Customers are always impressed when they learn about the simplicity, resiliency, and rapid time to value they can received from virtual applications. However, they are usually a little mystified at how virtual applications really work. After all - they have become quite accustomed to doing things the "traditional way" where they control every aspect of their applications manually. Virtual Applications represent an entirely new way of thinking. Sure, the benefits are enormous but can you really trust them? How is it doing all of this anyway?
What seems like "magic" is really a sophisticated and coordinated set of activities driven and coordinated by IBM Workload Deployer while leveraging the expertise built into the pattern type. Yes, you can trust it because experts have worked to build the system and created to it react and respond much faster than you can. When moving away from manual processes to automated processes it is always nice to get a sense of what is really happening. I think it is just human nature. We can't really place our trust in something until we have first hand experience or understand what it is really doing ... I guess it is the critic inside each one of us. Even after you've experienced the value it is still reassuring to see and understand the "how".
It is the "how does it do that?" type of question that I attempted to answer for virtual applications in a blog post I wrote on the Expert Integrated Systems blog recently. It attempts to pull the curtain aside and describe what is actually happening to support a virtual application pattern. As with my previous post - this was written for IBM PureApplication Systems but the concepts are 100% applicable to IBM Workload Deployer. I think you will find it interesting ... Continue reading ...
Applications - just like humans, animals, plants, and many other things - have a life cycle. They are conceived, given birth, grow, do foolish things in youth, hopefully improve over time, have problems that need to be fixed, don't always age well .... and eventually they will die and release their assets to the next generation. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it?
One of the many benefits of virtual application patterns in IBM Workload Deployer and related IBM offerings is support for the complete life cycle of the application. You can manage the complete life cycle of virtual applications from a single interface that is fully integrated and well thought out - not just a series of links from one product UI to a different product UI. This eliminates the complexity of having to work with different interfaces, paradigms, metaphors, controls, labels, names, authorization, and so on - that is often the norm in many customer environments today. I think the benefits of this integration are obvious - eliminating confusion, configuration, miscommunication, interpretation, and mapping errors. Providing a truly complete solution also facilitates a common knowledge base and encourages cooperation and collaboration among teams. You can share patterns, providing consistent governance for a solution, guarantee consistency in deployments, and build upon the expertise provided by others. Having an integrated solution for design, development, deployment, configuration changes, monitoring, and problem determination ensures that time is not wasted and valuable information is not lost.
If you have been wanting to get some first hand experience with patterns of expertise in preparation for IBM PureApplication System or IBM Workload Deployer but you don't yet have a system of your very own to use ... then you will want to check out this post/video and then download the Virtual Pattern Toolkit for Developers! It's absolutely free and will get you up and running with a virtualized system in a short while. Check it out!
As fast as the Impact conference arrived is about as fast as it is disappearing in our collective rearview mirror. It seems like a blur. In a word, the conference was... exhausting! In other words, it was informative, exciting, and illuminating. I hope that many of you had a chance to make it out there, and I hope more of you make it to Impact in 2013.
For those of you familiar with the conference, you know that it is typically a launching ground for new product versions and altogether new products. This year was certainly no different with the launch of the new version of WebSphere Application Server (8.5), the new and improved IBM Business Process Manager and IBM Operational Decision Manager, a new version of WebSphere eXtreme Scale (8.5), and numerous updates across the messaging and connectivity stack. While I encourage you to follow up on all of these important announcements, they are not what I am going to focus on today. Instead, I am going to focus on the new addition to the IBM family that got plenty of attention this year: IBM PureApplication System.
Joe recently touched on this new offering, so I won't get into an exhaustive overview. To put it briefly, IBM PureApplication System is an expert integrated system. What does that mean? First and foremost it means that it is a system -- a whole. It is an integrated platform of hardware and software, optimized and tuned for running transactional web and database workloads. I do not mean that it is a system of software that we pre-install on off-the-shelf hardware. Rather, it is the result of hardware and software engineers across IBM working together to build a system that is expert at what it does. More than just the web application and database software though, IBM PureApplication System also contains pre-installed and pre-configured management software that delivers a soup to nuts (hardware to application) single pane of glass for managing the entire system. I could go on and on, but again that's not my purpose here. I encourage you to check out the new IBM PureSystems web page for more information and some pretty cool videos.
For those of you that take a look at IBM PureApplication System you will quickly find that the notion of pattern-based deployments (something I have talked about at length on this blog) plays a key role in the new system. In fact, the same virtual system and virtual application pattern constructs that you have come to know in IBM Workload Deployer are front and center in IBM PureApplication System as well. In the new system, you can build custom virtual system and virtual application patterns, deploy them to your cloud, and then manage them over time. If you are familiar with the IBM Workload Deployer user interface, you will likely find yourself immediately familiar with the interface of IBM PureApplication System. Given all of that, if you are like many of the users I talked to at Impact and since, you probably have some questions as to IBM Workload Deployer and this new system. Most commonly, I get these two questions: "What does this mean for the IBM Workload Deployer product?" and "How do I know when to use IBM PureApplication System versus IBM Workload Deployer?" Let me do my best to address those questions.
In terms of the impact of the IBM PureApplication System on the IBM Workload Deployer offering, I can only view it in one way: affirmation. As I said above, IBM PureApplication System puts the mode of pattern-based deployments front and center, and further affirms that this kind of approach is crucial to the evolution of application delivery and management. Those of you familiar with IBM Workload Deployer or its predecessor WebSphere CloudBurst know that we have been talking about patterns for years. Rest assured we will continue to talk about patterns and solutions for building, deploying, and managing them. As it stands, we have at least three ways for you to build, deploy, and manage patterns: IBM SmartCloud Application Services, IBM Workload Deployer, and IBM PureApplication System. As you can see, options for consuming patterns have only increased since the initial launch of WebSphere CloudBurst. Furthermore, if you were at Impact, you know that we have a vibrant and vocal community of IBM Workload Deployer users, and I hope to see that community continue to grow! As I see it, the core technology of IBM Workload Deployer is becoming our 'operating system' for cloud platform management.
The question of when to use IBM Workload Deployer or when to use IBM PureApplication System is one whose answer is a bit more nuanced and not something one can or should try to definitively answer in a blog post. One thing I do suggest though is that when evaluating these two technologies, it is important to acknowledge that they have different business value propositions. Sure they share common core technology in terms of building, deploying, and managing pattern-based environments, but beyond that they diverge a bit. Remember, IBM PureApplication System is, well a system. It is the hardware, software, and management technology you need to run your middleware application workloads. It is pre-built and pre-integrated to the point that it only requires you to roll it into your datacenter, hook it up to your network, and do some one time configuration. The aim for the duration between receipt of the system to up and running with your first deployment is four hours, and if you were at Impact you saw an amusing video with the chief architect (Jason McGee) that proves this claim.
IBM Workload Deployer is fundamentally different in terms of how you consume it and how it integrates with your infrastructure. Most notably, IBM Workload Deployer does not include optimized hardware (servers, storage, networking) for running your workloads or a single point of management for everything from hardware to applications. To use IBM Workload Deployer you attach it to your network and point it at existing virtualized servers. Simply put, IBM Workload Deployer assumes you have existing, under-utilized hardware that you can get more out of with the intelligent deployment and management approach the appliance delivers. While you do not get the pre-integrated and optimized system of hardware plus software, you do get the flexibility to use your existing infrastructure.
As you can see, there are similarities (patterns) and differences (whole system vs. management system), and the result is a pretty different set of value propositions. The key in evaluating these technologies is that you do so with a crisp understanding of your current needs AND your future plans for growth and evolution. I know this kind of advice is a bit generalized, but I hope the differences I discussed above help you to at least understand the capabilities of the two different offerings. As always, if you have any comments or questions, please reply to the post!
IBM Impact 2012 was just last week with a theme of "Change the Game" ... and I'm still reveling in all of the excitement and energy that goes into conferences such as this. I was fortunate to get a last minute spot to attend the conference and help out at the Solution Center where I had the chance to speak to a lot of customers and other IBMers interested in cloud computing. Among the many things that stood out - there is certainly a lot of interest in cloud computing and patterns of expertise - it also seems that folks are ready to get some first hand experience with these patterns. There's plenty of opportunity for that!
The answer is yes, I did a related but different blog post with a similar title a few weeks back. At that time I was primarily highlighting a webinar that I co-presented with Keith Smith regarding the various virtualization solutions and features that are available in IBM Workload Deployer in virtual application patterns and virtual system patterns leveraging the Intelligent Management Pack (IMP). If you didn't get a chance to attend that webcast live then I encourage you to check out the replay (especially Keith's portion with details on IMP - a really helpful overview).
This new blog post expands on the theme of that original blog post but takes a broader vision of where IBM has been with our private cloud offerings in WCA and IWD up to and including the recently announced IBM PureApplication System - and how this history demonstrates our leadership in supporting applications in the cloud.
Lately, I have run into multiple situations where an IBM Workload Deployer user has been trying to decide exactly how they want to create their customized images for the cloud. Essentially, they have been trying to decide whether to use the native extend and capture capabilities of IBM Workload Deployer, or to pursue the use of the Image Construction and Composition Tool (also included with the appliance). The conversations have been interesting and challenging, but more importantly, they have been a reminder that constructing enterprise-ready environments for the cloud does not happen by magic. It takes thought, deliberate planning, sustainable design, and the tools to carry everything out.
The tools part we have covered. I have every confidence, bolstered by user experience after user experience, that IBM Workload Deployer and associated tools (like the Image Construction and Composition Tool) equip you to build highly customized, cloud-based application environments. In this post, I want to focus in on the thought process that goes into how you decide to build your customized environment. Specifically, I would like to talk about important points to consider as you try to understand whether to use the native extend and capture capabilities of IBM Workload Deployer or the Image Construction and Composition Tool.
To be clear from the outset, I am not trying to provide a decision flowchart in this post. For all intents and purposes, that would be next to impossible. Instead, I want to pose to you some important questions that you should ask of yourself, along with the reasons why I believe those queries to be important. Keeping in mind that this is not an all-inclusive list, here it goes:
Question: Are the customizations that you want to make congruent with an IBM-supplied image?
Reason: One of the first decisions you should make is whether or not you can start with an IBM-supplied image as the base for your customization. You need to know what middleware elements (type and version) make up your environment and what operating system should host that environment (version and distribution). You can match that information against the list of content that IBM supplies. If there is a match, you should start by looking at extend and capture to customize that image to meet your needs. If there is no direct match, you may be looking at the Image Construction and Composition Tool.
Question: Does your custom content supplement middleware content supplied in an IBM image?
Reason: If you simply need to add additional components that supplement software already in an IBM image, I believe it is best to first examine the use of extend and capture. Whether these components are IBM software or not is irrelevant as the extend and capture functionality does not care.
Question: How configurable do you want to make the custom content in your image?
Reason: If you are adding content into the image, you need to think about just how configurable you need it to be. When you use extend and capture, you add the content to an existing image in a manner that pretty well ends up being opaque to IBM Workload Deployer. To configure that content, you need to have script packages and make sure they are part of every pattern you create based on the image. Alternatively, if you use the Image Construction and Composition Tool, you can embed configuration behavior in the image's activation engine, and you can expose deploy-time parameters without needing to include script packages in every single pattern. As an example, if you need to add a monitoring agent into your environment, you would likely do this via extend and capture and end up with a pretty simple script package to configure that agent during deployment. If however, you need to create an image with a custom database, you would likely favor the Image Construction and Composition Tool as you could embed common deploy-time configuration parameters directly in the image. For a database, there are likely to be many more deploy-time configuration parameters that you want to expose as compared to a more simple monitoring agent.
Question: Is your main focus on making operating system changes?
Reason:If your primary focus is on making operating system changes AND the answer to the first question is that your target content aligns well with IBM-supplied images, then extend and capture is where you want to start. Of course, you need to make sure that you can make all necessary changes to the OS with extend and capture, but I will say that this capability is not very restrictive at all.
Admittedly, this is a short list, but I believe it is a good starting point for how you decide upon one approach versus the other. Also, I would be remiss not to point out that these tools are absolutely not mutually exclusive. Many users I work with use a combination of the two approaches. In fact, there are some use cases that call for both tools. Start by creating a completely custom image in the Image Construction and Composition Tool, and then subject that image to the extend and capture process in IBM Workload Deployer to customize it for a particular purpose, team, project, etc. I hope you find this helpful, and I welcome your feedback or thoughts!
When many people think of cloud computing they immediately think of virtualization and virtual machines in particular. This is completely natural and not at all surprising. After all, one of the core underlying technologies necessary for cloud computing is virtualization. However, it is important not to confuse one element of cloud computing with the entire thing - and this can sometimes happen. Many people have begun to leverage virtual machines in their on premise environment and sometimes begin to call this their private cloud. While virtualization is a substantial step forward and help gets you started down the necessary path of standardization and automation that is essential in a cloud - it is not in and of itself "a cloud".
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has published its definition of cloud computing. This is a very complete and yet concise definition that includes not only the essential characteristics of a cloud solution but also the service models (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and deployment models (public, private, hybrid, community). It is a great way to get a perspective on cloud and can be useful when considering the solutions of various vendors.
Let me summarize the essential elements of cloud from this definition here:
broad network access
So, this is interesting. Not only is this much more than just virtualization - but virtualization isn't even mentioned in the list explicitly. Not to worry - virtualization is of course important and is included under the resource pooling topic. I would assert that virtualization is also necessary to facilitate the type of on-demand, self-service, elastically scaling resources that are leveraged in a cloud. What is crystal clear from this definition is that there is a lot more to a cloud solution than just virtual images and some hypervisor infrastructure upon which to run them. Somebody must provide the necessary on-demand/self-service capabilities, the network access to these services, the management of the resource pools, enabling true elasticity for running systems, measuring services and so forth. IBM Workload Deployer provides just such capabilities for the on-premise cloud allowing you to efficiently deploy patterns built for virtual systems and virtual applications with deep knowledge of the middleware that is being provisioned to optimize these solutions. Furthermore, Workload Deployer provides the complete lifecycle management from pattern creation, to deployment and provisioning, applying maintenance, resource and license management in the on-premise cloud, elastic scalability, and eventually returning resources to the on-premise cloud to be reused. Workload Deployer is a complete solution for not only server virtualization but of course for cloud computing.
However, virtualization doesn't have to stop with just virtual machines. It is a general principle that can be applied to more than just servers. At its core, virtualization is really about providing a level of abstraction between some real resources and the consumers of those resources. This is a natural fit when we think of server virtualization and virtual machines. However, there are also substantial benefits to be gained by adopting a similar abstraction between the middleware and the applications themselves - sometimes referred to as application virtualization.
By application virtualization I mean providing the capabilities to abstract the application from the underlying infrastructure such that it can be elastic, participate in health management policies, and provide agility across the pool of application infrastructure resources. This type of application virtualization is built into our Virtual Application pattern (hence the name) in Workload Deployer and surfaced in solutions via policies (such as scaling and routing), and high availability functions built into the Web Application pattern type. For Virtual Applications these features are fully integrated and optimized functions as are all elements of Virtual Applications. However, similar features have also been available for WebSphere Application Deployments in Virtual System patterns with a special extension.
WebSphere Virtual Enterprise provides application virtualization for traditional WebSphere ND solutions and this same feature is delivered for Virtual System pattern deployments of WebSphere Application Server by use of the Intelligent Management Pack. Leveraging the capabilities of Workload Deployer with Virtual Systems lets you gain the benefits of server virtualization and to reduce hardware, provide rapid and consistent deployment of entire systems, dynamically adjust resource consumption, and much more. Leveraging the capabilities of the Intelligent Management Pack provides the ability to manage service level agreements with elastic scaling and health management, lower operational costs, and provide for improved application management. These two solutions together provide a powerful combination to improve the management and resiliency of your enterprise applications.
If you would like to learn more about application virtualization using the Intelligent Management Pack in conjunction with Virtual System Patterns in IWD then please join Keith Smith and myself tomorrow for a webcast on this very topic. Keith is the lead architect on our WebSphere Virtual Enterprise and Intelligent Management Pack products and brings a wealth of experience in this space. So don't miss this opportunity - register here.
We've been talking a lot recently about Virtual Application Patterns and enhancements to this deployment model in IBM Workload Deployer v3.1. This is appropriate because virtual applications are a substantial evolution for application deployment in a private cloud. Virtual Application Patterns deliver on the promise of Platform-as-a-Service - letting you focus on the application while Workload Deployer builds the necessary platform to deploy and manage your application.
However, Virtual System Patterns are still alive and well ... and quite frankly, this is where many people begin to explore the functionality provided in Workload Deployer. For many, it is a logical first step to start recreating familiar physical environments in the private cloud and then leverage these environments to develop and test their applications. It is also a great way to build out new applications using familiar concepts, leveraging existing scripts, and take full advantage of the agility, consistency, and increased resource utilization available in a Workload Deployer managed private cloud.
You may recall that virtual system patterns are sometimes called topology patterns because they are used to define a topology middleware configuration to meet application requirements. With a virtual system pattern you define exactly the type of middleware configuration that you need for your application environment and Workload Deployer provisions exactly that configuration when the pattern is deployed to your private cloud.
To use an automotive analogy, you might compare virtual systems to building your own hot-rod from a molded frame while virtual applications are more like purchasing a complete vehicle from a dealer. When you purchase a vehicle from a dealer you receive a fully functional automobile. Sure, you can choose the color and some options – but you don't necessarily know the details of all of the components that make your vehicle functional. Just add a driver (you) and off you go! This saves you substantial time and money while freeing you from the need to be an automotive engineer. As with the production vehicle, virtual applications are optimized for a specific purpose and are extremely effective when used for that purpose. All you need to do is add your application (the driver) and run-time requirements. Virtual system patterns are like the hot-rod approach. You start with a modeled frame of sorts (hypervisor edition images) – thereby saving time and effort so you don't have a start from scratch. However you still have the responsibility and flexibility to create a very unique custom vehicle. Doing so requires more expertise and a greater time investment when compared to a production vehicle (virtual application), but you get to decide all of the details. With virtual systems you specify the exact vehicle you need for your application. This provides substantial flexibility but requires a deep knowledge of the middleware and an investment of time building necessary scripts and other elements to support your application environment.
So as I mentioned, virtual system patterns are very popular. And if you have been following recent posts about the enhancements delivered in IBM Workload Deployer v3.1 you noticed that several of the features primarily focused on virtual applications have at the same time been extended to virtual system patterns - such as the shared caching service and the new base AIX image. So we certainly consider virtual systems deployment model to be important. IBM Workload Deployer v3.1 delivered new hypervisor edition images and the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool was bundled with Workload Deployer - primarily used for creating custom images to leverage in virtual system patterns. The IBM Image Construction tool is a substantial advancement in the ability to create your own custom base images.
To help communicate that we haven't been neglecting virtual system deployment patterns, I created a new demo to highlight this deployment model. The demo begins by providing a quick overview of the components that go into a virtual system pattern. It then shows how to clone a pattern to customize it for your own purpose, deploy it, monitor licenses, and monitor resource usage in your private cloud. Finally, it shows a quick demonstration of installing an emergency fix to a deployed virtual system instance.
I'll be showing this and other demos at IBM Pulse 2012 next week. I hope to see you there!