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An explosion in the use of XML representation for data in both Web-based and traditional software applications and systems has had a profound impact on software architectures for both application and systems software. This development, coupled with the maturing of the XML standards and widespread support of XML libraries, utilities, and applications, is catalyzing changes in the design of data networking products and the software systems created to manage them. These changes are driven by the promised benefits of faster product development, tighter system integration and more robust device management. In this article, we describe our experiences in exploring and designing network management solutions for products ranging from small resource-limited data networking to high-capacity server-hosted control plane monitoring systems. We describe the motivations and explorations that led to the approach we finally adopted, and summarize what we have learned in the process.