IBM Impact 2011 was a wildly busy week! Customer meetings, entertaining keynotes, informative sessions, and hands-on labs packed the 6 days with more than enough action. I spent a lot of the week presenting sessions and conducting labs for the newly announced IBM Workload Deployer. As one would expect with any new announcement, we got tons of questions about IBM Workload Deployer. While I cannot capture all the questions and their answers here, I will try to cover some of the more prevalent ones below.
Question: What happened to WebSphere CloudBurst?
Answer: The short answer is, it simply went through a rename. WebSphere CloudBurst became IBM Workload Deployer v3.0. The version 3.0 acknowledges this is an evolution of what we started with WebSphere CloudBurst, which was at version 2.0. Why remove WebSphere from the name? The fact that this is now an IBM branded offering is more accurate as it is capable of deploying and managing more than just WebSphere software.
Question: What is new in IBM Workload Deployer?
Answer: While there are many new features that I will be talking about over the coming months, the most prominent new facet is the introduction of workload patterns (also referred to as virtual application patterns). As opposed to topology patterns (traditionally referred to as simply patterns in the WebSphere CloudBurst product), workload patterns raise the level of abstraction to the application level. Instead of focusing on application infrastructure and its configuration as you do with topology patterns, workload patterns allow you to focus on the application and its requirements. When using workload patterns, you provide the application, attach policies that specify functional and non-functional requirements, and deploy. IBM Workload Deployer handles deploying and integration the middleware infrastructure necessary to support the application, and it automatically deploys your application on top of that middleware. In addition, IBM Workload Deployer manages the application runtime in accordance with the policies that you specify in order to provide capabilities such as runtime elasticity.
Question: If I am a current WebSphere CloudBurst user, what does this mean for me?
Answer: Not to worry. You will be able to use all of your WebSphere CloudBurst assets (patterns, scripts, images) in the new IBM Workload Deployer. All of the capabilities previously in WebSphere CloudBurst are present in IBM Workload Deployer (terminology may vary slightly -- topology pattern instead of just pattern for instance). Additionally, we continue to expand on the functionality that you are familiar with from WebSphere CloudBurst. This includes updates for Environment Profiles, new IBM Hypervisor Edition images, new pattern building capabilities, and more. Stay tuned for more information about these new features and for information on how you can move your WebSphere CloudBurst resources to the new IBM Workload Deployer.
Question: How do I choose between using workload and topology patterns?
Answer: There are a number of factors that will lead you to using either workload patterns, topology patterns, or both. The primary decision point will be how much control you really need (not want). When using workload patterns, you sacrifice some customization control over the configuration, integration, and administration of the middleware application environment since the workload pattern and management model abstracts away the 'guts' of the system. Everything about the workload pattern is application-centric. On the other hand, topology patterns give you intimate control over the configuration, integration, and administration of the middleware application environment. As a general rule of thumb, if your application requirements match the capabilities of a workload pattern, that is the way to go as it can greatly reduce complexity and cost associated with deployment and management. If a workload pattern does not meet the needs of your application, topology patterns can still greatly reduce cost and complexity and you can tailor them to fit almost any need. Beyond generalities, there is no hard and fast rule for choosing one over the other. It comes down to understanding your application environment and its needs.
Question: Is IBM Workload Deployer an appliance like WebSphere CloudBurst?
Answer: Yes, it is still an appliance, but an updated one! The new appliance is 2U, and it provides more storage, processing power, and memory. It is still just as easy to setup, but just slightly bigger.
Well, that is all for now, but I will be back many times over the coming months with more information. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please leave them in a comment below.
Looking for a reminder of the difference a year can make? If so, just take a look at the last year or so for the WebSphere CloudBurst product. Since about this time last year, we have seen the release of versions 1.1, 1.1.1, 2.0, and 188.8.131.52, each one bringing their own set of major enhancements and features. Owing to this aggressive pace, it is sometimes easy to miss out on the latest capabilities of the product. For that reason, I wanted to give a brief rundown of some (definitely not all) of the major additions to WebSphere CloudBurst over the past year.
PowerVM and z/VM support: WebSphere CloudBurst 1.1 introduced support for PowerVM (based on Power5 and Power6 systems), and version 1.1.1 introduced support for z/VM. This means that a single WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance can provision to VMware, PowerVM, and z/VM virtualization platforms.
Power7 support: WebSphere CloudBurst 184.108.40.206 introduced support for Power7 systems, thus allowing users to take advantage of the significant enhancements provided by Power7 via WebSphere CloudBurst deployments.
Expansion of the IBM Hypervisor Edition portfolio: The portfolio of images that you can deploy using WebSphere CloudBurst now includes WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere Process Server, WebSphere Portal Server, WebSphere Business Monitor, WebSphere Message Broker, and DB2. In addition to adding new images, we also expanded the platform and operating system support for existing images. For example, you can take advantage of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux OS for WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition, and you can deploy WebSphere Process Server Hypervisor Edition to z/VM infrastructure.
Addition of the Intelligent Management Pack: The Intelligent Management Pack is an optional feature of the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition that allows you to take advantage of autonomic, policy-driven runtime management capabilities in your deployed environments. This includes the ability to create proactive health policies for your environments, assign SLAs to your applications, manage the update of applications, and more.
License management capabilities: In WebSphere CloudBurst version 2.0 and later, you can make use of license monitoring and management functionality. This allows you to get both point-in-time and historical views of software PVU usage within your cloud, and it allows you to setup policies concerning the usage of PVUs for WebSphere CloudBurst deployments.
Environment profiles: WebSphere CloudBurst provides quite a bit of out-of-the-box deployment automation in terms of selecting hypervisors, assigning IP addresses, and more. However, sometimes you need more control over exactly how this happens. WebSphere CloudBurst 220.127.116.11 introduced environment profiles that you can use to exercise more control over how deployment happens in WebSphere CloudBurst.
In my view, this is quite an impressive list of features delivered within a year's time. I should also reiterate that this is by no means a complete list, but just a selection of some of the major enhancements during this time. If you have any questions about the above additions, or if you have any questions on other features, please let me know.
The ability to package custom maintenance packages and upload them as emergency fixes is perhaps a lesser known feature of WebSphere CloudBurst, but nevertheless something that's been around since the product's initial release. This is a powerful feature that allows you to build your own fix packages that you can then apply the same way you would use WebSphere CloudBurst to apply a PAK file or fixpack shipped by IBM.
Since IBM is delivering fixes and updates to all of the contents within WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition virtual images (including the OS and IBM software components), you may wonder why you would even want to create your own maintenance packages. One reason would be if you switched out the SUSE Linux operating system shipped with the VMware ESX based images in favor of your own Red Hat operating system. In that case you would be responsible for maintenance to the operating system, and custom maintenance packages would be of interest to you. Another scenario where these custom maintenance packages come in handy would be if you created your own customized images that include non-shipped third-party software in addition to the software shipped in the images. If at some point you have the need to fix or update this software in a running virtual machine, custom maintenance packages provide you the vehicle with which to do just that.
What do these custom maintenance packages look like? In short, they are simply archives or ZIP files. The contents of the archive are largely decided by you, but there is one piece of metadata that is necessary if you want to use WebSphere CloudBurst to apply the maintenance. A file called service.xml is inserted into the root of the archive and tells WebSphere CloudBurst critical information about the custom fix archive. Here's an example of a service.xml file:
Most notably, this metadata tells WebSphere CloudBurst what module or script to invoke to apply the maintenance (Command, this executable is supplied by you), what image versions the fix is applicable to (ImagePrereqs), and the location of the working directory on the virtual machine (Location). In addition to the service.xml file and the executable, you can package up anything else, such as product binaries, which are needed to successfully apply the fix/upgrade/maintenance.
If you haven't noticed, this is an extremely flexible mechanism and can be used for just about anything. I should point out that you can only apply a given fix once per virtual machine, so it's not good for something that you want to run repeatedly against a given machine (check out user-initiated script packages instead). Also, there is a 512MB size limit on the archives. Keep these restrictions in mind when you are deciding how to use custom maintenance packages. If you are interested in learning a bit more about custom maintenance packages or other maintenance techniques, check out this article I co-authored along with Xiao Xing Liang from the IBM SOA Design Center in the China Development Lab.
Virtual image parts play a huge role in WebSphere CloudBurst. When crafting your own customized patterns, you include anywhere from 1 to n parts from as many different virtual images as is necessary. These parts represent the different node types or personalities within a given Hypervisor Edition image, and form the basis of your pattern. When you deploy a pattern, such as the one pictured below, WebSphere CloudBurst creates a distinct virtual machine for each part.
This means that after deploying the above WebSphere Application Server pattern, you will have four virtual machines comprising your virtual system. This gives you a clean separation of concern by providing a unique container for each of your application environment nodes. This can attribute to performance optimization, increased availability, and much more. However, this approach is not suitable to all use cases. In some scenarios, especially when trying to control costs and increase consolidation, you may want to deploy a multi-node WebSphere Application Server environment within a single virtual machine. Based on what I showed you above, you might think our approach in WebSphere CloudBurst makes this impossible, but you would be overlooking an important component of patterns.
That component is of course the second building block of patterns... script packages. As you probably know, script packages allow you to supply just about any customization you want. In the case that you want a single virtual machine to host a number of WebSphere Application Server nodes, maybe even an entire cell, all you need to do is supply a script package that constructs the necessary nodes during deployment. In fact, you don't even have to write the script package. You can use the free sample in our samples gallery. As seen in the pattern below, you include this script package on a sole deployment manager part in a pattern.
The script script package provides parameters that define the node name, number of custom nodes, and number of web server nodes you want in your cell. During the deployment process, the script takes this information and constructs the cell you define. This includes creating the custom and web servers nodes and federating the custom nodes, thus completing the creation of your WebSphere Application Server cell. In this case, the script package provides deployment flexibility that is sometimes a necessity, and it is just another example of the many degrees of flexibility enabled by the script package design.
I should point out that a part in a pattern does not always map to a single node. For instance, in the case of WebSphere Process Server, there is a part that represents a complete, multi-node golden topology encapsulated within a single virtual machine. However, if you find yourself using images that do not contain these multi-node parts, rest easy knowing script packages provide you the flexibility you need.
When it comes to building and using WebSphere CloudBurst patterns, people always ask me if I have any best practices. It turns out, I do. In fact, I have a singular piece of advice that wraps it all up: Build WebSphere CloudBurst patterns in a way such that once deployed, there is no after-the-fact, manual configuration for the running environment. That means, build the pattern so that it not only contains all the nodes necessary for your application environment, but it also contains all the configuration necessary for the environment.
Put like this, most everyone I talk to agrees with me. However, they quickly recognize that, absent this really cool integration with Rational Automation Framework for WebSphere, this means they will be writing scripts for many configuration actions and including them in patterns in the form of script packages. For users not familiar with configuration scripting for our WebSphere products, this can be a daunting proposition. But... it shouldn't be!
Recently, I put together a short presentation that lays out an iterative approach for developing script packages for WebSphere CloudBurst. Specifically, the presentation focuses on developing configuration script packages for the WebSphere Application Server (though the general concepts apply to all Hypervisor Edition products equally). I believe this method is useful for anyone, from novice users to WebSphere scripting gurus. The basic process goes something like this:
Identify: Identify the target WebSphere Application Server topology and configuration for your application environment.
Deploy: Build a WebSphere CloudBurst pattern that matches your desired topology and deploy it to your cloud.
Develop and Test: Develop and test your configuration script. Not a WebSphere Application Server scripting ninja? No worries. Use the Command Assistance feature in the WebSphere Application Server v7 administration console. This feature shows you the wsadmin commands that match the actions you manually take in the console. This affords a lower barrier of entry for those not familiar with wsadmin.
Package: Package up the resulting scripts into a script package along with metadata that describes the package.
Modify and redeploy: Load the new script package into your appliance, add it to your pattern, and then redeploy. Upon deployment completion, verify the scripts produce the desired result.
The presentation provides detail on the above steps and walks through an example scenario for this process. I am embedding it below, and I hope it proves useful. As always, feel free to send in any questions or comments.
Since the IMPACT conference, there has been quite a bit of buzz around the new features, capabilities, and enhancements coming in WebSphere CloudBurst 2.0. In addition to the updates for the appliance, there are some updates to the IBM Hypervisor Edition virtual images as well. In particular, there is one new offering that I want to make sure is getting more than a mere 15 minutes of fame.
What is this new offering that deserves some time in the spotlight? Well, it is the Intelligent Management Pack for the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition. Still not sure what this is? Simply put, it is an optional add-on to the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition that enables WebSphere Virtual Enterprise capabilities in the environments dispensed by WebSphere CloudBurst.
If you are not familiar with WebSphere Virtual Enterprise, this still may not mean much yet. Essentially, the use of the Intelligent Management Pack means you create environments that contain capabilities to dynamically manage your application runtime environment. This includes, but is not limited to, the following capabilities:
Dynamic clustering: Create WebSphere Application Server clusters whose membership changes autonomically in order to meet the needs of your applications. You create service level agreements to define the needs for your applications.
Application health monitoring: Monitor the health of your applications by assigning health policies. These policies designate the condition to monitor for (i.e. memory leaks), and they dictate what action to take in case the condition occurs (i.e. restart the server).
Application editioning: Manage multiple versions of your applications and roll out new versions of your applications without incurring downtime. This is essential if you consistently deliver updates to your applications deployed in production environments.
On-Demand routing: Build WebSphere CloudBurst patterns that include On-Demand Router parts. On-Demand Routers are a key component of WebSphere Virtual Enterprise environments and act as an enabler of some of the functionality discussed above.
If you are a user of WebSphere Virtual Enterprise, or otherwise knowledgeable with the product, the Intelligent Management Pack should be pretty familiar to you. When you deploy a pattern built from WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition with the Intelligent Management Pack, you end up with a WebSphere Virtual Enterprise cell. When you log into the administration console, you will see the WebSphere Virtual Enterprise console. You can use any of the features in the normal WebSphere Virtual Enterprise product in the environment created by WebSphere CloudBurst.
Be on the lookout for more information concerning the Intelligent Management Pack. I know there is an article in the works, and we will also be working on some short demos for our YouTube channel. In the meantime, please reach out to me here or on Twitter (@damrhein) with any questions or comments.
Over the past several months industry focus on cloud computing seems to have only intensified. Within IBM and for the purposes of this blog, WebSphere, there have been several announcements and offerings that indicate our commitment and belief in the cloud computing approach.
To further highlight WebSphere's focus and offerings in the cloud computing realm, we are embarking on a "WebSphere in the Clouds" campaign during the months of September and October. Our intent is to virtually deliver information about our cloud strategy and offerings directly from the experts to you, our WebSphere users.
The event will be kicked off by WebSphere's Director of Product Management, Kareem Yusuf, on September 23rd from 9-10 EDT. Kareem will talk about cloud computing in the enterprise, and its unique relationship to SOA thoughts and principles. In addition, he'll give an overview of what WebSphere has been doing in the cloud computing space. This will be followed by sessions from technical experts that detail WebSphere offerings in both the public and private clouds, as well as sessions that discuss enablers of application and application infrastructure elasticity.
To find out more about the "WebSphere in the Clouds" campaign, you can check out the main announcement page. To sign up for the series of virtual events visit the registration page. We hope you will join us for the series of webcasts to learn all about WebSphere's work in the clouds.
The 1.1.1 version of WebSphere CloudBurst is now available on the IBM support site, and you can read a bit about it here. I have not blogged about each and every point release of WebSphere CloudBurst here, but this particular one is significant. The 1.1.1 release adds support for IBM's z/VM hypervisor platform as a deployment target.
Quite simply this means that you can now create virtualized WebSphere application environments on the z/VM platform using WebSphere CloudBurst. This starts by first defining target hypervisors, instances of Linux Master Systems, that WebSphere CloudBurst can communicate with to setup virtual machines on z/VM. Coupled with support for the z/VM infrastructure components, there is a new version of the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition virtual image. While this new image contains the same basic components as the previous hypervisor edition images, it is packaged for the z/VM platform, and it includes a zLinux operating system.
Once you upgrade to WebSphere CloudBurst 1.1.1, you can define your z/VM infrastructure and use the new WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition image to build custom patterns targeted for the z/VM platform. I put together a demonstration that provides a very brief overview of these new capabilities. As always, please reach out if you have any questions about this or any other WebSphere CloudBurst topic.
When it comes to IBM Workload Deployer, I have no illusions concerning our competitors. They are out there, and they are constantly on the attack. Their dubious claims aside, I know this because I still get asked quite frequently to explain the benefits of IBM Workload Deployer versus some other general purpose cloud provisioning and management solution. So, while I have done that many times in various forums, I figured it was time to address the subject here on the blog.
When comparing IBM Workload Deployer to the other available solutions, I honestly feel comfortable saying we have no direct competition. I know you believe me to be biased, and rightly so, but let me explain why I think the competition is much more perception than reality. To do this, I want to focus on the patterns-based approach that IBM Workload Deployer takes to cloud provisioning and management.
Let's start with virtual system patterns in IBM Workload Deployer. Virtual system patterns allow you to build and deploy completely configured and integrated middleware environments as a single unit. These patterns build on top of our special IBM Hypervisor Edition images that bottle up the installation and quite a bit of the configuration of the underlying middleware products. Further, when using virtual system patterns, IBM Workload Deployer manages and automates the orchestration of the integration tasks that need to happen to setup a meaningful middleware environment. For instance, when deploying WebSphere Application Server you do not need to do anything on your end to deploy a clustered, highly available environment. When deploying WebSphere Process Server in this manner, you do not need to take any administrative actions to produce a golden topology. You just deploy patterns and the images, patterns, and appliance take care of the rest. Of course, you can add your own customizations and tweaks in the pattern, but we take care of the common administrative actions that would otherwise require your care.
I am not sure of a better way to say it, so I will be blunt: When deploying products delivered in IBM Hypervisor Edition form, no other solution compares to the virtual system pattern capability offered by IBM Workload Deployer. It is not even close. Can you provision products like WebSphere Application Server or WebSphere Portal using other cloud provisioning tools? Sure, but you should be aware that you will be writing and maintaining your own installation, configuration, and integration scripts. It is also likely that you will end up developing a custom interface through which deployers request your services (something not necessary when using the slick IBM Workload Deployer UI). All of this takes time, resource, and money. More importantly, this is not differentiating work and distracts from the real end goal: serving up applications. IBM Workload Deployer can deliver this operational capability right out of the box, and it can do so in a way that costs less than custom developed and maintained solutions.
When considering IBM Workload Deployer versus the competition, it is also important to consider the new virtual application pattern capability delivered in version 3.0. The virtual application pattern capability is a testament to IBM's thought leadership in and commitment to cloud computing for middleware application environments. Virtual application patterns take a bold step forward in raising the level of abstraction beyond the middleware environment and up to the most important resource in enterprise environments: the application. With a virtual application pattern, you simply provide your application and specify both functional and non-functional requirements for that application. When ready, you deploy that pattern, and IBM Workload Deployer sets up the necessary middleware infrastructure and deploys the provided application. Moreover, the appliance will monitor and autonomically manage the environment (i.e. scale it up and down) based on the policies you specify. Quite simply, this is a deployment and management capability our competition cannot match.
There is more to consider than just patterns though. The appliance makes it really simple to apply maintenance and upgrades to environments running in your cloud. It can autonomically manage your deployed environments (through policies in virtual application patterns and the Intelligent Management Pack for virtual system patterns), and it effectively abstracts the underlying infrastructure of your cloud environment. This abstraction is the reason IBM Workload Deployer can deploy your environments to PowerVM, zVM, and VMware environments. It also makes it easy to deploy the same environment to multiple different underlying platforms, thus accommodating typical platform changes that happen as an application moves from development to production. The best part of all is that the deployer’s experience is the same regardless of the underlying infrastructure since the appliance hides any platform idiosyncrasies.
The bottom line is that the appliance is purpose built to deploy and manage middleware and middleware application environments in a cloud, and as such, delivers immense out-of-the-box and ongoing value in this context. I should also point out that the design of the appliance acknowledges its purposeful nature. The CLI and REST API interfaces allow you to integrate the appliance into the operations of those general purpose provisioning solutions. In this way, IBM Workload Deployer acts as a middleware accelerator for your cloud computing efforts. This means that if you do have a general purpose solution, IBM Workload Deployer can still provide considerable value and let you avoid developing a considerable subsystem dedicated to deployment and management of middleware in the cloud. We believe in this type of integration, and have in fact built it into our own IBM solutions.
I could go on and on differentiating IBM Workload Deployer from the competition, but I hope my comments above give you a good context on why I think the appliance is in a league of its own. Of course, I always appreciate comments and feedback, so don't be shy!
One of the things that often comes up at some point in IBM Workload Deployer conversations is the notion of self-service access. Specifically, users want to know what the appliance provides that enables them to allow various teams in their organization to directly deploy the middleware environments they need. In other words, they want to use IBM Workload Deployer to tear down the traditional barriers that exist between those that request the environment and those that fulfill said request. Now, as we begin to elaborate on this notion, it becomes quickly apparent that in order to effectively enable self-service, IBM Workload Deployer must deliver a few things.
First, IBM Workload Deployer must provide the means to define users with various levels of access. Second, IBM Workload Deployer must provide the means to define resource access at a fine-grained level to different users and groups of users. Check and check. The appliance has been doing this since the beginning of WebSphere CloudBurst. Without those two things, the conversation of self-service access would end pretty quickly. However, there is a final capability that is equally important: IBM Workload Deployer must deliver a means to limit resource consumption at a fine-grained level.
In IBM Workload Deployer there are a couple of ways to achieve this. First, you could define multiple cloud groups and allow access to those groups in a way that maps directly to resource entitlements. While that may work in some situations, others call for even more granularity. You may want to allow multiple different users or groups to access a cloud group, but you may want to allow different consumption limits for each of these groups. In this situation, you can take advantage of environment profiles and a new option when defining users of IBM Workload Deployer.
Consider the case that you have a group of developers and you want to limit their consumption of memory in the cloud. First, you start by defining your development users and for each you select Environment Profile Only as the value for the Deployment Options field.
By selecting the above value for the deployment options of a user, you restrict that user to only deploying via an environment profile as opposed to general cloud group deployments. After defining all of your development users, you may choose to organize them into a user group for easier management. At that point, you can define environment profiles and determine which ones your developers should have access to using the Access granted to field of the profile.
Within the environment profile, you can define resource consumption limits for compute resource and software licenses. For instance, you can define a limit on the amount of virtual memory consumed by all deployments using the profile. It is important to note that the limit is cumulative for ALL deployments that use the profile.
Now that all of the controls are in place, consider the deployment process for one of your development users. They pick a virtual system pattern, click the deploy icon and begin to configure the pattern for deployment. In the Choose Environment section of the deployment dialog, your development user will only be able to select the Choose profile option for deployment. Further, they will only be able to deploy using the environment profiles to which they have access.
After the deployment completes, a look at the Environment limits section in the profile shows the current usage totals.
Now suppose another development user, or even the same one, comes along and attempts to deploy another virtual system pattern even though the profile limits have already been reached. The user can initiate the deployment, but they will get a near immediate failure owing to the fact that they would exceed consumption limits if the deployment were allowed to proceed.
The same kind of enforcement occurs regardless of the resource limit type. You can use this approach to limit the consumption of CPU, virtual memory, storage, or software licenses among the various different users or groups of users you define in IBM Workload Deployer. If you combine fine-grained resource consumption limits with varying permissions and fine-grained access, I think you are on the road to truly enabling self-service in the enterprise.