Surprise: Microsoft's DSI is not dead

Summary:Microsoft is going to try to resuscitate its Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) in the coming weeks/months, starting with the March 22 announcement that Microsoft and a handful of systems-management partners -- and competitors -- are submitting the XML-based Service Modeling Language (SML) to the W3C for standardization.

In my roundup from December 2006 of Microsoft people, products and strategies that had disappeared, I mentioned Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) as No. 8. I noted:

"Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI). DSI isn't dead. But it's not exactly alive and kicking, either. After 2005, a year when Microsoft officials seemed to lump nearly every management-related product and service under Microsoft's DSI autonomic-computing moniker, DSI got barely a mention in 2006. The Microsoft DSI Web site contains a lot of old links. Will DSI get a facelift in 2007, or just fade quietly away?"

The answer to my not-so-rhetorical question arrived today. Microsoft is going to try to resuscitate DSI in the coming weeks/months, starting with the March 22 announcement that Microsoft and a handful of systems-management partners -- and competitors -- are submitting the XML-based Service Modeling Language (SML) to the W3C for standardization.

First things first: What the heck is DSI?

Because it seems loath to use common industry terms like "autonomic computing" or "utility computing," Microsoft has a hard time providing a succinct definition of DSI. This is Microsoft's current definition of DSI from its Web site:

"The Dynamic Systems Initiative (DSI) is Microsoft's technology strategy for products and solutions that help businesses enhance the dynamic capability of its people, process, and IT infrastructure using technology."

Yeah, kind of like the fairly meaningless "People Ready Business." Luckily, I got a better defintion today out of Ed Anderson, Microsoft's director of DSI.

"DSI is an environment where your systems are self-aware and can adapt, business- or technology-wise to a changing environment," Andersen said. DSI is a ten-year initiative, Andersen reminded me, and Microsoft is currently in Year No. 4.

"DSI has gone through a series of evolutions," Andersen acknowledged. It started out as a plan for managing servers in a distributed environment. These days, DSI also addresses managing applications, virtualization and other "agile computing" (my note: UGH!) topics, Andersen said.

The March 22 announcement regarding the submission of SML to the W3C fits in here in the following way: SML is the successor to SDM, Microsoft's System Definition Model (SDM).

When Microsoft first outlined DSI, it described SDM as the crux of the initiative. SDM was little more than a schema. From a 2004 Network World article:

"Microsoft considers MOM 2005 and its management packs for servers such as Exchange and SQL Server to be Version Zero of SDM. The MOM management packs monitor the inner workings of particular servers and supply data to MOM. SDM is defined by XML-based documents that are embedded into applications to communicate management and operational needs to the network."

Since that time, Microsoft and the rest of the SML standard-submitters -- BEA, BMC, CA, Cisco, Dell, EMC, HP, IBM, Intel and Sun -- seemingly decided that they all were trying to solve the same basic management problem. So SML became the superset, with each vendor providing its own implementation.

Microsoft will undoubtedly begin beating the DSI drum again in the coming months, as this year will be a big one for new versions of its System Center systems-management wares.

As one company observer, who wished not to be named, noted, however:

"DSI...ah, DSI. Every time I think it's dead, they go off and rename a couple of things and proclaim its resurrection. Whether or not 'DSI' succeeds or fails has no bearing whatsoever on the engineering work that it's based on. That work continues and is making pretty good progress. If you think of "DSI" as a true 'initiative,' it needs to demonstrate strong industry momentum."

Perhaps today's W3C standards submission, with a cast of unlikely colleagues, will give Microsoft's DSI some of that momentum, if not a new lease on life.....

Update: Speaking of systems management, it looks like Microsoft's System Center Operation Manager 2007 has been released to manufacturing


Topics: Microsoft


Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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