WBEM Products Make Grand Entrance

The first applications capable of leveraging Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) are here. Analysts and vendors say that WBEM is poised to make a big enterprise splash.

Two years ago, a consortium led by Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp. introduced WBEM. The stated goal was to create a standard faceplate for management applications. Rather than providing any native management functionality, WBEM defines a management infrastructure to which developers can build management applications for distributed environments. The WBEM design provides for a centralized repository where agents or software controls can process management information specific to a number of software, system and network objects. At the same time, the WBEM repository provides a centralized store from which systems management application suites can extract valuable management-related information.

"What I see is a market that is beginning to provide solutions to customers, and customers ought to be expecting WBEM in their management solutions right now," contends Kent Erickson, a product manager for Mission Critical Software Inc. (Houston, Texas, www.missioncritical.com). Mission Critical recently announced version 2.6 of its SeNTry EEM product, one of a handful of WBEM-enabled Windows NT management applications to debut in recent weeks.

"What WBEM provides is a software developers’ infrastructure for distributed management, so what WBEM is providing and what Microsoft is distributing is a very good environment in which to work for companies that provide management applications," explains Erickson.

Last month, Hewlett-Packard Co. announced plans to integrate WBEM technology into its flagship HP OpenView Network Node Manager software by the end of 1998. Semiconductor giant Intel also trumpeted the incorporation of WBEM support into the version 2.0 release of its Wired for Management specification, an initiative to facilitate a transition to a more manageable PC environment.

In July, Compaq Computer Corp. announced that version 1.0 of its Compaq Insight Manager XE, the latest upgrade of its server-management software, would ship with a new Web interface and support for WBEM. Insight Manager XE 1.0 also will feature a WBEM repository that allows administrators to assess and correlate data from several different management products.

Systems management giants Computer Associates Int’l Inc. and Tivoli Systems Inc. (Austin, Texas, www.tivoli.com) also incorporated WBEM support into their flagship management products.

Perhaps one of the most influential launches is coming from Microsoft itself: The introduction of core WBEM support in Service Pack 4 for Windows NT.

For the first time, says Mission Critical’s Erickson, the systems management vendor community can leverage the extensive WBEM support provided natively within the Windows NT operating system. "The major WBEM provider that is out there is Microsoft’s NT WBEM core services," Erickson says. "The reason that this is important is because it [is] part of Windows NT Service Pack 4, and if Service Pack 4 has it, that means that most NT machines in the world will have WBEM providers by default."

NetIQ Corp. (Santa Clara, Calif., www.netiq.com), publisher of version 3.0 of AppManager Suite, a popular Windows NT-specific systems management tool, is one vendor that is leveraging WBEM to provide a means to collect valuable management data. "The focus of WBEM that we have right now is more focused on collecting data and utilizing the Common Information Model. But we feel that WBEM support is going to become increasingly important in the future," says Tom Kemp, vice president of marketing for NetIQ.

Rick Sturm, a principal with consultants Enterprise Management Associates Inc. (Boulder, Colo., www.emps.com), says it is likely to be a WBEM future as the appearance of WBEM-enabled products will drive the need for management solutions that are capable of interpreting and rendering WBEM information. "As more and more products generate WBEM events, enterprises need to be able to monitor, capture and act upon this data to proactively manage their Windows NT-based networks and increase the availability of enterprise systems," Sturm says.

Although he acknowledges that WBEM will likely assume a role of importance in the enterprise of tomorrow, Rob Enderle, a senior analyst with Giga Information Group (Santa Clara, Calif., www.gigaweb.com), cautions against over-enthusiasm for WBEM today. "Certainly with WBEM being supported by the majority of first and second tier systems management vendors it has already made a splash," Enderle explains. "However, WBEM is a ‘nice to have’ feature that may become critical in the next few years -- but for now consistent systems support, related skills, and products that actually do what they advertise are far more important."