New SOA spec looks to define hardware resources

Unveiled today, Service Modeling Language is designed to describe and model the hardware resources available to a given Web service inside an SOA.

Taking a page out of the mainframe days of yore when developers and architects paid painstaking attention to hardware resources when building new applications, a group of heavyweight IT vendors has debuted a new specification today called Service Modeling Language (SML) to describe systems resources available for a given Web service.

 One of the keys for this is manageability needs to be more than an afterthought.
Ed Anderson
Marketing DirectorDynamic Systems Initiative, Microsoft

The goal of the spec backed by BEA Systems Inc., BMC Software Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Dell Inc., EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard Corp., IBM, Intel Corporation, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems Inc. is to add network and server information into service-oriented architecture modeling. Ed Anderson, marketing director for Microsoft's dynamic systems initiative, said SML should give architects a better view into the system resources on which an SOA runs.

"One of the keys for this is manageability needs to be more than an afterthought," he said.

SML is an XML-based specification that leverages the ISO Schematron language and Microsoft's System Definition Model. Anderson said Microsoft intends to convert from the Systems Definition Model over to SML, making that the de facto systems modeling standard inside the company.

"The goal will be to provide better interoperability between different vendors," he said.

To a degree it makes sense as users aren't building their SOAs on one-vendor infrastructures. Web services may hold a lot of promise and the integration of SOA may create a more cost-effective and nimble application infrastructure, but at some point it all relies on the gear to push it around.

Ric Telford, vice president for autonomic computing at IBM, said SML will define IT elements, their technical constraints and the rules associated with them to give architects an up-front view of how a company's systems can support a proposed service. It is designed to get around the manual mapping process that often takes place between the service modeling and service development steps.

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The SML information will also act a bit like a WSDL contract, providing information to management and automated systems after a service is up and running.

The proponents intend to a add a library of IT terms so that, according to the press release, "every vendor would be able to establish the generic nature of, and relationship between, every component of a specific IT service without prior knowledge of the objects that make up that service."

Telford added that he envisions the creation of tools to map from SML to the popular Unified Modeling Language in the future.

SML has not yet been submitted to an official standards body, but Anderson expressed hope that it would find a standards home before the end of the year.

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