I was in an interesting meeting, surrounded by Very Smart People, all trying to express ways to demonstrate DSI - the Dynamic Systems Initiative. 

First, we recalled (from http://www.microsoft.com/DSI) the summary position of DSI:

"DSI ... self-managing dynamic systems to help IT teams capture and use knowledge to design more manageable systems and automate ongoing operations, resulting in reduced costs..."

I was attending this meeting to help with ideas about how SML (Service Modeling Language platform) is important today, and will strongly and positively impact IT in the future. As a former Group Program Manager for the Identity Management Team in Microsoft IT (2004-2005) and member of MSIT from 2002-2005, I had hands-on experience with enterprise-wide operations, support and applications lifecycle projects; I hoped my experiences could help with real-world context for any DSI demonstrations. 

My MSIT experiences spanned heterogeneous identity management (via Active Directory and Microsoft Identity Integration Server), policy-based configuration management (using Group Policy), and Sarbanes-Oxley controls/tests/remediation (through AD, MIIS, GP, and in-house applications provisioning identities). In other words, I know something of IT Operations first-hand, from the hard stuff and the harder stuff.

The Very Smart People offered many examples of DSI impacting all phases of the IT service-system lifecycle. A diagram of this lifecycle can be seen at the Microsoft Operations Framework - Service Level Managment portal (click here to view). But I wanted to offer a few suggestions on how I see SML impacting IT in the very near future (even NOW for server beta software product testers...).

What I suggested includes the following concepts:

TODAY: IT has process - document processes for critical systems; routine processes sometimes not documented; procedural and de facto processes depending upon individual IT responsibilites (operations analyst, developer, support specialist, security officer) . For every new service component, for every new application to deploy into production ... management functionality (tools for configuration, scripts for repeatability, reporting for assessment and sustain, and knowledge to determine service levels) must be added to these existing processes. IT Pros can build this needed management automation, but this is often an add-on cost and effort for the deployment, involving much work with limited reusability. That impacts the return-on-investment estimated for new deployments. 


WHAT DSI OFFERS: A uniform approach to describing [desired] configuration for systems / applications / services, for implementing configuration, for operating in preferred configuration states, and for assessing / reporting on configuration. In the future, systems that can automate assessment of the service components (systems and solutions) to the model and perform self-correction when needed will be of key value for compliance requirements.

An early view DSI in a Microsoft product can be found in Windows Server "Longhorn" specifically through Initial Configuration Tasks (ITC) and Server Manager interfaces. With Windows Server "Longhorn" the installation process takes this form: Files copied to local drive; System restart; ICT interface is launched to complete server setup. The IT Administrator selects appropriate "roles" to configure this new server - e.g. Print Management, Active Directory, DHCP, DNS, etc., and additional role services (such as Backup). Then server is completed using information coded for these roles. 


As is published elsewhere, these "roles" are models (from model documents) that define required configuration. Server Manager provides the interface allowing the IT Administrator to complete the desired configuration (e.g. server Name, DHCP Scopes, Backup Schedules/Tasks), resulting in roles-based configuration management for Windows Server "Longhorn".


After server setup, this roles-based (or if you consider the underlying structure, model-based) configuration management is available by launching the Server Manager console from the Start menu. Server Manager provides informative Role Pages that allow the IT Administrator to view the state of the server, and drill-down into installed roles/services to assess events or issues reported in the console. Role Pages also offer click-to-fix mechanisms to resolve a selection of issues (such as restarting a stopped service), without having to launch an additional MMC Snap-in.


So - how does this demonstrate DSI, and more importantly, a positive impact on IT Operations? Especially for businesses that have limited management automation (or staff that can build management automation), here's what you get:

  • A consistent process for server setup initial configuration, and on-going server configuration management. Get it installed "right"
  • A single interface for assessment of server current-state operations, with click-to-fix for a selection of issues. Keep it running "right"

ICT and Server Manager uses Service Modeling Language (SML) model documents to provide the configuration details for each server role and service feature. Through ICT and Server Manager, each IT Administrator receives Microsoft-recommended server role prescriptive configuration guidance, and a means for assessing server current-state to intended-state.


It is the value-adding resources of the model documents provided by developers and integrators that offers IT a defined configuration for deployment, operations, assessment, and corrective action. So in the future (and bigger) picture, developers including management models with their products provide a means of defining configuration management and recommending configuration best practices (essentially, communicating their intentions) to staff in all phases of IT Operations and Service Management.


By The Way: You can test Windows Server "Longhorn" and specifically the roles-based management console Server Manager today, using one of the TechNet Virtual Labs - launch the lab and select Start > Server Manager.


Now: What about examples of future products that address all phases of the IT service-system lifecycle, and supports all the core principles of DSI? That's a great topic for future posts...


- mark