If you follow this blog often, you know that from time to time I like to post frequently asked questions. Well, it's been a while since I have done that, and since then I have added some new questions to my list -- along with some regulars. Take a look below, and if I don't answer your question feel free to leave a comment!
Can IBM Workload Deployer deploy software that is not IBM software? Yes. You can use one of the included images as a springboard and customize them with your own software via extend and capture. Additionally, you can use the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool (I'm getting ahead of myself here) to create your own custom images from the ground up and use those within IBM Workload Deployer.
Can I use VMotion for the systems I deploy with IBM Workload Deployer? Yes. IBM Workload Deployer has tolerated the use of VMotion since the WebSphere CloudBurst days (see the Additional Considerations section on this page for more information). IBM Workload Deployer v3 introduced the notion of virtual machine mobility initiated directly from the appliance. This capability takes advantage of VMotion in the case of VMware-based cloud environments.
Can IBM Workload Deployer deploy just a base operating system? Yes. IBM Workload Deployer v3 introduced a base operating system image that contains 64-bit Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Internally, IBM Workload Deployer uses this as the foundation on top of which virtual application patterns are deployed. You can use it to deploy virtual machines containing just the base OS, or you can customize it to deploy software of your choosing. (As an aside, IBM Workload Deployer v3.1 will include a base operating system image for AIX)
Can I automate the process of calling/using IBM Workload Deployer? Yes. IBM Workload Deployer is built to fit a specific need -- creating and managing a cloud of middleware and middleware-based workloads. In that light, it would be a shortcoming if IBM Workload Deployer did not to fit well into more holistic or enterprise-wide cloud management systems. The REST API and CLI allow you to automate the use of IBM Workload Deployer, thereby allowing it to be mashed up into other processes.
Can I group two appliances together for high availability? Yes. IBM Workload Deployer v3.1 introduces the ability to configure appliances in a master/slave setup. You can connect two appliances, allow them to share a floating IP address, and be confident that data is continuously replicated between the two. If one appliance fails, the other appliance picks up the floating IP ensuring continuous service.
Are images created using the Image Construction and Composition Tool supported for use within IBM Workload Deployer? Yes. Part of the new IBM Workload Deployer 3.1 announcement was a statement of support for using images created by the Image Construction and Composition Tool as a component of your virtual system patterns. This is a very important enhancement as it allows you to extend the set of content deployed by IBM Workload Deployer while being sure that you are operating within the boundaries of intended use.
Can I use IBM Workload Deployer to provision to public clouds? No... and yes. If you install an IBM Workload Deployer appliance in your datacenter, you cannot use it to deploy to a public cloud environment. However, you may have recently heard about the IBM SmartCloud Application Services portfolio. IBM has announced that the pattern-based provisioning that one gets with IBM Workload Deployer will also be available as part of this portfolio. This means that you will be able to build and deploy patterns using a service hosted on the IBM SmartCloud. Further, your deployed systems will run on the IBM SmartCloud. Check out this demo for more information.
** IBM Workload Deployer 3.1 firmware is available on 11/18.
For those of you basically familiar with IBM Workload Deployer, you are likely aware that the appliance has many different capabilities. On the surface it is a cloud management device for middleware and middleware applications. Of course, there are quite a few details that are important to understanding the functionality provided, and I spend quite a bit of my time talking with various users and potential users about these details. One thing I have noticed that can become an obstacle in having effective communication regarding IBM Workload Deployer is the lack of a commonly understood language. I sometimes find that me and the user are simply using different terminology to describe the same thing. As you can imagine, this just serves to create confusion, and neither party gets the most out of the conversation.
In order to combat this communication gap, I thought I would put together a simple presentation that introduces and defines IBM Workload Deployer terminology. Check it out below (you can also download it here):
While the presentation does not dive deep into the terms it introduces, it does provide a basic definition and illustrative example of each. My hope is that this fosters an understanding of some of the basic concepts in IBM Workload Deployer, and ultimately pushes us towards a common vernacular. Please let me know what you think!
Typically we spend most of the real estate on this blog talking about cloud computing and specifically, IBM Workload Deployer. However, I am hoping that this week you permit me to take a bit of a detour to discuss a very important new announcement. Last week, IBM announced the early availability of the WebSphere Application Server v8.5 Alpha. In all fairness, your response may be 'You guys always have WAS Alphas. Why should I care about this one?' I have two words for you: Liberty Profile.
Based on my own experience in the IBM labs and my conversations with numerous enterprise developers out there, I think I understand many of the needs to create an efficient development environment. Developers need tools and runtimes that are lightweight, easy to install, simple to configure, and fast to recycle or otherwise update. Enhancements in our WebSphere Application Server v8.0 took many of these concerns head on with features such as directory-based install and drastically improved server startup times. The new v8.5 Alpha, and specifically the Liberty Profile, extend this developer focus even further.
The Liberty Profile is a lightweight, fast, and easy to use application runtime that you can download for free by visiting the WASdev community site. The design of the runtime is best described as fit-for-purpose and you configure it by selectively enabling and disabling features based on application need. For example, you may enable the servlet, JPA, and JSP features, or you may decide you only need to enable the servlet feature of the runtime. It is completely up to you! In addition to this innovative new runtime, the WebSphere Application Server v8.5 Alpha also includes free tools for Eclipse. These tools make it simple to create Liberty Profile server instances, start server instances, stop server instances, install applications, and remove applications. In fact, you can do all of this and even download and install the WebSphere Application Server v8.5 Alpha without ever leaving your Eclipse workspace! Check out the demonstration below to see an example of installing and using the new Alpha.
I really hope that you will participate in the new WebSphere Application Server v8.5 Alpha. The setup process that includes both tools and runtime will take just a few minutes of your time, and leaves but a small footprint on your machine (the Liberty Profile of the WAS v8.5 Alpha is only ~50 MB unzipped). In the meantime, you can find more information about the Alpha on the WASdev site or in the new Information Center. Finally, don't forget to join in on the conversation on the WASdev forum!
A couple of weeks ago, I dropped by the Intel Developer Forum to present a session and listen in on a few others. As always in these types of shows, I learned quite a bit. Most strikingly though, I was reminded of something that is probably quite obvious to many of you: Consumer interest in cloud computing will not be letting up any time soon.
Based on this, and some of the other things I heard at the show, I decided to catch up with fellow IBMer Marc Haberkorn. Marc is an IBM Product Manager and is responsible for IBM Workload Deployer amongst other things. I asked him about IBM Workload Deployer, the competition, and cloud in general. Check out what Marc had to say below:
Me:IBM Workload Deployer is one among many of a growing wave of cloud management solutions. How do you differentiate the focus and business value of it versus the myriad of other solutions out there?
Marc: To sum it up, we offer a combination of depth and breadth. IWD delivers both workload aware management and general purpose management. Workload aware management differentiates IWD from its competition, as it can deliver more value for the set of products for which it has context. There is a set of actions that workload aware management tools can do that is normally left to the user by general purpose management tools. This list includes configuring a middleware server to know its hostname/IP address, configuring multiple middleware servers to know of one another, arranging clusters, applying maintenance, and handling elasticity. By handling more of these activities in the automated flow, there are fewer chances for manual errors and inconsistencies to enter a managed environment.
That said, without infinite resource or time, it’s impossible to deliver this context-aware management for everything under the sun. As such, in order to allow IWD to deliver differentiated value AND allow it to handle a customer's entire environment, we offer a mix of workload-aware management and general purpose management.
Me:VMware is a good example of a company active in the cloud space, and they seem to keep a consistent pace of new product delivery. What do you think of their product development focus?
Marc: I think VMware has built a very compelling set of capability in the virtualization space. I think the main difference between VMware's suite and IBM Workload Deployer is the perspective from which the environments are managed. VMware puts the administrator in the position of thinking about infrastructure from the ground up. The administrator is thinking about virtual images, hypervisors, and scripts. In IBM Workload Deployer, we think about things from the perspective of the app, because that's ultimately what the business cares about. By providing a declarative model through which an application can be instantiated and managed, we feel we deliver a deeper value proposition to clients, through workload-aware management.
Me:The 'one tool to do it all' approach is a popular, if not hard to achieve goal. What is your advice to users when it comes to choosing between breadth and depth for cloud management solutions?
Marc: The advantages of a "one tool to do it all" are many: less integration, more uniformity, less complexity. As such, customers will always prefer a single tool when possible. This is why IBM Workload Deployer has focused on not only providing differentiated, deeper value for common use cases but also providing a way to handle the "everything else." As such, my advice to users is not to choose between breadth and depth - use IBM Workload Deployer which offers both.
Me:To close, I'm curious to know where you think we are heading in the cloud market. What do you think users will be most readily adopting over the next one to two years? Where does the cloud industry need the most innovation?
Marc: I think most users are currently looking at the broad picture of cloud computing, and have been adopting primarily in the private cloud realm. There are several reasons for this. One reason is that many customers have a large set of hardware resources which amount to sunk cost that needs to be leveraged. Another reason is around data security concerns in off-premises clouds, and still another reason is around the human factor of comfort, which has taken time to develop around off-premise cloud models. However, businesses have become increasingly comfortable with various sources of outsourcing in recent years, especially in mission critical areas involving very sensitive data. Just look at IBM's Strategic Outsourcing business, which handles entire IT operations for many large businesses. I think that trend will (and really, has already begun to) continue in the area of cloud computing, and will lead to more public and ultimately hybrid cloud computing adoption. In order to get to hybrid cloud computing, I see much of the focus and innovation being associated with data security, workload portability (across private and public, in a seamless fashion), and license transferability between private and public. When this space reaches fruition, clients will be able to enjoy true elastic economics in a computing model that allows a mixture of owning and renting compute resources and software licenses.
Customization capabilities have been very important to the design of IBM Workload Deployer going back to the beginning with WebSphere CloudBurst. Having the ability to quickly spin up environments in a cloud really does little good if those environments are not customized according to your needs. If you look at the virtual system pattern capability, it is why we always had the notion of custom images, custom patterns, and custom scripts. We give you a strong foundation, and you tweak it here and there to create what you want.
Customization is not a concept unique to virtual system patterns. The virtual application model in IBM Workload Deployer supports many different mechanisms for you to tailor your cloud-based environments. You can start with the virtual application pattern types that we ship and use any components in those patterns to build a custom environment. The patterns you build can include your own configuration (within the set of configurable parameters) and include policies that you need for your environment. In looking at just the IBM Workload Deployer Pattern for Web Applications and the IBM Workload Deployer Pattern for Databases, there are quite a number of scenarios you can support with your cloud. However, what happens when you want to go a little further and color outside the lines of what we provide?
At some point you may have heard or read that the entire virtual application pattern model resides on a pluggable architecture. In effect, this means that everything about a virtual application pattern type, from the elements that show up when building a pattern to the management interface you interact with after deployment, is customizable. The fundamental unit of customization for a virtual application pattern type is a plugin. Plugins provide the know-how in terms of installing, configuring, integrating, and managing the application types supported by a given pattern. Plugins also provide metadata that control what users see as they build and manage these patterns. In short, plugins are the source of truth for virtual application patterns!
If you looked in IBM Workload Deployer, you would find the collection of plugins that support the virtual application pattern types shipped with the offering. While that is interesting, you should also know that you can supply your own plugins. That's right. You can develop a plugin, and load it directly into the appliance. This allows you to do two very important things. First, you can extend the virtual application pattern types that come with IBM Workload Deployer with any kind of functionality you deem important. This may be additional monitoring, integration with external systems, or any number of other extensions. Second, you can create new virtual application pattern types that support your desired workloads. You can support the workloads with the software of your choosing so long as you can supply the necessary know-how in your plugins. In either case, you contribute the plugin, and your customized components become first class members of the IBM Workload Deployer landscape.
Okay, so I admit that this is not necessarily news. We have supported user-contributed plugins since the release of IBM Workload Deployer. However, there is something new that significantly lowers the barrier to entry in the custom plugin game. Early last week, IBM announced the IBM Workload Plugin Development Kit. This kit provides a set of tools and samples designed to make the construction and packaging of custom plugins a simple process. In my opinion, this reiterates our commitment to an extensible, application-centric cloud approach, and it represents a huge step forward in the industry as a whole. Be sure to check this out, and don't be shy with the comments and feedback!
As Joe mentioned in his last post, virtual application patterns are all the rage in IBM Workload Deployer. The high degree of abstraction provided by these patterns means users can remove tedious, time consuming tasks like middleware installation, configuration, and integration from their field of view. As a consequence, users can build and deploy application environments in unprecedented time, thus freeing up more time to focus on the actual application.
This is obviously important because building and deploying application environments are crucial, traditionally time consuming activities. However, what happens after you build and deploy the application? You manage it, that's what! Joe brought up the fact that IBM Workload Deployer makes this easier too by delivering an integrated management portal through which you can manage and monitor your application environments. Now, this probably already sounds valuable, but what really puts it over the top is the management portal exposes an interface that is workload aware. But, what does that mean?
To get an idea of what that means, consider the case that you use the shipped virtual application pattern to build a simple application environment with a web application and database. You deploy it with IBM Workload Deployer, and your application is up and ready. Now you want to start checking things out. You start by opening the management portal directly from the appliance, and you see both the application and database components listed in the view:
After you looked at basic machine statistics such as network activity and memory usage, you could move on to a more workload-centric view. For instance, you could examine statistics particular to a web application such as request counts and service response times:
You may also decide that you want to alter certain aspects of your deployed environment. As an example, you could update your deployed application or change certain configuration data in the deployed environment:
It is important to note that you have a management interface for each of the components in your environment. That means that from the same management interface, you can manage and monitor the database you deployed as part of your environment. For example, at different intervals, you may want to backup your database. You can do this directly from the management portal provided by IBM Workload Deployer:
Lest you think that you can only manage and monitor, this unique management interface is also a one stop shop for all of your troubleshooting needs. From the centralized portal, you can view log and trace data for each component:
Virtual application patterns are an attempt to encapsulate each phase of your application's lifecycle, from creation to deployment to management. In this regard, I hope the above provides a taste of some of the management capabilities provided by virtual application patterns. It truly is the tip of the iceberg!
In a post not long ago, I mentioned new enhancements to virtual system patterns in IBM Workload Deployer. A prominent part of those enhancements were updates to pattern construction that allow you to order virtual machine startup, order script package invocation, and include add-ons that provide system level configuration options. Recently I uploaded a demonstration to YouTube that highlights some of these new capabilities. Specifically, this provides a brief look at ordering and add-on enhancements.
I hope you take a look, and even more importantly, I hope to see some feedback. If you have something you would like to see captured in a demo, let me know and I'll work it to the top of a long and continually growing list!
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!
A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a current WebSphere customer about the potential value they could derive from the use of IBM Workload Deployer. Right away, this customer saw value in the consistency that a patterns-based approach could afford them. It was clear that patterns eliminate the uncertainty that can make its way into even the best-planned deployment processes. Initially though, the customer questioned the value of being able to do fast deployments because, in their words, "We don't deploy WebSphere environments that often." So, we continued our discussion, and then they asked an important question that I encourage all of our users to ask: "Why don't we deploy our WebSphere environments more frequently?"
It is interesting to talk with our WebSphere users that have a long history with our products. Often times, they have been taking a shared approach to WebSphere installations for many, many years. They develop innovative approaches and isolation schemes that allow them to carve up a single WebSphere installation (cell) amongst multiple different application teams. This allows them to avoid having to setup a cell for each application deployment and saves them the associated time. However, having talked to many different users taking this approach, it is not without its challenges.
As was the case in the customer I mention above, users typically made trade-offs when electing for larger, shared cells. As an example, if you have multiple different application teams with different types of applications using a single cell, applying fixes and upgrades to that cell can be a lot more complex. After all, you now have to coordinate plans across a number of different teams and find a window that fits all of their needs. For the same reason, trying incremental function via our feature packs is much more arduous in these types of cells. Additionally, administrative controls become more complex since teams with varying needs all require administrative access. Admittedly, this gets simpler with newer fine-grained security models in WebSphere Application Server v7 and v8, but it still requires organizational discipline and process.
At this point I should be clear that I am not denigrating the shared cell approach. It can work well, and we have many facilities built into the WebSphere Application Server product to support that model. However, if you are using this approach and you find yourself stumbling too much for your own liking, then I would strongly suggest that you explore the patterns-based approach of IBM Workload Deployer. By deploying patterns that represent your WebSphere cells using IBM Workload Deployer, you can quickly and consistently setup multiple WebSphere Application Server cells to support the varying needs of your application teams. You will still avoid spending an inordinate amount of time installing and configuring cells as that is an automated part of pattern deployment, and your application teams will still get the resources they need. Further, this can liberate your application teams in terms of how they apply maintenance, install upgrades, and absorb new function in the form of feature packs.
I am not suggesting a complete pendulum swing in your approach to how you manage multiple application environments. There is definitely a happy medium in terms of how many cells you end up with. After all, you do not want to trade in one set of problems for the problem of managing way too many different cells. However, I do think that decomposing monolithic, multi-purpose cells into smaller, more purposeful cells can be beneficial. In the course of thinking about this different approach, you may come to the same conclusion that the customer I mention above did. IBM Workload Deployer's rapid deployment capabilities are indeed valuable if you take a slightly different view of current processes.
In my opinion, declarative deployment models are key to the entire notion of Platform as a Service (PaaS). That is, users should concern themselves with what they want, but not necessarily how to get it. The PaaS system should be able to interpret imperatives from the user and automatically convert that to a running system. In this respect, I think the new virtual application pattern, and more specifically policies, in IBM Workload Deployer takes a giant leap toward a more declarative deployment model.
In IBM Workload Deployer, policies allow you to 'decorate' your virtual application pattern with functional and non-functional requirements. In other words, they provide a vehicle for you to tell the system what qualities of service you expect for your application environment. To put a little context around this discussion, let's examine the policies available in the virtual application pattern for web applications. Specifically, let's look at the four policy types you can attach to Enterprise Application, Web Application, and OSGI Application components in this pattern:
Scaling policy: When it comes to cloud, the first thing many folks think about is autonomic elasticity. Applications should scale up and down based on criteria defined by the user. Well, that is exactly what the scaling policy lets you do. You simply attach this policy to your application component, and then specify properties that define when to scale. First, you choose a scaling trigger from a list that includes application response time, CPU usage, JDBC connection wait time, and JDBC connection pool usage. After choosing your trigger, you decide the minimum and maximum number of application instances for your deployment, and then you choose the minimum number of seconds to wait for an add or remove action. At this point, you can deploy your application and IBM Workload Deployer will monitor the environment, automatically triggering scaling actions as needed.
JVM policy: I would be willing to bet that nearly all of you tune the JVM environment into which you deploy your applications. The JVM policy allows you to take two common tuning actions, setting the JVM heap sizes and passing in JVM arguments, as well as attach a debugger to the Java process (especially useful in development and test phases). You can also use the policy to enable verbose garbage collection (invaluable to understanding heap usage patterns for your application) and select the bit level (from 32 or 64) for your application. Again, all you have to do is attach the policy and specify the properties. IBM Workload Deployer will take care of the required configuration updates.
Routing policy: The routing policy provides a simple way to specify virtual hostnames and allowable protocols (HTTP or HTTPS) for your application. Attach the policy, provide the virtual hostname you want to use, select the desired protocols, and that's it! Remember, once you set the virtual hostname you will need to update your name server to map the hostname to the appropriate IP address.
Log policy: During the development and test phase, it is likely that you will want to enable certain trace strings in the application runtime. The log policy allows you to provide trace strings for your application, and it makes sure that the appropriate configuration updates occur in the deployed environment.
While this is not an exhaustive explanation of each of the policies above, I hope it gives you a basic idea of what they are and how to use them. To me, declarative deployment models are going to be a crucial part of making PaaS successful, so I am really excited about the notion of policies in IBM Workload Deployer. What do you think?