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Understanding image capabilities with IBM SmartCloud Provisioning

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IBM SmartCloud Provisioning 2.1 introduces PaaS capabilities with the possibility to create blueprints to standardize the deployment of complex tiered applications.

For example, a J2ee three-tier application is made up of an HTTP server, an application server, and a DB server, each running on a separate virtual machine (VM), eventually configured on separate network segments. These blueprints are called patterns in IBM Workload Deployer terminology, which is the foundation technology of IBM SmartCloud Provisioning 2.1. Virtual system patterns are used to define a topology middleware software configuration to meet application requirements; you can set up that configuration by using familiar concepts and using existing scripts that IBM SmartCloud Provisioning takes care of executing when the VMs that host the middleware components are deployed to the cloud.

You can use any virtual image to build a virtual system pattern. However, to perform these configuration steps, you need to inject an  activation engine, which is able to execute the configuration scripts, defined when creating the virtual system pattern (add-on scripts and script packages). The good news is that you do not have to do that manually: IBM SmartCloud Provisioning provides the Image Construction and Composition Tool (ICCT) that you can use to clone and extend your basic certified image to make it “cloud-ready.”

Images extended that way are called intermediate images. You can drop any add-on script and script package on an intermediate image when building a pattern in the Pattern Editor, but you cannot do that for basic images. However, you may still add basic images as part of your virtual system pattern topology, but IBM SmartCloud Provisioning cannot perform sophisticated configuration steps: these basic images are more suitable to fit IaaS deployment scenarios.

For these scenarios, you can still define additional network interfaces (vNIC) and you can still attach additional disks to the virtual image instance. What you cannot achieve without extending the image is the configuration of the following items: you must log in to the provisioned virtual machines and configure the vNICs, and also format and mount the raw disks.

Virtual Image Library is enhanced to discover the capabilities of a virtual image and tagging it so you visually know whether a virtual image is suitable to be included in a virtual system pattern, and you can eventually extend it.

To help you become familiar with virtual image construction tools and with pattern-based deployment, beta versions of IBM SmartCloud Provisioning 2.1 are available at:

http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/downloads/tiv/smartcloud/index.html

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