The majority of my posts on this blog address using various features of WebSphere CloudBurst to build private cloud computing environments. Today though, I want to switch gears and instead of talking private cloud, let's talk public cloud. Specifically, let's take a look at the capabilities and services delivered via the IBM Smart Business Development and Test on the IBM Cloud (hereafter referred to as the IBM Cloud).
For some of you, the fact that IBM has a public cloud offering may be a little surprising. After all, if you listen to some uninformed critics you may hear that IBM only cares about private clouds for large enterprises. That is simply untrue. The IBM Cloud is an Infrastructure as a Service public cloud that delivers rapid access to services hosted on IBM infrastructure via a self-service web portal. The IBM Cloud offers multiple payment options, including usage-based billing and reserved capacity billing, and even features a cost estimator so you can confidently establish a monthly budget for your usage.
Regardless of whether you use a private or a public cloud, security should always be a chief concern. As such, IBM takes security very seriously in the IBM Public Cloud. The infrastructure that constitutes the cloud is subject to internal IBM security policies that include regular security scans and tight administrative governance. Your data and virtual machines stay in the data center to which you provisioned them, and physical security policies match those of internal IBM data centers. Additionally, you can optionally make use of the virtual private network option to isolate access to the virtual machines that you provision on the IBM Cloud. Rest assured that security in the IBM Cloud was a guiding design principle and not an afterthought.
With the basics out of the way, let's get on to the question I'm sure you have: What can I run on the IBM Cloud? To get you started, the IBM Cloud provides a nice list of public images in its catalog that are ready for you to provision. These images include WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere sMash, DB2, WebSphere Portal Server, IBM Cognos Business Intelligence, Tivoli Monitoring, Rational Build Forge, and many more. In addition to the public images provided by the IBM Cloud, you can build your own private images. Private images allow you to start with a base public image and then customize it by adjusting the configuration or installing new software. Once customized, you can store these private images on the IBM Cloud and provision them whenever needed. Whether you are using public or private images, you have a number of server configurations to choose from in order to host your environments.
While very brief, I hope this overview provides you with some of the more important details regarding the IBM Cloud. There are few, if any, service providers out there with the enterprise expertise of IBM, and I think you see that reflected in the IBM Cloud. If you are looking at public cloud options for your enterprise application environments, you should definitely take a closer look at the IBM Cloud.
One of my favorite things to do with users or potential users of WebSphere CloudBurst is to help them understand how they can construct a custom environment using the appliance. Typically, we take one of their existing application environments and discuss the configuration steps that contribute to its makeup. From there, we map the required configuration actions to different customization capabilities in the appliance. It is one thing to talk about how you can customize every layer of your application stack with WebSphere CloudBurst, it is quite another to talk about it in the context of an existing environment. This exercise usually serves to greatly enhance a user's understanding of how to construct tailored environments with the appliance.
While I cannot take every one of you through this exercise in the context of one of your own application environments, I can propose a scenario that will help to illustrate the WebSphere CloudBurst customization process. Consider that I want to deploy a clustered WebSphere Application Server environment whose application server instances utilize WebSphere DataPower XC10 for HTTP session management. In order to deploy such an environment, I would need to do the following:
Install an OS and WAS
Install the WebSphere eXtreme Scale Client binaries - required for integration
Construct a clustered cell
Augment profiles with WebSphere eXtreme Scale profile templates
Configure the application server instances to use WebSphere DataPower XC10 for session management
So those are the steps, but how do they map to WebSphere CloudBurst? First, I know that the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition image used by WebSphere CloudBurst encapsulates the installation of the OS and WAS. I also know that WebSphere CloudBurst will automatically construct the clustered cell during the deployment process. That means I need to address the installation of client binaries, augmentation of profiles, and configuration of application server instances. In order to do this, I will use a combination of image extension and custom script packages.
To get started, I extend an existing WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition image and simply install the WebSphere eXtreme Scale Client binaries. I then capture that image and store it as my own unique image in the WebSphere CloudBurst catalog. Now, you may wonder why I did not capture the profile augmentation in the custom image. Remember, you cannot change profile configuration during the extend and capture process as WebSphere CloudBurst resets the profiles as part of capturing the custom image.
My custom image encapsulates the installation of the client binaries, so now I turn to custom script packages. I need two in this case. One script package will augment a profile (either deployment manager or custom node) with the WebSphere eXtreme Scale profile template. The second script package will configure application server instances to use WebSphere DataPower XC10 for HTTP session management. Once done with these script packages, I have all the assets I need to build my target environment.
Using my custom image, I build a pattern that contains the number and kind of WebSphere Application Server nodes that I want. I use the advanced options to define a WebSphere Application Server cluster ensuring its creation happens during deployment. Next, I drag and drop the profile augmentation script onto the deployment manager and custom node parts in my pattern. Finally, I drag and drop the WebSphere DataPower XC10 configuration script onto the deployment manager. The pattern is now ready to deploy!
For those of you that are visual learners like me, this demonstration provides a nice overview of exactly what I wrote about above. Check it out and let me know what you think.
I spent most of my time growing up doing two things, going to school and playing sports. I made many fond memories -- mostly from the latter :) -- and learned more than a few lessons over that time. Of all of those lessons, there was one in particular that stuck out in both the classroom and on the baseball diamond: Sometimes you have to get back to the basics.
In that vein, I think it is time to revisit the basics of WebSphere CloudBurst. In revisiting the basics, I am not talking about the technical basics of the appliance. Rather, I am talking about revisiting exactly why WebSphere CloudBurst exists in the first place. In other words, let's take a look at the problem domains WebSphere CloudBurst addresses, and let's discuss a little bit about how the appliance does so.
In the course of my job, I am lucky to be able to work with both enterprise users and business partners who are adopting and using the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. When it comes to the business partner camp, one of my absolute favorites is the Haddon Hill Group. The Haddon Hill Group is an IBM Premier Business Partner, and they have been an early adopter and vocal advocate of the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. They have extensive knowledge of the use of the appliance in enterprise accounts, and quite frankly, they are doing some really cool things with WebSphere CloudBurst.
Given the above, I was glad to see summarized results from their various implementations made available recently on the IBM site. The summary is fairly concise, so I encourage you to take a look at the results Haddon Hill Group is getting with WebSphere CloudBurst.
I am not going to rehash the contents of the results here, but there are a couple of things I want to call out. First off, Haddon Hill Group says that WebSphere CloudBurst can provide companies with a '100 times faster time to market' delivery experience. In a practical sense, this means reducing the amount of time to deliver WebSphere environments from 40-60 days on average to just hours. That is an eye-opening data point!
The other thing I want call out here is a quote from Phil Schaadt, President and CTO, Haddon Hill Group. I have had the pleasure of working with Phil and team, and I have heard him echo these same sentiments many times:
"The important thing about the IBM WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance is that it will dispense a WebSphere Application Server image onto your WebSphere Application Server environment or private cloud along with other products within the WebSphere stack, and that application server will be ready in a few minutes. You can do it in a clustered environment, and you can even roll out IBM WebSphere Process Server and get it right in a fully clustered environment with a database connection, in about 90 minutes. You can also easily manage all the configurations of IBM WebSphere Process Server that you need. All the steps that took up so much time and effort on the part of IT staff have been removed. The savings for companies with large WebSphere implementations can be in the millions."
It is always great to see clients putting our technology to use to produce tangible business value. Again, I encourage you to take a look at these reports. As always, I am eager to hear what you think, so leave me a comment or reach out to me on Twitter @damrhein.
Over time, many of our users learn to effectively leverage WebSphere CloudBurst user roles and fine-grained access controls to map activities and responsibilities in the appliance to the appropriate people and teams within their organization. Using these controls, they are able to define actions that a user or group can take, and they can define the set of resources on which they can take those actions. It is efficient, flexible, and an absolute necessity in many enterprise scenarios.
In some cases though, I talk with users that want a little more control, or probably better put, governance over the actions a user can take within a given role. Most often, this need arises when the discussion of pattern authoring comes up. If you want a user in WebSphere CloudBurst to be able to create patterns, you simply give them the Create new patterns permission. Once you give them that permission, the user can create patterns using both virtual image parts and script packages in the catalog. For many of the users I talk with, this approach suits their needs.
However, in some scenarios administrators want a little more insight and control over how the pattern authors build their patterns. Specifically, they want to ensure that patterns contain only approved virtual image parts and script packages. While you can certainly use the fine-grained access controls of the appliance to expose only the 'approved' virtual image parts and script packages, that alone may not be enough. After all, the definition of what is 'approved' may be different when building a pattern for testing purposes versus one built for production purposes. If the same pattern author builds both of those patterns, fine-grained access controls do not help as much. So, what can you do?
Have I ever told you how much I love the WebSphere CloudBurst CLI? It's powerful, easy to use, and a great automation enabler. It is also the perfect tool for our problem above. If you are looking to enforce certain constraints on WebSphere CloudBurst patterns, I strongly recommend using the CLI as a governance tool.
To provide a concrete example of what I mean, let's take a look at a generic pattern checking script I am working on now (I hope to have this in the samples gallery soon). Consider the case that I want to check that all of my test patterns for a specific application environment contain 1 deployment manager and between 1 and 3 custom nodes. In addition, I want to make sure that the parts for these nodes come from an approved virtual image, and I want to verify that the deployment manager contains the correct application installation script package. With the script I am currently writing, you would start by encapsulating this information in a properties file.
PatternAssertion_1=Customer Processing Test Environments
PatternAssertion_1_Requirements=Deployment manager:1:415:Install customer process app;Custom nodes:1-3:415
In the above, the PatternAssertion_1 key provides a name for the pattern verification assertion. The PatternAssertion_1_Requirements key provides the requirements for the pattern. The above requirements indicate that for a pattern to meet the assertion, it must contain 1 deployment manager part from the virtual image with reference number 415. In addition, the deployment manager must contain a script named Install customer process app. A valid pattern must also contain 1 to 3 custom node parts, also based on the virtual image with reference number 415. When done defining my requirements in the properties file, I simply invoke a script and pass in the file. As a result, I get information about which patterns satisfy or do not satisfy the assertions. For example:
The Customer Process Application pattern satisfied the requirements of the Customer Processing Test Environments assertion.
OR The Customer Process Application pattern did not satisfy the requirements of the Customer Processing Test Environments assertion
due to the following reason: The pattern is required to have a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 3 Custom node part(s), but it had 4.
As I said, I hope to have this sample script posted to the samples gallery soon. I am going through some final revisions and enhancements that I hope make it better and more generally applicable. In the meantime, I wanted to point out that pattern governance is indeed doable, and in fact not very hard to achieve with the CLI. I will be sure to post an update when the sample script is ready. In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions or comments.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a sample I was working on that would allow one to apply a layer of governance to their WebSphere CloudBurst patterns. Earlier this morning, I posted the sample to the WebSphere CloudBurst Samples Gallery under the 'Sample CLI Scripts for WebSphere CloudBurst' section. The name of the new sample is 'Check WebSphere CloudBurst patterns', and you can download it here.
As hinted in my earlier post, the new sample is a simple way to check your patterns against assertions you supply in a properties file. It allows you to check that patterns contain the correct parts and scripts, and it allows you to verify that they were built from valid images. The assertion format is pretty basic, but it should be flexible enough to allow you to check patterns against a wide array of requirements. The sample archive includes a readme file that explains exactly how to use the script, and it contains a sample assertions file to give you an idea of the input syntax.
I hope this helps to address some of the requirements of many WebSphere CloudBurst users that told me they were in need of a way to apply governance to their patterns. If you have any questions about the sample, please let me know. Alternatively, if you have another idea or a problem you would like to see addressed by a sample in our gallery, please let me know.
I spend most of my time talking with our users about the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. While I believe the appliance is somewhat of a hybrid among the Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service layers of the cloud, it is definitely closer to IaaS than PaaS. Users recognize that, and they can identify the capabilities of WebSphere CloudBurst that correlate with IaaS cloud functionality.
That said, I often get questions regarding IBM and work in the PaaS arena. These include questions like, 'Is IBM planning to do anything with PaaS?', 'What is your take on PaaS?', 'What kind of applications do you plan on targeting with your PaaS offering?', and more.
Well, rest assured that IBM is definitely embracing the PaaS movement. Instead of trying to answer these questions in this post though, I want to make you aware of a recent InfoQ interview with IBM WebSphere CTO, Jerry Cuomo. In the interview, Jerry answers the questions above and much more. Jerry talks about IBM's plans for PaaS, what such a platform might look like, and how he sees IBM competing against some of the cloud players in this space.
The interview runs about a half hour, but there is a very nice table of contents that allows you to navigate to specific question/answer segments with Jerry. If you are interested in PaaS, and specifically in IBM's intention in this space, I encourage you to take a look at the interview. Let me know what you think!