Virtual image extension using IBM SmartCloud provisioning

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Working as technical leader of the IBM SmartCloud Provisioning Customer Support Team, one of the common questions I have been asked is, “Using SmartCloud provisioning, what is the best way to extend a base image adding one or more additional products?”

In short, it depends.

There’s simply not a single answer since SmartCloud Provisioning products provide different ways to realize it. In this article, I will explain the different options available. For each of them, I will describe their benefits and drawbacks.

The possible options are:

– Use SmartCloud Provisioning to create a pattern that contains the base image and install the additional product using a script package. The script package has to contain the product download, installation and configuration steps.

– Use IBM Creation and Composition Tool (ICCT) to create a new image extending  the base image with an ICCT bundle that contains the additional product.

The ICCT product bundle has to contain the installation part that is invoked only once during the image extention process and the configuration part that is invoked when the extended image is deployed.

With the first option, the product is installed when the image is deployed, so it happens every time the image is deployed. It also requires the product installation package to be downloaded before the installation and this can have some performance implications related to the size of the product to be installed and to the complexity of the product installation process. Because the product is installed after the image has been deployed and configured in terms of the operating system and network configuration, there is no need to re-configure the product after the installation.

With second option, the product is installed only once during the ICCT synchronization phase and then the deploy will be faster compared to the previous approach.

But what is needed in this approach in most of the cases is the product re-configuration. It’s worth mentioning that the bundle configuration part is very important and it can be used to re-configure the installed product if it has any dependency to the operating system parameters provided at deploy time, including the network configuration or credentials.

The final answer depends on:

  • the product installation size and complexity;
  • whether the installed product has any dependency to the OS parameters that require its re-configuration after the deployment. Also, the skills on the product to be installed decide what is the best approach that fits better for the customer needs.

It can be also useful to look at the list of available ICCT bundles in the Integrated Service Management Library (ISML) website that can be reused.

Image Extension is only one of the features found in SmartCloud Provisioning 2.1.

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