A group of IT vendors including Microsoft and IBM are backing a specification aimed at helping make it easier to manage services on a network by creating a common way to define applications, servers and other IT assets.

The vendors submitted the specification, called the Service Modelling Language (SML), to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). SML defines a consistent way to communicate how computer networks, applications, servers and other IT resources are described, or modelled, in Extensible Markup Language (XML), Microsoft said.

Microsoft, IBM, BEA, BMC, CA, Cisco, Dell, EMC, HP, Intel and Sun also submitted a companion specification, called the SML Interchange Format (SML-IF), to define how to exchange SML models between applications.

SML works by enabling IT resource models to be created from reusable building blocks rather than requiring custom descriptions of every service. This should reduce cost and complexity for customers when trying to define network resources to manage services built on top of them, Microsoft said. Currently, different assets are identified on the network in different formats, which can leave some technical details lost in translation and make it hard to manage all of the services, the company said.

All of the vendors contributed intellectual property to the specifications that were submitted to the W3C, according to Microsoft.

Companies often come together to develop specifications that will standardize IT processes and then submit them to standards bodies. However, a quorum of companies must support and use a specification in order for it to be useful to the industry.