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  1. Technology
October 6, 1991


By CBR Staff Writer

With the announcement by the Open Software Foundation of the results of its Distributed Management Environment Request for Technology recently, the use of object-oriented technology for systems management has been catapulted centre stage. It is an area that Bruce Murrill, the technical director of the Network Management Forum has been watching and helping to develop for several years. The Forum is not a formal standards body as such, it is an implementation group – it takes evolving ISO standardisation work and provides intercepts to enable the standards to become appropriate to specific application areas such as file transfer. In other words, by providing interim specifications, vendors can add functionality to their products now rather than having to wait for the standard to be set. Having provided specifications for vendors to implement in their products, the Forum then offers conformance testing tools and a formal process for vendors to test interoperability in a multi-vendor environment. In many ways the Forum is to networking vendors what X/Open Co Ltd is to computer systems vendors. Below these two bodies come organisations such as the Object Management Group, the Open Software Foundation and Unix International Inc, which provide base technology that vendors can pick up and use to add value to their applications. Since the end of 1990, the Forum has been running a Showcase suite at major trade shows to heighten people’s awareness of open systems management. It released the first set of specifications last year and most of its members are at the beta test stage, although Murrill is confident that fully-conformant systems will be on show in Geneva at Telecom ’91. As users are becoming more demanding in the standards area, momentum is building to bring the different standards bodies together. That was the thinking behind the Open Management Roadmap – a project to bring together Network Management Forum, Open Software Foundation, Unix International, Object Management Group, X/Open, Corporation for Open Systems and the Standards Promotion & Application Group. Together these organisations will set OMNIPoints – these are Open Management Interoperability Points where a set of user needs can be satisfied by interoperable network management products that make use of a common fully-supported interface.

Optimistic the Foundation will adopt OMNIPoints

Without the provision of OMNIPoints, developers have to write to different levels of standards specifications as they evolve and this defeats the whole purpose of interoperability. As part of the effort, the Forum is putting together components for a managed object set that can be used by the various standard bodies. In June the International Standards Organisation’s Guidelines for the Definition of Managed Objects moved from draft to the stable stage. ISO now has a stable managed object paradigm within its Open Systems Interconnection stack and application services to manage the type of resource that is defined, but no real world classes. This is something of a watershed as it means that the Forum can now move on to provide a much larger library of managed object classes. At present it has 35 generic classes in its library that vendors can customise to suit their applications. The classes cover things such as circuits, computer systems and networks. The Forum believes it is most advanced in this area as it already has a managed object specification library on which it can build. The Object Management Group has no set of managed objects and the Software Foundation is working on a set, and says they’re working with the Network Management Forum. X/Open has already committed to use the Forum’s library. Bearing this background in mind the Distributed Management Environment can be seen as a tremendous breakthrough as it provides a base level of technology on which value-added applications can be defined to a coherent set of interfaces covering communications, user interfaces and storage mechanisms. The Environment enables information to be moved around using three different mec

hanisms: OSI, Simple Network Management Protocol and remote procedure calls. This means that vendors can provide a set of integrated applications operating across wide networks, local networks and distributed computing systems. Now that the technological framework for doing this has been established, Murrill believes a whole new set of specialist software companies will move into the market. Hitherto each developer had to worry about how to manage a particular type of proprietary technology and there was no common definition for the parameters by which the performance could be measured in the computer system and in the network. Now this is beginning to be addressed and with a well-defined applications environment such as DME – that’s Distributed Management Environment, not ICL Plc’s Direct Machine Environment – developers are beginning to have the freedom to think now what would a user like to do with my technology in the whole environment. The rival system to DME is, of course, Unix International Inc’s Atlas which is firmly based on OSI managed objects, whereas DME takes Tivoli’s technology as its core. However, Murrill thinks that there is a strong enough flavour of OSI in Tivoli Systems Inc’s offering for the existence of a commonality between the two environments. He is optimistic that the Foundation will adopt OMNIPoint 1 specifications, which may mean that the Forum’s library of managed objects becomes common to both open management systems. – Katy Ring

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