner.
The proposed standard encompasses a range of datacentre elements, including network and storage components as well as market-leading operating systems such as Windows, Linux and Unix, and software infrastructure products and accompanying applications, a spokesman for the organisation said.
According to one Opsware executive, DCML should be thought of as "HTML for the datacentre".
"HTML is the universal language used to express and share information through a web browser. Likewise, DCML enables disparate management systems to share information and function more co-operatively," said Tim Howes, Opsware's chief technology officer.
Company officials claimed that some 14 million servers were now installed in IT organisations around the world, and that figure is expected to grow to 26 million by the end of 2006.
What has been driving sales of the servers is the shift from client/server architectures to internet-based ones, they said.
"Defining a uniform set of standards with the datacentre can offer a framework for large-scale computing projects like utility computing. [DCML] not only provides a common language to describe components in a datacentre, but also describe how they interoperate and can help define the policies that bind them together," said Darrel Thomas, chief technology officer for EDS Hosting Services.
Executives from the founding companies contended that DCML is the first standard model to describe what is contained in a datacentre and, more specifically, how that environment is constructed.
By doing so it enables a systematic reproduction, rebuilding, or reprovisioning of any portion of the datacentre environment.
Users and developers can find more information about the proposed standard at www.dcml.org.
Ed Scannell writes for IDG News Service