What Is WBEM?

In 1996, BMC Software, Cisco Systems, Compaq Computer, Intel, and Microsoft sponsored the Web-Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) initiative, an effort to provide a unifying mechanism for describing and sharing management information. Now more than 70 companies publicly support WBEM, including Computer Associates, IBM/Tivoli, and HP.

Administrators of systems running on multiple platforms currently have no easy way to obtain management data from their different platforms. They must use individual APIs or a separate console for each management application. However, WBEM can provide one interface to multiple platforms because it's independent of the different languages, execution environments, and user interfaces (UIs) those platforms use to host management applications. WBEM defines a common mechanism for sharing management information, but it doesn't dictate how vendors implement management solutions. WBEM does not require the use of a runtime environment or programming language model, nor does it mandate the use of any particular management application, console, operating system (OS), or graphical environment. WBEM provides a consistent view of managed environments without locking customers in to one management framework, protocol, or platform.

Two main goals motivated WBEM's founders to create this cross-platform management technology. First, they needed to standardize the publishing of management data. To achieve this goal, the Desktop Management Task Force (DMTF) adopted a standardized data model called the Common Information Model (CIM) in 1997. CIM is an object-oriented schema for describing a system's management objects. It offers one extensible data description mechanism for all enterprise systems, network devices, and other management tools such as applications, peripherals, and databases. CIM supports data inheritance and associations and is independent of any execution environment or programming language model. You can use CIM to describe objects that you implement in Java, distributed component object model (DCOM), Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA), or any other object environment.

Second, WBEM's founders needed a standard method for accessing management information. Previously, administrators had to use customized API calls and software designed specifically for each environment that they wanted to access management data from. WBEM provides one method for accessing management data that originates from disparate sources.

Figure A shows the general WBEM architecture. The bottom of Figure A shows various sources of management data that WBEM can use, including Windows Management Interface (WMI), Desktop Management Interface (DMI), and Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). The next level shows the CIM Object Provider, which acts as a translation layer for the CIM Object Manager (CIMOM). The CIMOM handles the interactions between CIM, management applications, and the CIM Object Provider. In addition, the CIMOM handles security, event registration, and notification services. At the top of Figure A, Management Application includes any application that uses management data to provide value to users, such as a central management console or a central management data repository.

The original WBEM specification proposed that HyperMedia Management Protocol (HMMP) serve as the standard protocol for publishing and accessing data. Although HMMP is part of the WBEM specification at press time, I expect WBEM organizers to get rid of HMMP in the near future and adopt Extensible Markup Language (XML) instead. (For the latest information about WBEM, visit http://wbem.freerange.com.)