What is heterogeneous IoT

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Above all, there is a large number of so-called element management systems on the market for monitoring, controlling and managing network components such as hubs, routers and switches. The manufacturers do not save on functions in order to convince the user of the efficiency of the management solution, as Rüdiger Both, division manager at Diebold Deutschland GmbH, confirms: "The management of active network components is no longer a problem today - at least as long as these components are from a manufacturer. "

But that is where the dilemma begins. Because which company can already refer to a homogeneous network. As a rule, administrators have no choice but to deal with a large number of element manager systems with their private management information bases (MIBs) and to integrate them into one or more management platforms. Such a time-consuming work is also very costly. As experts estimate, it is up to three times as expensive as management components for hardware and software. "But even if the user goes into the integration effort," says Egon Bohländer, responsible for the Telecommunications / Networks division at the management consultancy Gora, Hecken & Partner GmbH in Sulzbach, "there is still no guarantee that all element managers will work together effectively and smoothly . "

A survey carried out by the Ready Group AG in Ettlingen provides information about the actual level of performance in infrastructure management alone. Of the 400 IT managers surveyed, 55 percent expect considerable network management problems due to the growing complexity in the network, while 23 percent are confronted with minor difficulties. Only 22 percent are of the opinion that their network management systems have the right tools for effective monitoring and management of the network infrastructure.

Bohländer predicts that the user will not be able to avoid integration problems and costs in the future either. In spite of the common basic consensus Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), the element manager systems will continue to bear their proprietary stamp in order to encourage the user to purchase their own network components through supposedly unique selling points.

Shaped by the market laws for network management solutions, system management also threatens to end up on proprietary railways in the long term. The providers of platform systems also do not tend to open their systems for cross-manufacturer control and management of hardware and software. Especially since, as Bohländer knows, big business is not only luring with the objects to be monitored and managed (PCs, servers, host computers, applications, database systems, utilities and operating systems), but also with the sale of system management tools .

Double-digit growth rates year after year

Heinz Unland, Program Manager PC Market Germany at IDC Deutschland GmbH in Kronberg, estimates that sales of system management software, which made up a worldwide volume of 6.7 billion dollars in 1995, will increase by 13, 7 percent to then grow to $ 12.7 billion.

With this lucrative market in mind, manufacturers and providers are rushing ahead with their system management offers without being able to offer any solid, i.e. practical solution approaches for comprehensive control and management of hardware and software components in the network. At the latest in the heterogeneous system environment - the rule in company networks - then nothing works anymore.

Security management within client-server environments is also unsatisfactory to this day, especially in a heterogeneous environment, as Jürgen Fiedler, management consultant at Diebold Deutschland GmbH in Eschborn, knows from practice: "This is where security management does not even intervene Approaches. " It looks different in the pure IBM environment. But even here in a homogeneous world, the user cannot necessarily count on reliable security management. Fiedler recommends companies that use client-server architectures and therefore have to fall back on security management tools to check the proprietary solution approaches with their own catalog of requirements for their actual performance in order to avoid expensive disappointments.

The list of shortcomings is long

There are also considerable deficits in the performance management of client-server installations, which require tracking of the entire processing chain - from triggering on the screen to completion. However, because software manufacturers have hardly provided any management functionality in their applications so far, the lack of application management means that performance management has largely fallen by the wayside.

Michael Rudolphi, Associate Partner at Andersen Consulting GmbH in Sulzbach / Hessen, identifies the configuration management as a further problem within a comprehensive system administration, because here too proprietary approaches make the cross-vendor management of hardware and software configurations considerably more difficult. A bitter pill for companies, as Rudolphi thinks, because configuration management is the basis for all other administration tasks within a client-server installation. The consequences of this proprietary development cannot yet be foreseen. "Here the user will probably have to wait until the market finally decides which manufacturer-specific approach to client management will prevail."

However, the greatest gaps in system administration can be found in application management. According to Rüdiger Both, it must even be doubted whether there will ever be cross-manufacturer approaches. According to the consultant, only one architecture can be defined here that corresponds to the classic model: Agents collect relevant information and make it available to a management system. The user is responsible for defining the relevant parameters such as response times for SQL queries, runtimes for certain applications and write access, as well as the time frame for saving specified amounts of data. Metrics that can only be defined with knowledge of the requirements of specific applications and stored in log files for evaluation by configurable agents. The state of the art is that although there are corresponding agents on the market, the rest of the application management will have to be designed individually - also in the future.

He sees the development in operations management as more positive, because it is less manufacturer-independent, which includes, among other things, distributed print management, backup and restore functions and possibly a trouble-ticketing system for help desks. Here the market already offers products that can also be integrated into the most important standard platforms.

Users will probably have to wait a long time for system management tools that allow them to manage and control computers, operating systems, application tools, utilities and applications in a heterogeneous client-server environment. Especially since no reliable norms have emerged with regard to individual standardization efforts. One thing is certain: SNMP (V.1 and V.2) cannot be more than a pragmatic and low-function approach for comprehensive network and system management.

Approaches to normalization are available

On the other hand, the Open Software Foundation (OSF) tried to standardize the system management for heterogeneous system platforms with all functions from application to infrastructure management with Distributed Management Environment (DME). In the opinion of Michael Rudolphi, however, it failed because of the gigantic scale of this task. As a result, the providers of system management tools first take care of their own operating systems and computers before they think about managing the hardware and software of other manufacturers.

Both at least sees a silver lining on the horizon of standardization, even if only on a standardization track: "I currently only see real standardization efforts in the area of ​​system management with the Desktop Management Task Force (DMTF), which is an architecture made up of a Desktop Management Interface (DMI), Management Information Base (MIB), Management Information File (MIF), SNMP proxy and SNMP agent. "

This architecture enables functions such as software download, inventory and redirection of keyboard and screen inputs to the management console. The monitoring of the use of system resources such as CPU, cache, main and mass storage as well as the number of active processes on a server was taken into account with the architecture of the DMTF, as was the integration of the functionalities under a management platform. These features seem to be at least partially normalizable. To what extent these standardization efforts will ultimately be reflected in the products remains to be seen.

The System Management Server (SMS) is another initiative, in this case by Microsoft, to shed light on PC management in particular. So far, however, Microsoft has largely gone it alone - in an effort to impose its own solution on the market.

Whether instead the definitions of the Common Object Broker Architecture (Corba) of the Object Management Group can slip into the role of a standard remains to be seen as well. Even if more than 500 providers and users have already joined this initiative, it is not yet possible to speak of a budding standard. In addition, Microsoft is also strongly opposed to this (as with SMS against the definitions of the DMTF) with its own form of an object-oriented standard (Distributed Component Object Model, DCOM). DCOM is not compatible with Corba.

Rudolphi's conclusion is therefore: "The demand for comprehensive standards that could cover and control system management across the board is too high. Small rolls have to be baked first." He assumes that reliable development guidelines will emerge less from standardization bodies or manufacturers' associations than from protracted power struggles in the market.

This means that users will have to wait a long time for system management solutions. Fortunately, the distribution of applications and data in companies is not advancing as quickly as system manufacturers and providers are repeatedly promoting. In addition, network operating systems such as Netware, NT Server and Vines themselves offer management services to monitor and manage PCs, printers, storage units, data and applications. Wherever these system management functionalities are not sufficient, the company should look out for solutions in the market that seamlessly build on its own network operating system world.

Only introduce management tools in an emergency

In this way, software distribution, inventory and database integration, for example, can now be solved much better and, above all, more economically than with the classic management approach. "Only where the level of suffering due to the extensive use of client-server technologies is particularly great," says Jürgen Fiedler from Diebold Germany, "the user ultimately has to consider the use of system management tools from a management platform but only in a largely homogeneous system environment, please. In a heterogeneous environment, the user should better keep his hands off it. "

Clicked

When it comes to network and system management, every manufacturer does its own thing. Because the providers advertise and maintain their proprietary stamps as unique selling points, there are hardly any overarching and open concepts that enable the integration of a wide variety of components. Only a few delicate efforts towards standardization, such as those initiated by the Open Software Foundation (OSF), the Desktop Management Task Force (DMTF) or the Object Management Group (OMG), give hope.

* Hadi Stiel is a freelance journalist in Bad Camberg