by January 3, 2005 0 comments

In May 2004 we did a story on managing the lifecycle of IT
assets, including software, hardware, information and services. The story looked
at each category individually and talked about them as discrete pieces. Though
we thought of linking them together so that organizations can manage their IT
systems as a single unit, there were no such solutions available at that time.
DSI (Dynamic System Initiative), an industry effort led by microsoft, is an
endeavor in that direction. This talks about not only individual components but
also a complete application system, including soft- ware, hardware, storage and
network, and looks at it from the perspective of operations, including
development and deployment of such systems.

In today’s IT environments the definition of an application
has evolved to include much more than just the soft- ware. So, it is imperative
that application development and operation should change its focus from a single
system or node to include the entire system. However, typically, application
development models focus on individual applications or nodes and developers do
not exactly know the actual deployment environment. This creates problems during
deployment, when the underlying infrastructure starts demanding changes in the
original application, thus increasing costs. In most applications, a major part
of the budget and effort goes in operating the system. Overtime, changes in
hardware infrastructure or requirements necessitate multiple iterations of the
application with the development team to optimize the system. This leads to
changes in the initial specification of the application and further increases
costs. These issues require a greater attention to be paid to the entire system,
including application and related operational requirements, such as topology,
configuration settings and hardware re- sources, right from the design and
development stage.

Direct Hit!

Applies to:
IT managers and developers

USP: Provides
a development, deployment and operational model for applications
Including and hardware


DSI addresses exactly these concerns by creating a
connection from the design of a system to the operation of that system on
through to the end users using that system. At the core of the initiative is the
SDM (System Definition Model), which provides integration across application-development tools, OSs,
applications, hardware and management tools. SDM is a language or meta-model
that is used to create models of a DSI system. SDM is used to define system
elements and to capture data pertinent to development, deployment and operations
of a system, making the model relevant to the entire life of the system. The
three essential parts of DSI and how SDM provides solutions for them are:

Design: Development tools following SDM help in
modeling a system composed of software and hardware resources. The model
contains information necessary to deploy and operate an application, including
required resources, con- figuration, operational features and policies.

Deployment: The SDM definition created at design
time is used to automatically deploy the system by dynamically allocating and
configuring software and hard- ware resources, such as server, storage and
network. A system can be deployed to different environments and to different

Operations: For operations there is an SDM service,
which is responsible for maintaining the designed SDM model. It provides a
system-level view that can be used for managing the system based on the model.
This view enables new management tools to drive re- source allocation,
configuration management, upgrades and process automation from the perspective
of the system.

A typical
business application system consists of different layers of hardware
and software 

Most business applications are tightly coupled with the
deployment system and the biggest challenge is to run the same application on
different deployment scenarios or to different scales. Deployment involves
allocation of new resources such as application hosts (servers, storage, etc),
network hardware and OSs. All these are critical layers of any application
system but are typically defined independently and by different teams working on
the system. SDM allows modeling of individual layers of the entire sys- tem,
including the application, hosts and network, and provides for provisioning of
resources automatically depending upon the deployment scenario and scale of the

Layering is accomplished when systems in one layer define a
set of constraints on systems in another layer and vice versa. Additionally, it
is the responsibility of the SDM service to maintain the designed system
throughout the operational lifecycle of the application. With this layering
model, which divides the entire system into discrete units, and the ability to
enforce constraints across these layers, products supporting SDM enable
organizations to separate management at each layer while maintaining policies
and constraints across the entire system. This way different teams can continue
to work on individual layers independently by just keeping in mind the
constraints put in by the other layers.

DSI promises to make application development. Deployment
and operation easier and more efficient by providing an integrated approach,
which not only talks of software but also about all elements that go into making
a business application run. But beware, DSI is being led by Microsoft, so it
invariably will be tied closely to the Windows platform, leaving other platforms
with no solution or with small hook ups to connect to the overall primarily
Windows platform. Presently, various companies such as Centratta, Computer
Associates, Dell, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, HP, NEC and Opsware Inc are a part
of the initiative. These companies have integrated their products with
Microsoft’s Auto- mated Deployment Services and other server products for better
system provisioning and improved server manageability. As of now tools and
solutions that implement DSI across a system are not available from any vendor.
However, various current solutions from Microsoft do pro- vide a near-DSI
solution. Products such as Windows Server 2003, Systems Management Server, MS
Operations Manager, MS Virtual Server2005 and visual Studio.NET provide the
capability to create a DSI system partly, but real DSI implementations can only
happen when the next-generation products such as LonghomVisual Studio 2005 and
MS SQL Server 2005 come out in the market.

Anoop Mangla

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