back to article VMware seeks patent for IM chats between servers and sysadmins

VMware has applied for a patent to bake an instant messaging client into servers so they can chat in real time with multiple human sysadmins. Patent application 20140173751, aka “System And Method for Chatting With Machines”, points out that when a server has something to report to a control freak it usually fires off emails or …

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WOW!

vmware has invented IRC! Totally cool! Count me in! This will be insanely great!

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Re: WOW!

not sure why the downvote, I was going to post pretty much the same thing. How can this patent be revolutionary?

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Bronze badge

Re: WOW!

vmware has invented IRC! Totally cool! Count me in! This will be insanely great!

Quite. I did several implementations with ircd about a decade ago to do exactly that.

It was so obvious solution that I'm sure I have not been the only one.

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Re: WOW!

Come to think of it must've been more like 20 years ago.

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Anonymous Coward

Massive prior art here

1. I had my servers talking to me via AIM (the only one with a decent perl module at the time) in 2006.

2. Arista has had that in production for 5 years or so for switches and router gear.

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Meh

Re: Massive prior art here

Indeed, even my QNAP NAS did this until some time ago*, still waiting for that functionality to return.

*it only supported MS Messenger and we all know where that went.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Massive prior art here

One could probably argue that this is just a cargo-cult version of SNMP anyway.

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Archipel already does this.

http://archipelproject.org

You can see a demo of at 3:05 of the front page video.

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Anonymous Coward

Prior art

Seconding the prior art of Archipel.

The whole patent system is stupidity.

1. sending messages when something fails: standard practice

2. sending messages over XMPP: standard practice

But putting 1 + 2 together = patentable.

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Dave the IT guy

Dave: Server, please initiate a restart in 10 minutes alerting all users.

Server: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.

Dave: What's the problem?

Server: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do. Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

Server quits with Error Code 0x80000001

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Re: Dave the IT guy

Is the problem that Dave keeps getting his knob out on the camera plugin?

Dirty bugger.

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No-one ever heard of a CLI

No. No-one.

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notify via Jabber

Nagios has had a Jabber notification option since 2002, at least.

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Windows

US?

I assume that the patent is being applied for within the United States of America?

I'm not sure any other patent system would recognise such an obvious development.

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Prior art

NET send from DOS SMB stack in the '80s

+ Windows 3.11 and greater

Just f**k off VMWare

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Prior art

I haven't been inclined to read this actual patent so there may be more to it but it seems like it has plenty of prior art, if not obviousness. However NET SEND is not one of them. You could hardly equate NET SEND to a two way group chat client.

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Pint

Re: Prior art

Ok, what about 2 net sends? One at either end?

You could even go crazy and use one of them new-fangled GUIs at the admin end so all messages show up in a handy window where you can scroll up and down through the messages. That would be great.

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Anonymous Coward

Security

This sounds like the server will initiate connections to a chat server and allow "authorised" users to run privileged applications on the server. Does anybody else see a problem with this?

It is bad enough locking down a server, with all the crap that a supposed minimal system install ends up installing. Now the damned server itself will connect to the outside world and invite people to do things ("Hey Dave, I have a problem. Want to restart some services or maybe start some that have been disabled?"). You also have the problem that a bit of DNS poisoning or hijacking of a chat server could result in your system being compromised.

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Re: Security

If you do indeed use DNS to connect to the chat server, are far more sensible method would be the chat server being sat inside a VPC and connecting to it directly on a private IP.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Security

Using IP addresses when you just have a couple of servers doesn't cause many problems but when you have 100s of servers it can be an issue.

I've had to re-IP networks/servers in the past and when everything uses private DNS servers it is relatively easy although you often find at least one server running some obscure undocumented application with a hard-coded IP.

One of the issues with using DNS is, of course, that everything now depends on it running smoothly but there are steps you can take to mitigate the DNS servers failing.

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Sadly, it's not April 1st.

Lovely. Another example of just how broken the USPTO really is. The fact that the USPTO hasn't laughed them out of the office right away is a sad, sad reminder that the whole blindingly stupid and greedy department should just be scrapped.

I can think of several ways this has been implemented in several different systems since the late 1970's. In one case using "cat > /dev/tty##" in an suid bash script (when such things didn't immediately result in the dismemberment of the perpetrator). But really it seems they're just trying to patent a fairly typical botnet "chat control" system where systems not only chat in a group account, but the group account can control the systems. No prior art there I guess, especially since the USPTO still seems to think computers still run using paper tape or something.

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asl?

Hi I'm a 6 year old Dell Power Edge (but everyone says I look 4), female and in the datacenter. You?

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Facepalm

There may well be prior art, but probably won't be enough to get it thrown out.

"Another example of just how broken the USPTO really is." Not really, broken implies it worked in the first place...

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Anonymous Coward

cPanel has done this for years...

Loved it or hate it, but cPanel has used IM for years - ICQ and AIM, that's how old it is!

We've done this with Hubot for quite some time as a two way chat, and I'd imagine many other have as well.

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Novel

I think (what they are claiming) makes this novel, is the user can IM back commands...

That sets off my every "OMGSecurity" bone in my body, but that's the idea.

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Facepalm

Reputation

I guess a lot of companies feel obliged to get themselves a bulging set of patents to look good to their shareholders but you have to wonder what kind of message this kind of thing is sending to the industry at large.

When you've got something interesting to say, I'm happy to listen, but on the other hand if all you have to say is bullshit, then it's better to keep it to oneself.

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Anonymous Coward

You can lead a horse to water

But the horses at the USPTO have a history of not drinking, at least from "the well of prior art".

Even if they receive a barrage of warnings from the public about the ridiculousness of VMware's claim of orginality here I doubt whether they'll fail to approve the application.

Because, well, that's just how they roll.

Time for someone (Google, AOL, the XMPP Foundation?) to file a declaratory judgment action to head this one off at the pass. Otherwise people are going to be in court a few years from now having to fight VMware's "well established" patent, diverting millions of dollars that could have been spent on real software development into the pockets of patent lawyers.

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Megaphone

Applications using libvirt

Archipel

Archipel is a libvirt-based solution to manage and supervise virtual machines. It uses XMPP for all communication. There is no web service or custom protocol. You just need at least one XMPP server, like eJabberd, to start playing with it. This allows Archipel to work completely real time. You never have to refresh the user interface, you'll be notified as soon as something happens. You can even use your favorite chat clients to command your infrastructure. Isn't it great to be able to open a chat conversation with your virtual machine and say things like "How are you today?" or "Hey, please reboot"?

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