Intel, Dell, IBM and Hewlett-Packard are to work with an industry organisation to standardise the way servers are managed.
The four companies will lead a new working group, called the Server Management Working Group, which is being formed within the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) standards organisation. It will define interfaces for the discovery, configuration and management of servers on a network.
The aim is to make it easier for independent software companies and system administrators to write software that works with a variety of hardware. "With this new standard, information is going to be exposed in an industry standards way so that any third party is going to be able to access that information," said Chad Engelgau, the senior manager responsible for server manageability planning at Dell..
The Server Management Working Group will develop these standards in a specification called the Command Line Interface (CLI), a draft of which is expected to be delivered by next July.
Advanced Micro Devices and Sun Microsystems are also supporting the effort.
The four companies leading the Server Management Working Group have been discussing ways of standardising server components for several months.
Speaking at the Oracle Open World conference in September, Dell chief executive officer Michael Dell said his company was "in discussions with some fairly large computer companies to get some agreement on a standard blade architecture".
At the time, the discussions included standards for common software application programming interfaces, hardware interconnects and form factors for high-density servers, such as blades.
While Monday's announcement seemed to cover similar ground to the effort referred to by Michael Dell, it was not the result of those discussions, said Dell spokeswoman Carmen Maverick.
Dell had no comment on whether discussions to define a blade standard were still goingon, but Intel would not support such an effort, claimed Nim Homayoun, a strategic planning manager with Intel. "We don't believe in standardising the form factor of blades," he said.
Standardisation of server management tools is important, but a common blade form factor would not necessarily be a good idea at this time, said Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff.
"There really are a lot of different potential design points for a blade server," he added. "You couple that with the fact that [blade technology] is so new and people are still figuring out ways to work that, and it seems to me that you'd possibly be restricting different approaches early in the game."
The first meeting of the DMTF will take place in Dallas on Wednesday and Thursday this week.
Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service