In each column, The Support Authority discusses resources, tools, and other elements of IBM® Technical Support that are available for WebSphere® products, plus techniques and new ideas that can further enhance your IBM support experience.
Unleashing your diagnostic tools into the cloud
Previous releases of the IBM Support Assistant (ISA) have been based on the Eclipse Rich Client Platform (RCP) for use on the desktop, and have provided a suite of features and tools for analyzing problems in software deployments that involve IBM software products. This results in a scenario where every user that needs or wants to perform problem determination has their own ISA installation and uses there own hardware resources — a laptop or desktop, for example — to do the analysis. This is a model that works well for individual developers, but can have limitations when it comes to troubleshooting software deployments that are on large servers and supported by a team of people.
The new 5.0 version of ISA (currently in beta, as of this writing) is a "server" application with a rich browser-based front end. Whilst this can still be run on a desktop using the browser locally, it has the added value of being able to be run on remote servers. This provides a number of key additional features, including:
- Collaborative analysis: Previously, any analysis carried out using ISA was only stored locally on users’ desktop. If there was a need to share that analysis, then the information (notes, screen captures and data) would need to be packaged up and sent to the other users who also needed access to the information. ISA 5.0 provides collaborative case and file management on the server, allowing analysis to be immediately shared with other users that have access.
- Remote analysis: Some data artifacts, in particular dump files, can be many tens of hundreds of megabytes in size. This makes it a time consuming and costly process to download the data to a local network, especially if the network bandwidth is low. With the ability to run ISA 5.0 on the server, it can be run locally to the software deployments, and therefore the data being analyzed is on the same network, or even on the same machine. The user can then be on a much lower bandwidth connection to the ISA 5.0 instance, making it possible to provide analysis from a home office for out of hours support!
- Increased resources: Some problem determination tools can require large amounts of memory and processor time in order to be able to carry out their analysis. This is particularly true when analyzing a large data files that can be typical from server-side application deployments. Whilst there is an increase in the availability of 64bit desktops, and an increase in the amount of memory and processor capability that they provide, they will always lag behind the level of resources available to a server. Deploying ISA 5.0 in a server environment enables the use of that level of resources in order to analyze large dump and log files, and to do so rapidly.
With the increase in popularity of managing server hardware using virtualization and of cloud-based technologies, its important that the IBM Support Assistant 5.0 can also be deployed into those cloud-based environments. Being able to do this provides two advantages:
- The ability to use ISA 5.0 to diagnose problems with software applications deployed into the cloud.
- The ability to easily provision a new ISA 5.0 instance if there is a particular problem that needs analysis.
The latter of these two can be particularly useful if there is a short term need to analyze a problem from a particularly large application that has correspondingly large data files to analyze; here, a large ISA instance can be temporarily provisioned.
Deploying ISA 5.0 with the IBM cloud offerings
IBM provides three offerings for deploying applications into a cloud, ranging from an IBM-provided public cloud to an integrated hardware and software appliance used for a private cloud. These offerings are:
- IBM SmartCloud is the IBM-hosted cloud, which can be private and specific to a given client, or public with provisioning done to individuals. You can think of it as an IBM-provided cloud solution.
- IBM Workload Deployer is a hardware appliance that provides provisioning and management capabilities for deploying virtual appliances and workload patterns onto user-provided hardware, enabling existing hardware resources to have cloud capabilities. Think of it as bring-your-own-cloud.
- IBM PureApplication System is a workload-optimized integrated hardware and software appliance that provides provisioning and management capabilities, along with the optimized hardware into which the workloads are deployed. Think of it as a cloud-in-a-box solution.
Regardless of which solution you use, the same deployment and management mechanisms are used for all three, and therefore the same approach can be used to deploy ISA 5.0.
The IBM cloud offerings provide three approaches for deploying an application, ranging from deploying pre-packaged images of the entire deployed application, to providing application-centric deployment patterns. These approaches are:
- A virtual appliance is a prepackaged image of the software stack, containing operating system, middleware, and applications in Open Virtualization Format (OVF) specification. It also supports the use of scripting to reconfigure the software stack contained in the appliance.
- A virtual system is a topology-centric definition of a deployment. A Pattern Editor enables the design of a topology by defining a number of virtual-machine images, the software components to install on them, and the use of scripting packages to configure them. This can be done by using either manually created virtual machines, imported virtual machines, or one of a number of IBM Hypervisor Edition images. Once the virtual system pattern has been created for a recurring topology with the configuration scripts for installing an application, you can then reuse it as a standard platform.
- A virtual application is an application-centric definition of a deployment. A Virtual Application Builder lets you provision the application itself, along with the definition of any resources it requires through the use of components covering database connections, messaging queues, and so on, and policies covering scalability, service-level agreements (SLAs), and the like. Once a virtual application is built using the builder, it becomes a re-usable deployment.
The virtual application approach can be taken using the IBM Application Pattern for Java, which provides the necessary building blocks to create a virtual application for any Java application.
The IBM Application Pattern for Java
The IBM Application Pattern for Java is a virtual application pattern that enables you to deploy new and existing Java-based applications into the IBM cloud simply and quickly. The process is simple, because predefined building blocks are provided and default capabilities are built in. That simplicity provides the speed; most Java virtual applications, including one for the ISA 5.0 beta, can be built in under three minutes!
The IBM Application Pattern for Java currently provides five simple building blocks you can use to create a new Java virtual application. They allow you to deploy your application and any additional libraries or configuration files it may require, configure the incoming and outgoing firewall, and add your application log files into the provided monitoring framework.
The IBM Application Pattern for Java lets you easily move any existing Java application into a cloud-based environment and make it reusable as either a platform or a modifiable template. For more information on deploying Java applications using the IBM cloud offerings, including two video demos, see Deploying into the cloud with the IBM Application Pattern for Java.
Deploying ISA 5.0 with the IBM Application Pattern for Java
With the provided set of building blocks and default capabilities, creating a Java virtual application in the Virtual Application Builder for ISA 5.0 is a relatively straightforward task. When using the IBM cloud offerings, you are first presented with a welcome dashboard (Figure 1) providing links to viewing the various deployment instances, applications, and cloud configuration and monitoring capabilities.
Figure 1. Welcome dashboard: IBM SmartCloud Application Workload Service public cloud
- To create a new virtual application using the IBM Application Pattern for Java, open the Virtual Application Pattern panel by navigating to Patterns > Virtual Applications.
- Select Application Pattern Type for Java 1.0 from the Virtual Application Patterns pull-down menu.
- Click the + button to create a new virtual application.
- Click the Start Building button to start building a new application from a blank template.
The Virtual Application Builder (Figure 2) opens in a new window. It contains a palette of available components on the left side containing:
- Additional archive file: The ability to add additional files into the deployment, in the form of a Java archive (JAR, WAR, EAR), or a compressed archive file (ZIP, TAR.GZ, TGZ) containing the files to be added.
- Java application: The required component that enables you to supply and configure the main part of a Java application. The Java application itself must be provided as a compressed archive file (ZIP, TAR.GZ, TGZ).
- Generic listener: Component that enables you to configure the firewall for incoming network traffic.
- Generic target: Component that enables you to configure the firewall for outgoing network traffic.
- Monitoring file: Component that lets you add one or more files into the Log Viewer of the workload console.
In the middle is a canvas for building the application, and a panel on the right side for configuring application components.
Figure 2. Virtual Application Builder configured with the IBM Application Pattern for Java
- To build a virtual application to deploy the ISA 5.0 beta, drag a Java
application widget from the palette to the canvas to be the ISA 5.0
instance (Figure 3). Optionally, give it a name (such as
ISA 5.0 Beta).
Figure 3. Virtual Application Builder with the Java application component added
- In the Archive File configuration field for the Java application component, browse to the ISA 5.0 beta "embedded server“ all-in-one solution that you've downloaded from ibm.com (isa-5.0.0.beta-linux-x86_64.tar.gz, for example). Use this file exactly as-is; you don't need to make any changes to it. (Figure 4)
Figure 4. Virtual Application Builder with the Archive File configured for the Java application component
- Select Command Line as the Application launch type for the Java
application component and specify the ISA 5.0 launch script:
/ISA5/start_isa.sh(Figure 5). This is the launch script provided as part of the ISA 5.0 all-in-one solution download that is used to start the ISA 5.0 instance.
Figure 5. Virtual Application Builder with the command line launch configured for the Java application component
- Add a Generic listener by dragging it from the Other Components under the palette's Assets onto the canvas, and configure it to allow connections on port 10911 (Figure 6). This will open in the firewall for incoming connections on port 10911 that ISA 5.0 will listen to.
Figure 6. Virtual Application Builder with a configured Generic listener for ISA on port 10911 added
- Add a Generic listener by dragging it from the Other Components under the palette's Assets onto the canvas, and configure it to allow connections on port 10912 (Figure 7). This will open in the firewall for incoming connections on port 10912 that the Web-based Memory Analyzer will use if it is launched as an analysis tool from ISA 5.0.
Figure 7. Virtual Application Builder with a configured Generic listener for Web Memory Analyzer on port 10912 added
- Drag a Monitored file from the Other Components list to the canvas and configure it to monitor the ISA 5.0 tools log files: /ISA5/isa/log/tools/* (Figure 8). This adds the log files created by the tools installed in ISA 5.0 into the Log Viewer. The use of the * wildcard means that it will pick up all the files in that directory.
Figure 8. Virtual Application Builder with a configured Monitored file for the ISA Tools Longs added
- Add a JVM Policy by selecting the + icon on the Java application widget, and configure it to have the desired Java heap size using the Set minimum and maximum JVM heap size slide bar. To enable large files to be analyzed, this should be set to a large size if possible; for example, 4096MB for 4GB (Figure 9).
Figure 9. Virtual Application Builder with a JVM Policy added to the Java application component
- Click Save in the top left corner to save a virtual application for ISA 5.0, giving it a name and description.
- Returning to the Virtual Application Pattern window, deploy the new virtual application by selecting the ISA 5.0 application from the list of applications on the left. Click the Deploy button.
- Select the appropriate environment profile or cloud group, and click OK. The application is now being deployed and will be available shortly!
- When you have a deployed application, it will appear in the Virtual Application Instances panel. To monitor the state of your Java application deployments, open the Virtual Application Instances panel by selecting Instances > Virtual Applications.
- Ensure that Application Pattern Type for Java 1.0 is selected in the Virtual Application Instances pull-down menu.
- All of your deployed Java virtual applications should be listed in the left panel, along with a high-level view of their status: Running, Stopped, or Error. To get more details about your virtual application, select the application from the panel on the left. This will display information about the deployed application including its IP address (Figure 10).
Figure 10. Virtual Application Instances panel showing the overview of the ISA 5.0 deployment
- Once the instance of ISA 5.0 is fully deployed and marked as
running, you can connect to ISA 5.0 in your browser using: http://<ip address:10911/isa5. The front panel for ISA 5.0 should display (Figure 11).
Figure 11. A running instance of ISA 5.0 in the cloud
You now have a reusable virtual application for ISA 5.0 that can be deployed as and when required — and the application can be edited to change the size of the Java heap, if required.
Try it out for yourself
A 90-day free trial of the IBM SmartCloud Application Services is available via developerWorks that lets you deploy up to five virtual machines and use up to 30GB of storage. The trial gives you access to the IBM Application Pattern for Java, along with the Web Application, Transactional Database, and Data Mart patterns. This means that you can start deploying your own applications into the IBM cloud right away, including ISA 5.0.
When used in a server environment, the new IBM Support Assistant 5.0 beta brings powerful capabilities to allow for collaboration, remote data analysis, and processing of large files. When combined with the IBM Application Pattern for Java, it can be easily deployed into a cloud environment using one of IBM’s cloud solutions to provide an easily managed debugging and troubleshooting environment.
- IBM Support Assistant 5.0 Beta home page
- Deploying into the cloud with the IBM Application Pattern for Java
- IBM Application Pattern for Java Information Center
- IBM PureSystems product information
- IBM Workload Deployer product information
- Redbook: Pattern-based Application and Middleware Deployments in a Private Cloud
- Fix Central
- IBM Support Portal
- The Support Authority: If you need help with WebSphere products, there are many ways to get it
- IBM Software product Information Centers
- IBM Software Support Web site
- IBM Education Assistant
- IBM developerWorks
- IBM Redbooks
- WebSphere Software Accelerated Value Program
Get products and technologies
- IBM Support Assistant (ISA): Download as either the embedded server or the EAR file deployment.
- IBM PureSystems trial: Try the IBM Application Pattern for Java using this trial, hosted by IBM SmartCloud Application Services.
- IBM Software Support Toolbar
- IBM Support Assistant Forum
- IBM Application Pattern for Java blog
- WebSphere and CICS Support Blog
- Forums and newsgroups
- Java technology Forums
- WebSphere Support Technical Exchange on Facebook
- Global WebSphere Community on WebSphere.org
- Follow IBM Support on Twitter!
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