-by Van Wiles, Lead Integration Engineer

How do you model a dependency relationship in a directional metamodel? This question is surprisingly difficult to answer.

First I must apologize for not posting anything for the last two months. I guess I had writer's block. Then again I know some who would prefer to get more meaningful posts less frequently, so at least I can satisfy the latter part of that preference!


So we have this question about how to expose an existing CIM association as a relationship using the CMDBf metamodel. Take CIM_Dependency for example. It seems that about half of all CIM associations are based on CIM_Dependency so answering this question may be generally useful.


CMDBf would require the MDR to represent a CIM_Dependency association as a relationship between two items, where the relationship has a record of type CIM_Dependency (and maybe other records too). So far, so good (a no-brainer if you have been following my blog or other CMDBf activities).


Now - how do you represent the Antecedent and Dependent properties of this record? The first part of the answer is not too hard - a concatenation of the existing Key properties of each CIM instance will work within a CIM Object Manager. But how do you relate Antecedent and Dependent to CMDBf source and target in the relationship metamodel? That's the tricky part (and very important for an MDR, I might add). In the picture below, can you tell whether Computer System depends on Person (like server depends on administrator) or Person depends on Computer System (like I depend on my laptop)?

If your MDR implementation decides that the Antecedent role maps to the relationship target and my MDR implementation decides that Antecedent maps to source, we won't have interoperability even though we are both using the same data model (!!) In other words, our MDRs may not reconcile or respond to a query with predictable results. A graph traveral from one MDR to the other may get stuck in between.


It would be a lot easier if every Association in CIM had a sense of direction, like "depends on" for example; then it would be grammatically obvious (at least to someone who understands English) - source depends on target. I suspect it's a bit late for that wish to come true.


There may be a couple of ways out of this modeling conundrum. The CMDBf workgroup at DMTF could define how to map these basic CIM association REFs to source and target and ask every MDR implementation that supports CIM to follow these conventions. That's a real possibility and easy to implement if we catch every MDR before they go with their own instincts.


I had another way out, but got lost in the maze. Help! I'm waiting for someone else in the workgroup or in my little blog world to make a better suggestion.


The postings in this blog are my own and don't necessarily represent BMC's opinion or position.