A view from the clouds: Cloud computing for developers
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Much of the focus on cloud computing to date revolves around the ways in which cloud computing delivers significant administrative and operational benefits. After all, the more dynamic, autonomic capabilities promised by cloud could go a long way in relieving some of the burden in managing large, complex IT infrastructure operations. Sometimes lost in the cloud computing benefits discussion is how cloud computing enhances development and test groups in an enterprise. I can think of five different ways in which cloud computing strengthens development and test groups:
1) Self-service capability: A defining characteristic of cloud computing solutions is a self-service capability that allows users to commission and decommission computing resources as appropriate. In development and test shops, this means users can directly procure the resources they need to complete their tasks without going through lengthy, manually-driven procurement chains. This results in a significantly shortened procurement period, and it means developers and testers can quickly get to the task at hand.
2) Resource availability: Resource sprawl within IT shops, a very common occurrence, leads to resource deficiencies that are sometimes a problem for enterprise developers and testers. Tasks like testing massive configurations and performing intensive load tests become increasingly difficult as it is hard to harness enough resources to get the job done. Cloud computing, through intelligent virtualization, usage tracking, and more, enables this scattered resource pool to be viewed and utilized as a single logical entity. Resources can be doled out as needed, and intense tasks become achievable without extensive setup or procurement periods.
3) Environmental fidelity: From the time a software application or service leaves a developer’s hands to the time it reaches production, quite a few things about its environment may be changed, often times unbeknownst to the developer. The test and operation teams may have different conventions and configurations than development teams, and this can lead to unintended application behavior and delays in service delivery. Cloud computing offers a potential solution to this problem in the form of the increasingly popular templatized solution stack. These solution stacks are pre-built, ready to deploy configurations, which include the application and entire environment down to the operating system. This stack can be captured as some sort of image (i.e. OVF image, Amazon Machine Image, etc.), and passed off between each team along the delivery cycle. Teams downstream from development see the exact environment in which the application was designed and unit tested, and they can balance needed changes to that environment against a known, working solution.
4) Hosted tools: Though possibly not yet standard operating procedure, one can look at the wave of SaaS offerings and make a reasonable assumption that more and more development and test tools will be moving in that direction as well. Why not? Putting aside the technical challenges of hosting something like a code editor on a network, the benefits of centrally hosting these types of tools are clear. Developers and testers no longer have to worry with installing, configuring, running, or maintaining these enabling tools on their own machines. Instead, they can log into the tools from any machine with a network connection and get work done.
5) Increased focus: This benefit is a culmination of all of the above benefits. By easing the process to acquire resources, making more resources available, ensuring configuration integrity, and removing the burden of maintaining tools, developers and testers are left to focus on their core jobs. The operational and administrative portions of their job are significantly reduced through cloud computing solutions. As a result, organizations are in a position to benefit from more developer innovation, increased test quality and coverage, and more.
The above five ideas illustrate that cloud computing can indeed enhance development and test efforts just as they boost administrative and operational tasks. Development and test teams that understand the benefits they can derive from cloud computing are likely to be proactive in advocating its use. For the cloud computing industry, increasing adoption by development and test groups could lead to widespread grassroots movements that further spread the use of cloud computing throughout enterprises.
-- Dustin Amrhein
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IBM trekked further into the cloud today by announcing new offerings that will help clients to leverage the cloud within their enterprise. These offerings include development environments, test environments, and desktop services running either in the IBM cloud or a private cloud, as well as something called IBM CloudBurst (not to be confused with the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance).
In particular, the IBM CloudBurst offering jumps out to me as a truly innovative offering. This offering promises our clients a complete private cloud solution that includes hardware, software, and services all in a single package.
Essentially it sounds like the IBM CloudBurst offering is all about building out a cloud-enabled data center. The hardware provides the bulk computing power to host private clouds, and the software provides enhanced service management capabilities to give users full control and insight over the elements of their private cloud.
Couple these computing capabilities with included IBM service, and this means clients should be able to get up and going with their private clouds very quickly.
This new offering really seems to hit a sweet spot. While the number of cloud computing offerings continues to grow, few if any offerings take such a holistic approach to providing such a solution.
This type of comprehensive solution gives users what they need in terms of the hardware to host a private cloud and the software to manage that cloud. Just as importantly though, it helps users put the hardware and software to work via implementation services also offered in the solution.
I invite you to take a look at the new IBM CloudBurst offering, and don’t forget to sign up for the IBM CloudBurst webcast scheduled for June 25th.
-- Dustin Amrhein
WebSphere CloudBurst delivers out-of-the-box capabilities in the form of pre-built WebSphere Application Server configurations, or patterns, which are ready to be deployed to a private cloud. These pre-built patterns range from a single server topology to more complex, clustered topologies. In addition, these patterns have been tuned to produce hardened, best-practice environments. For users, this means once they have the appliance setup, they can immediately begin building a private WebSphere cloud.
The out-of-the-box capability of WebSphere CloudBurst is extremely useful, but what about the situations where those patterns don't align with a user’s needs? What if a user needs to create a highly customized WebSphere environment? Not to worry, WebSphere CloudBurst was built with a focus on bringing customization capabilities to the user. These customization capabilities cover the full WebSphere middleware environment, from the operating system to user applications.
To start with, WebSphere CloudBurst allows users to modify the virtual images that are shipped with the appliance. These virtual images contain the operating system and WebSphere components that are used to build the WebSphere patterns. A perfect use-case for this is if a user needs to install custom software to be used in all of their WebSphere environments.
For instance, if a user wanted to install a JDBC driver that was to be used by each of their WebSphere deployments, they would simply extend one of the shipped virtual images, install the JDBC driver, and then recapture the image. Once the image was recaptured, it could be utilized to build the WebSphere patterns that represent the complete WebSphere middleware environment. By using this virtual image to build patterns, users are assured the JDBC driver will be present in each and every WebSphere deployment to their private cloud.
Another common customization is a change to the WebSphere topology in a pattern. If a user has a particular cluster environment that is different from the shipped WebSphere cluster patterns, they could simply clone the shipped cluster pattern, make any needed topology changes, and then save their new pattern.
The best thing about this process is that the topology changes are done via a slick GUI interface. Users can construct WebSphere topologies by simply dragging and dropping WebSphere components (i.e. stand-alone servers, deployment managers, web servers, etc.) onto a canvas! Once the pattern is constructed and saved, it can be reused as many times as necessary.
Patterns can also be customized to include user applications or other WebSphere configuration tuning. Script packages are compressed files (ZIP or TAR) that are constructed by users to alter the WebSphere environment. These packages might contain an application and scripts to install the application, or it could contain a script to tune or enhance the environment created by WebSphere CloudBurst.
The beauty of script packages is that they can do just about anything. Users tell WebSphere CloudBurst how to execute the script package (i.e. “Call the installApp.sh script in my script package”), and that execution takes place at the end of the pattern deployment. The result is a dispensed WebSphere environment that has been customized according to the script package contents.
There’s more to WebSphere CloudBurst customization capabilities than what I talked about above, including the ability to customize each and every deployment of a pattern, and the ability to align these customization activities with organizational responsibilities. To find out more about these capabilities, check out the demos on our YouTube channel or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned to the blog for more information about the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance.