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SOA is not just for software anymore

Generally seen as an approach to organizing enterprise software applications, SOA is also playing a role in managing the hardware for those systems.

SOA and Web services are being extended from organizing software to also managing the hardware in enterprise infrastructures with the release this week of XManage 2.0 from uXcomm Inc., a three-year-old startup based in Beaverton, Oregon.

 All the management software that we have is structured as services.
Craig Wassenberg
Vice President of Product PlanninguXcomm Inc.

Founded by systems management professionals from IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Motorola, the company came into being just as service-oriented architecture was beginning to emerge, said Craig Wassenberg, vice president of product planning. So product development of software agents to manage hardware such as blade servers was based on SOA from the beginning, he said.

"The software architecture we developed was an SOA created a few years before SOA really became popular," Wassenberg recalled. "All the management software that we have is structured as services. Just like in the SOA world, each service has a well-defined user interface. There's a service definition language. Each service encapsulates and abstracts the underlying implementation of how that service is delivered. Legacy software can be integrated into this loosely coupled services world through encapsulation."

uXcomm sells its management software directly to device and software system manufacturers, who can integrate it directly into systems they build or create a hardware appliance that will fit into an enterprise infrastructure, Wassenberg explains. The SOA approach is designed to allow the manufacturers to integrate their products for such things as blade servers to telecommunications equipment into environments with existing management systems. SOA also allows uXcomm to take advantage of another emerging trend, open source.

"In the systems management world there are some good open source technologies useful for systems management," he said. "There's also commercial software that is available from a wide variety of vendors in the systems management space. Using SOA approaches, we can integrate those technologies into a solution. In those cases, we in a sense become the SOA-style management glue that holds all those pieces together -- CA, Tivoli, we can connect up to HP OpenView. Basically because of this SOA approach any software that has any kind of reasonable interface, whether it's an API or a protocol interface, we can adapt to it, we can encapsulate it, we can create a service out of it and interact with it."

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As with other areas of SOA development, systems management has an emerging standard, WS-Management developed by the Distributed Management Task Force, which Wassenberg said is often abbreviated as WS-Man.

"Within the systems management world, there's now a push to create a service-oriented management protocol," he said. "WS-Man runs on top of SOAP. It has defined XML-based messages. It has syntax defined, semantics defined. It takes the systems management world and makes it SOA manageable. So devices that support WS-Man protocol would have a services-oriented management interface. Solutions could be constructed from integration of those services in a loosely coupled manner depending on the needs of the particular integrators and devices involved."

To that end, Wassenberg said uXcomm is working with leading vendors in the systems management space "to bring this service-oriented architecture management approach to fruition."

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