Cloud computing for the enterprise, Part 3: Using WebSphere CloudBurst to create private clouds

Part 1 of this article series discussed cloud computing in general, including cloud layers and the different cloud types, along with their benefits and drawbacks, and explained why this movement is important for enterprise developers. Part 2 looked at the public cloud and how you can use IBM® WebSphere® sMash and IBM DB2® Express-C to deliver Web applications hosted on a public cloud infrastructure. This article provides an introduction to IBM WebSphere CloudBurst™ and IBM WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition and discusses how these new offerings bring the significant advantages of private cloud computing to WebSphere enterprise environments. This content is part of the IBM WebSphere Developer Technical Journal.

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Dustin Amrhein, Staff Software Engineer, IBM

Dustin Amrhein joined IBM as a member of the development team for the WebSphere Application Server. While in that position, Dustin worked primarily on web services infrastructure and web services programming models. In addition, Dustin worked on the development of a RESTful services framework for Java runtimes. In his current role Dustin is a WebSphere Client Technical Professional.


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Ruth Willenborg, Senior Technical Staff Member, IBM

Ruth Willenborg is a Senior Technical Staff Member in IBM's WebSphere Technology Institute. Ruth is currently working on WebSphere Cloud computing and virtual appliance initiatives, and is the technical evangelist for the new IBM WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. Prior to her work on virtualization and appliance initiatives, Ruth was the manager of the WebSphere Performance team responsible for WebSphere Application Server performance analysis, performance benchmarking and performance tool development. Ruth has over 20 years of experience in software development at IBM. She is co-author of Performance Analysis for Java Web Sites (Addison-Wesley, 2002).


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24 June 2009

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Introduction

Data center cost is comprised of three main components: hardware, physical costs (such as power and cooling), and administrative management. Among the three, the administrative and management cost component accounts for a significant portion of the overall ongoing cost. As such, removing manual processes, errors, and repetition is a great way to reduce and control IT costs.

The new IBM WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance, along with IBM WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition, provides deployment and management functions to deploy WebSphere Application Server environments in a fast and repeatable manner, significantly reducing the administrative and management requirements typically associated with these activities. Additionally, by leveraging virtualization and cloud computing principles, WebSphere CloudBurst provides the capability to efficiently use a shared resource pool -- a private cloud -- to reduce infrastructure costs.

This article provides an introduction to WebSphere CloudBurst and WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition and discusses how these new offerings bring the significant advantages of private cloud computing to WebSphere enterprise environments.


Private clouds

As discussed in earlier installments of this article series, cloud computing solutions come in multiple forms: public, hybrid, and private. A cloud’s type is usually defined in terms of where the physical resources and data reside. In the case of a private cloud, we are talking about a cloud that exists within an enterprise firewall; all of the computing resources and services that make up the cloud are protected by the firewall.

Although a private cloud does not free you from the responsibility for procuring and maintaining computing resources, there are many reasons why enterprises choose private cloud solutions over public clouds:

  • Security and compliance regulations: You might need more stringent control and oversight with respect to how and where data is stored than is typically provided by a public cloud service.
  • Capabilities that cannot be achieved in a public cloud: You might require a very specific vendor technology, or you might need availability guarantees not achievable by public cloud usage.
  • Private cloud as financial property: If you have massive existing data center investments, you might prefer to optimize the use of those resources rather than pay for public cloud services. Even many companies without such cost investments often see price advantages to on-premise solutions, as the flexibility of off-premise solutions could come at a premium (much like renting a car for a year versus buying one).

Private cloud solutions deliver many of the same benefits as their public counterparts, such as cost reduction, business agility, and enhanced innovation. The main difference is that you maintain full control over -- and responsibility for -- the cloud.


Introducing WebSphere CloudBurst

WebSphere CloudBurst is a new appliance from IBM that includes hardware and software capabilities to create and manage on-premise private clouds. WebSphere CloudBurst provides the capability to construct, deploy, and maintain virtualized WebSphere Application Server configurations for anything from single server deployments to more complex cluster deployments.

Figure 1. WebSphere CloudBurst
Figure 1. WebSphere CloudBurst

As shown in Figure 1, WebSphere CloudBurst has three fundamental parts:

  • The appliance: The actual WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance includes the hardware, the management application, and a set of pre-installed and pre-configured WebSphere Application Server virtual images and patterns. All access to WebSphere CloudBurst is via supported interfaces, using the Web 2.0 User Interface, the full Command Line Interface (CLI), or REST APIs.
  • The cloud: WebSphere CloudBurst supports a "bring your own cloud" model in which hypervisors, network capabilities, and storage are provided for use by the appliance. The cloud is where the deployed WebSphere applications run; they do not run on the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance.
  • The virtual systems. WebSphere CloudBurst provides the tooling to customize the IBM-provided images and patterns to create a self-service catalog of your WebSphere applications, and the capabilities to dispense WebSphere Application Server virtual systems into the private cloud. The WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance includes intelligent placement capabilities that enable the WebSphere Application Server patterns to be deployed to the cloud in such a way as to ensure efficient cloud resource usage and high availability characteristics. Once the patterns are deployed, WebSphere CloudBurst provides management and optimization capabilities, including mechanisms to apply fixes to the environment.

The WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance addresses the ever increasing costs of server and middleware management and administration in several ways. WebSphere CloudBurst provides tools to build consistent, repeatable WebSphere Application Server deployments. These deployments are optimized for virtualized environments enabling you to reduce administrative costs and leverage the benefits of server consolidation that come from such environments. In addition, WebSphere CloudBurst applies best practice knowledge to shape and tune the configurations that it dispenses.

WebSphere CloudBurst is also a part of several integration scenarios involving development and service management tools from IBM’s Rational® and Tivoli® brands. These integration capabilities can provide you with seamless, end-to-end workflows that can significantly improve IT efficiency and agility even further.


Why an appliance?

As you can tell by the name, the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance is in fact an appliance. Delivering this new offering in appliance form provides many benefits:

  • Consumability: The appliance affords a great deal of consumability. After connecting the appliance and accepting the initial licenses, the WebSphere CloudBurst console is immediately available. No extra installation steps are necessary, and you can immediately begin to build out your private WebSphere clouds.
  • Security: The WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance, like an IBM WebSphere DataPower® SOA Appliance, provides a tamper-resistant casing. In addition, WebSphere CloudBurst applies encryption to SSL certificates, passwords, virtual images, applications, and everything else that is stored on it. Users interact with WebSphere CloudBurst using one of three interfaces: a Web 2.0 user interface, a full Command Line Interface, or REST APIs. There are no other access points (like a command line shell), thus decreasing the surface area for malicious attacks.
  • Performance: The WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance serves as a dedicated store for both the shipped and customized WebSphere Application Server virtual images and patterns. The appliance includes advanced compression and storage techniques that enable a significant number of these sizeable virtual images to be stored by a user. The appliance also delivers the processing power needed to manage these virtual images and enable you to create private WebSphere clouds.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the WebSphere Application Server virtual images and patterns that are an integral part of WebSphere CloudBurst.


Preloaded virtual images and patterns

Virtual images are elemental to the WebSphere CloudBurst offering. In particular, the new WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition is the building block upon which WebSphere CloudBurst patterns are built. The WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition (Figure 2) is a special edition of WebSphere Application Server that runs on top of a hypervisor and is optimized for virtualized environments. (The packaging is for both WebSphere Application Server V6.1.0.x and V7.0.0.x.) The first version of WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition consists of the WebSphere Application Server binaries and profiles, the IBM HTTP Server, and a SLES Linux operating system, all pre-installed and packaged in Open Virtualization Format (OVF).

Since the virtual image comes pre-installed, configured, and tuned, you can realize a quick return on investment (ROI), because you don’t need to install WebSphere Application Server again.

Figure 2. WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition
Figure 2. WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition

WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition can be purchased separately from WebSphere CloudBurst, and is planned to be available initially for VMware ESX and ESXi. However, a higher level of value is realized when WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition is used within the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance.

WebSphere CloudBurst introduces the idea of patterns, which in this sense are topologies built from components contained within WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition. These patterns are deployable units that are ready to be run on VMware ESX or ESXi servers. Figure 3 is a visual depiction of a representative WebSphere CloudBurst pattern.

Figure 3. WebSphere CloudBurst patterns
Figure 3. WebSphere CloudBurst patterns

The patterns shipped with WebSphere CloudBurst are the culmination of ten years of expertise constructing WebSphere Application Server environments and feedback from both users and technicians. In addition to delivering a deployable topology, WebSphere CloudBurst also tunes the WebSphere Application Server environment based on the specific pattern to ensure an environment contains the most relevant and valuable best-practice knowledge.

Customizable images and patterns

In addition to the out-of-the-box capabilities delivered by WebSphere CloudBurst in the form of patterns, WebSphere CloudBurst also provides customization capabilities. You can customize both the virtual images and the WebSphere patterns delivered with the appliance to create a customized, purposed private cloud within your enterprise.

Extend virtual images

Each of the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition images shipped with WebSphere CloudBurst can be customized by way of the extension capability: you select to extend an image, make the desired customizations, and then recapture the image. The new image is then stored alongside the other images in the WebSphere CloudBurst catalog.

A good use for extending a virtual image would be to create an image that contained custom software. For example, you might extend WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition, install your company’s mandated anti-virus software, and then recapture that image to be stored in the WebSphere CloudBurst catalog. The resulting image could then be used to construct patterns to ensure that all deployed virtual systems included the required software.

Create patterns

Similar to virtual images, WebSphere CloudBurst patterns can be customized as well. You can customize the shipped patterns to add or remove WebSphere components from the pattern, or to add script packages to the pattern. There are six components in the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition that are available for pattern construction:

  • Deployment manager
  • Job manager
  • Admin agent
  • Custom node
  • IBM HTTP Server only node
  • Standalone node

These components can be added, removed, or increased in number by utilizing an intuitive drag-and-drop configuration builder. When creating a new pattern, you can lock properties associated with components in the pattern. For example, if you are creating a pattern to be used in testing, you might want to make sure that all test deployments use the same amount of virtual memory. The virtual memory size property for each of the components in the pattern can be locked at the time of authoring. In this way, you can ensure a consistent, repeatable deployment by anyone who uses the pattern.

This very brief overview is meant to introduce you to the customization capabilities in WebSphere CloudBurst. A series of upcoming articles will look closer at WebSphere CloudBurst customization features, and explain how and when to use them.

Script packages can also be used to customize patterns. Script packages are zipped binaries (.zip or .tgz) that provide an execution script and required artifacts. The script package might be used to install an application to the deployed pattern, tune the deployed WebSphere Application Server instance, or perform some other desired action. WebSphere CloudBurst users create script packages and load them into the catalog. Script packages can be included in patterns using the same drag-and-drop configuration builder.

A set of custom patterns forms a self-service catalog of WebSphere applications ready for deployment into the private cloud. However, before WebSphere CloudBurst can do the first deployment, your system administrator needs to define a cloud. Next, let’s look at how to build the cloud.


Bring your own cloud

Beyond the ability to create WebSphere Application Server configurations optimized for virtual environments, WebSphere CloudBurst helps you create a private cloud for running WebSphere Application Server virtual systems. These virtual systems do not run on the appliance; rather, WebSphere CloudBurst supports a "bring your own cloud" model in which you define your private cloud to the appliance.

The private cloud, as far as WebSphere CloudBurst is involved, consists of three resources: hypervisors, storage, and IP addresses (Figure 4):

A hypervisor is a software virtualization program that provides a layer of abstraction between operating systems and physical resources on a machine. This abstraction enables multiple operating systems and application stacks to run on a single physical resource, thus enabling higher levels of resource utilization. For example, by leveraging a hypervisor, three separate virtual machines -- one with an operating system and WebSphere Application Server deployment manager, and two with an operating system and WebSphere Application Server custom nodes -- can be run on the same physical server.

To set up the cloud, the administrator defines the location and login credentials for the hypervisors (initially either VMware ESX or ESXi). These hypervisors will host the virtual systems that are dispensed by the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. WebSphere CloudBurst automatically detects the storage associated with the hypervisors, and manages placing the WebSphere Application Server virtual systems across the set of hypervisors.

Another component of the private WebSphere CloudBurst cloud is a pool of IP addresses that are available for use by the WebSphere Application Server virtual machines. The administrator defines this pool of IP addresses, and when new virtual machines are created, WebSphere CloudBurst takes care of assigning each a unique value.

Your administrator only needs to define hypervisors and IP addresses to WebSphere CloudBurst. After these resources have been defined, WebSphere CloudBurst creates and manages a private cloud of virtual systems.

Figure 4. The private WebSphere cloud
Figure 4. The private WebSphere cloud

From the appliance to the cloud

Deploying to the cloud

After the administrator defines the private cloud, you can deploy WebSphere patterns. The deployment process is a simple process in which you only provide deploy time unique information (like user specific password). WebSphere CloudBurst uses intelligent placement capabilities, as well as knowledge of WebSphere Application Server resource requirements, to place the virtual systems across the physical machines as needed. It communicates with hypervisors to understand their capacity, and also takes into account high availability concerns. For example, custom nodes within a WebSphere Application Server cluster pattern will be placed across multiple physical machines, as shown in Figure 5, to prevent a single point of failure scenario, should a physical server fail.

The deployment process -- including everything from the operating system, through federating and starting WebSphere Application Server, and installing user applications -- is fast, with entire clustered applications ready in minutes. Users are notified when the application is ready for use. From the WebSphere CloudBurst console, you can easily log into the virtual system using SSH or VNC, or directly into the WebSphere Application Server administration console.

Figure 5. Virtual system view
Figure 5. Virtual system view

Managing the cloud

WebSphere CloudBurst capabilities do not end once virtual systems have been deployed to the private cloud. WebSphere CloudBurst enables you to monitor and manage the WebSphere Application Server deployments.

Applying fixes

WebSphere CloudBurst provides maintenance capabilities to update virtual images, patterns, and virtual system deployments. The easiest technique is to move to the new version of the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition, a complete image with all WebSphere Application Server and operating system maintenance applied, and redeploy patterns with the new image. This is a fast and repeatable process.

In some cases, however, you might need to apply fixes directly to virtual systems already deployed in the cloud. In these cases, you can use the WebSphere CloudBurst console to upload service packs and iFixes directly into the catalog. You can select virtual systems, and WebSphere CloudBurst takes care of the fix application process, even creating a snapshot of the virtual system before the fix is applied. Any time after the fix application, you can elect to rollback to the previous virtual system state by simply clicking a button.

Monitoring cloud usage

Cloud computing is synonymous with pay-for-use pricing structures. To achieve this, of course, cloud resource usage must be tracked and reported. WebSphere CloudBurst provides statistics about cloud usage that support chargeback in the enterprise. For each user within WebSphere CloudBurst, administrators can retrieve information about their virtual machine usage and CPU, memory, and IP utilization rates. All of this information can be viewed within the WebSphere CloudBurst console (Figure 6) or it can be downloaded into a spreadsheet.

Figure 6. User usage reports
Figure 6. User usage reports

In addition to resource usage by user, WebSphere CloudBurst also provides information about the usage of the cloud’s resources. The utilization rates of physical and virtual CPU and memory usage, IP usage, and storage usage are all available in the WebSphere CloudBurst console.


Summary

Private clouds offer companies many of the same benefits as their public counterparts, and because of the familiarity with existing resources, private clouds can even provide an easier on-ramp to cloud computing. The WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance is a revolutionary new offering that makes private WebSphere Application Server clouds a reality, providing a means to create virtualized, repeatable deployments that include everything from the operating system all the way to custom user scripts and applications. These repeatable deployments are easily moved to a private cloud with the click of a button. Once in the cloud, the WebSphere Application Server virtual systems can be utilized just like standard WebSphere Application Server deployments. WebSphere CloudBurst completes the lifecycle management of WebSphere cloud environments by enabling you to apply maintenance in the form of service packs and iFixes. All of these capabilities are delivered through an easy to use Web 2.0 interface, as well as through documented REST APIs, and a Command Line Interface.

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