When IBM Workload Deployer V3.0 was introduced last year, one of the "hidden" values that it delivered was a base image used for virtual application patterns. I say "hidden" because this image, while delivered primarily for use in virtual application patterns, could also be leveraged for virtual system patterns. By now you may be scratching your head and wondering just what I'm talking about. Let me explain...
To begin with, it is helpful to understand a little bit about how virtual applications are deployed and how that differs from virtual system patterns. As you may already know, virtual system patterns are built from IBM Hypervisor Edition images to launch the virtual machines for your deployment. The IBM Hypervisor Edition images include the Operating System and middleware components together in the image. Therefore, building a virtual system pattern basically starts with a fairly complete image and activates the parts in that image necessary to fulfill the particular role this virtual machine will pay in a virtual system pattern. Virtual application patterns take a somewhat different approach. The starting point for a virtual application pattern is the base image which only includes the base Operating System. Workload Deployer launches a virtual machine with just this base image and then the appliance manages installation, configuration, and integration of software and applications to complete the role this virtual machine must fulfill for this virtual application pattern. At a high level you could consider virtual system patterns a template approach and virtual application patterns more of a build it as you need it approach.
So just what is the "hidden" value of these base images provided for virtual application patterns and how can that be used for virtual system patterns? The hidden value is that the base images used for virtual application patterns are delivered with IBM Workload Deployer in the image catalog and can be used for building virtual system patterns. If you already have an appliance you can take a look ... you will see the base images there under Catalog > Virtual Images right along side more familiar images like the IBM Hypervisor Edition images for WebSphere Application Server. For x86 systems this image is appropriately named "IBM Workload Deployer Image for x86 Systems". These images each include a base part called "Core OS" that can be included in a virtual system pattern.
So now you may be saying to yourself - well that's all great news but what is new about this? The new thing is that in IBM Workload Deployer V3.1 a significant new feature was added - the ability to deploy virtual application images to PowerVM environments using AIX. To enable that feature a base image was created for AIX, the "IBM OS Image for AIX Systems." As with the x86 image, this new image is now also available for your use in the image catalog. You can now employ that default AIX image for your own needs in virtual systems patterns - creating a very nice extension mechanism for PowerVM and AIX users.
This new base image contains the IBM AIX 6100-05 operating system and the Core OS part that you can include in virtual system patterns. As with the x86 base image delivered earlier, there are no restrictions on how you use or customize this image. To make it suitable for your purposes you can employ the IBM Workload Deployer extend and capture capability to install additional software content into the image. You can also enhance this image using the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool (ICCT) that is now included with IBM Workload Deployer v3.1. When you include this part in a virtual system pattern you can also associate any configuration scripts that you may need, just as you would with any other part. Just as with the x86 part - this provides substantial value and a significant convenience for AIX users.
I hope this clues you in on the "hidden" benefits of a substantial new feature included in IBM Workload Deployer V3.1. We have often been asked to provide base OS images to build upon as starting from scratch is sometimes difficult when you need to create your own custom image. Now, with IBM Workload Deployer v3.1, you have your choice of two default images in addition to the many IBM Hypervisor Edition images delivered as well as a robust set of new features in IBM Workload Deployer V3.1!
Sorry for the late notice - but I just realized that I hadn't blogged about a webcast that I am participating in tomorrow (Tuesday, 9/13)!
Chris Brealey (a Senior Technical Staff Member and Rational Enterprise Architect) and I are hosting an InformationWeek WebCast tomorrow (Tuesday, 9/13) entitled "Quickly and Efficiently Design, Develop, Deploy, and Test Workload Application Patterns to Save Months and Millions". I encourage you to register now for this free event (or if you can't make it tomorrow listen to it at your convenience as it will be recorded ... but you still need to register).
I'm really looking forward to this webcast. IBM Workload Deployer's predecessor, WebSphere Cloudburst Appliance, delivered unmatched capabilities for middleware deployments and management using Virtual System patterns (topology) - delivering complete middleware topologies in a rapid, consistent, and repeatable fashion. This has greatly improved the ability of development and test organizations to meet the ever increasing demands of today's agile development processes in addition to the assurance it provides for production environments. All of that value is still present (and improved) in IBM Workload Deployer but there is even more value in the new Virtual Application Patterns, as we've mentioned in previous posts.
Virtual Applications build upon this same notion of consistency and speed found in Virtual Systems while at the same time introducing a radical simplification to hosting your applications. Using an application-centric, declarative approach with Virtual Applications (workloads) it is even easier to deliver your applications rapidly leaving Workload Deployer to ensure the middleware environment is constructed and optimized to meet your application criteria. Virtual Applications usher IBM Workload Deployer into the realm of Platform-as-a-Service ... with even greater simplicity and agility to host your application in the most efficient fashion. As with Virtual System patterns earlier, we expect the introduction of Virtual Applications to continue to improve the dev/test lifecycle as well as production. The robust capabilities of Rational Application Developer and the simplicity of Virtual Application patterns in Workload Deployer make for a great combination.
I will start off the webcast with a discussion of PaaS and IBM Workload Deployer Virtual Application patterns. Chris will then discuss the application development process and how that is influenced with the introduction of the cloud environment. Chris will then explore the integration that is available in Rational Application Developer for IBM Workload Deployer. Finally, we will walk through a scenario that demonstrates how to leverage Virtual Application patterns in IBM Workload Deployer to design a solution that is then shared with the developer. Using Rational Application Developer the developer delivers the application into the pattern and moves it to test and finally pre-production. We will end with a question and answer time. I hope you can join us as we explore how we can use these technologies to increase agility and efficiency.
In the previous post I spoke about how a Virtual Application feature introduced in Workload Deployer v3.1 actually had benefits for Virtual System patterns as well. In that case I was talking about the ability to deploy Virtual Applications running on AIX to PowerVM hypervisors and how this had hidden benefits for Virtual Systems as well. This is a great example of how an enhancement to Virtual Applications can sometimes benefit Virtual Systems. However, this is not the only instance where the two pattern types intersect.
Several other new or enhanced features that are primarily for Virtual Applications are also being extended to benefit and improve Virtual Systems ... and vice-versa. One such area of improvement involves Shared Service in v3.1. These services were introduced in v3.0 specifically for the benefit of Virtual Applications. However, several enhancements have extended these capabilities to Virtual Systems and likewise, some functionality that was previously only available to Virtual Systems has been extended to Virtual Applications in the form of Shared Services.
As you may already know, Shared Services were first introduced in v3.0 and are just what the name implies; services that are deployed by a cloud administrator and used by multiple virtual application deployments. Let's start by taking a look at the shared services available under Cloud -> Shared Services in v3.1. You will notice that there are now more shared services listed than there were in v3.0.
In addition to the familiar Caching Service and ELB Proxy Service (formerly Proxy Service) there are now additional entries for an External Caching Service and an External Application Monitoring Service. For simplicity let's just start from the top and go down the list, discussing the function of each service, what is new/improved for v3.1 with regard to virtual applications, and when applicable how this service can be used by virtual systems.
The Caching Service was introduced in v3.0. Its primary purpose is to cache HTTP session data using a highly scalable and fast in-memory cache. This is the same core technology that is included in our WebSphere eXtreme Scale and DataPower XC10 Caching appliance. To make use of this service all you need to do is deploy an instance of the Caching Service with the configuration parameters of your choice into a cloud group where you want to leverage that service. As you create virtual application patterns you simply select the Enable session caching check-box when you add a scaling policy. When this pattern is deployed it will be automatically configured to leverage the Caching Service for session persistence. It's as simple as that.
Several new features were introduced in v3.1 for the Caching Service. First, the Caching Service can now be launched with parameters to define the behavior for automatic scaling to meet the ever changing demands of your applications. Once set, Workload Deployer will manage this service to ensure sufficient capacity based upon your requirements, adding or removing containers. Second, and this is significant for Virtual System patterns, the caching service has been enhanced to add new operations to support listing, creating, and deleting various types of object grids. You can then use the WebSphere eXtreme Scale ObjectGrid APIs to persist and manage content in the grid from your application code from Virtual System deployments. This saves you the trouble of creating and configuring your own caching service for these purposes outside of the cloud and permits sharing of the service you have already configured - a nice savings.
Caching Service (External)
The External Caching Service is one of the new additions for v3.1. Let's say that you already have configured a caching solution for your enterprise using the DataPower XC10 appliance or a collective of appliances. It would be nice if you could leverage this same solution instead of launching yet another caching solution within your private cloud. Leveraging your existing solution would consolidate your caching needs and preserve the cloud resources for other purposes. With this new external caching service you can do just that. It provides you the ability to leverage an external caching solution for both your Virtual Application session persistence needs as well as your Virtual System and even non-cloud caching needs. Just point an instance of this external caching service at your DataPower XC10 caching solution and all of the HTTP session persistence needed by your virtual applications in the same cloud group will make use of the external caching service. You can also point multiple instances of the external caching service in multiple cloud groups to share the same XC10 appliance or collective.
Monitoring Application (External)
With the External Monitoring Application service you can deploy an External Application Monitoring service reference within a cloud group to point at a Tivoli Enterprise Monitoring Server installation outside of the cloud. The TEMS server must be at version 6.2.2 Fix Pack 5 or later. Once created, the Unix or Linux OS monitoring agents and the Workload monitoring agent that is provided for virtual application workloads will be automatically connected to the defined instance of the Tivoli server using the supplied primary and fail-over Tivoli Enterprise Management server, protocol, and port. This is especially useful if you want to consolidate all of your monitoring to a common console. As with the External Caching Solution, this enhancement also extends the integration capabilities of Virtual Application Patterns beyond the scope of your private cloud and allows you to consolidate and leverage investments you have already made.
ELB Proxy Service
The Proxy Service was first introduced in v3.0 and renamed to the ELB Proxy Service in v3.1 for clarity. As the name implies, its primary purpose is to provide routing and load balancing to multiple deployed web applications. As with the caching service, you deploy this service based upon your requirements for load and availability within a cloud group. When defining virtual application patterns to leverage this service you simply add a routing policy and define your virtual host name. When the virtual application pattern instance is deployed to the cloud group the necessary configuration will performed to add the virtual host name and configure your application environment to use the ELB Proxy Service. New in v3.1 is the capability to scale the ELB Proxy Service itself to meet the changing demands of your application mix.
One other item that I should point out (and to which I've already alluded) is that you can now deploy multiple instances of each of the shared services - one per cloud group. Shared services can also now be deployed using environment profiles. This was not previously the case in v3.0 where each service was a singleton for the appliance. Allowing multiple instances of shared services gives you the flexibility to configure the sharing of your services as necessary for your particular environment.
I hope this post has provided a useful overview of the value of shared services and the new capabilities introduced in v3.1. I also hope that you can see how these services make it easier to implement your solutions for both virtual applications and virtual systems within a private cloud environment and shed a little light on how we are continuing to improve IBM Workload Deployer. As always, these improvements are driven by the feedback we receive from you so please let us know what you think!
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.
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.
In a recent post, Joe Bohn detailed some of the new capabilities and enhancements that come along with the recently delivered IBM Workload Deployer v3.1. To be sure, there are many valuable new features such as PowerVM support for virtual application patterns, the Plugin Developer Kit, WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition v8, and more. Each of these topics probably merit their own post, but today I want to talk about something I did not mention above. Specifically, I want to talk about the announcements regarding the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool (ICCT) and what that means for IBM Workload Deployer users.
You may have read an earlier post that I wrote about the ICCT, but allow me a brief overview here. In short, the ICCT enables the construction of custom virtual images for use in IBM Workload Deployer. You use the tool to create virtual images, much like IBM Hypervisor Edition images, and then you can use those custom images (containing whatever content you need) to create your own custom virtual system patterns. The key point about the custom images you create with the ICCT is that they are dynamically configurable. That is, the tool helps you to create the images in such a way that you can defer configuration until deploy time rather than burning such configuration directly into an image. For those of you familiar with virtual image creation, you know this type of 'intelligent construction' is a huge step towards keeping image inventory at a reasonable level.
Okay, enough of a general overview for now. Let's talk about the two new items of note regarding IBM Workload Deployer v3.1 and the ICCT. The first thing you should know is that starting in IBM Workload Deployer v3.1, the ICCT is shipped with the appliance. This means that you do not need to go anywhere else in order to get your hands on the tool to start creating your custom images. You simply log into IBM Workload Deployer and click the download link on the appliance's welcome panel (shown in image below).
Getting your hands on the tool is one piece of the puzzle, but using it is quite another. While the ICCT has been available as an alphaWorks project for some time, that also implies that there has never been official support for the tool. That changes starting with IBM Workload Deployer v3.1. The ICCT is now a generally available product from IBM, and that means that it is fully and officially supported as well. Further, the images you create using the tool are also officially supported for use as building blocks of your IBM Workload Deployer virtual system patterns. For many of you who have been using the ICCT for some time, but have been hesitant to expand use because of the lack of a formal support statement, you should now feel free to charge forward!
I hope this helps clear up exactly what the new Image Construction and Composition Tool announcements that were part of IBM Workload Deployer v3.1 actually mean. I cannot wait to hear about how you all are putting the ICCT to use with IBM Workload Deployer. Finally, don't forget to send us any questions, comments, or other feedback that you may have regarding this or any other new feature in IBM Workload Deployer v3.1!
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!
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!
Application-centric cloud computing is the main thrust behind the new capabilities of IBM Workload Deployer v3.0. But what does that really mean? After all, application-centricity is really just a concept. Granted, it is an important concept, but it is fairly meaningless until it is put into action or implemented. IBM Workload Deployer does just that with its new Virtual Application Patterns (VAPs).
VAPs are the embodiment of the workload pattern approach I briefly discussed in an overview post a few weeks back. The idea with a VAP is to give the user an interface through which they can provide their application, specify dependencies, declare functional and non-functional requirements and then deploy. Of course application middleware is a part of the overall solution, but IBM Workload Deployer has the smarts to build, configure, and integrate the necessary infrastructure in order to support the user's application. This is completely hidden from the user, so they are liberated to focus on the application and its requirements.
If we scratch a bit further beneath the surface of a VAP, we see that these patterns contain three primary pieces. These primary pieces are components, links, and policies, and they are fundamental to understanding how virtual application patterns work. Let's start with the building blocks of VAPs, components. Put simply, components represent different resources and functionality profiles that make up your application environment. As an example, the IBM Workload Deployer Pattern for Web Applications is a VAP that contains components for an EAR file, WAR file, message queue, and any number of other components that are typical requirements for a web application. The components will certainly vary based on the workload type (i.e. the components included in a web application VAP would be different than those included in a batch application VAP), but they are the foundation of any VAP.
From the ground up, the next logical element we come to in the VAP is a link. A link is a way to declare a dependency or integration point between two components. As an example, consider a VAP with a WAR file component and a database component. You might draw a link between the WAR component and the database component to indicate that your web application uses or otherwise depends on the database. IBM Workload Deployer interprets this link, and takes it as a directive to configure the integration between the two components as a part of deployment. In this case, that may mean configuring a data source in the application's container. This is just a simple example, and an application may have any number of links between components.
Finally, we come to the policy element within the VAP. A policy is a way for a user to specify functional and non-functional requirements for their application environment. Users attach policies to the VAP, or to components in their VAP, and IBM Workload Deployer interprets and enforces those policies. In the context of a web application, one example of a policy could be a scaling policy. The scaling policy might indicate scaling requirements for the application that included minimum application instances, maximum application instances, and conditions that triggered scaling activities. IBM Workload Deployer would use the information in a scaling policy within a VAP to appropriately manage the deployed, running environment. Other examples of a scaling policy may include a JVM policy that provides configuration directives for the java virtual machines in your application environment or a logging policy that defines logging configuration options. In any case, the policy element allows VAP builders to influence the configuration and management of the application environment.
In the example VAP below you can see the use of components (Enterprise Application, Database, User Registry, Messaging Service), links (blue lines between components), and policies (Scaling Policy, JVM Policy):
In total, when I look at a VAP a particular word sticks out to me: declarative. VAPs really enable declarative, application-centric cloud computing. What do I mean? By declarative, I mean you are telling IBM Workload Deployer what you want, but not necessarily how you want it done. It is the job of IBM Workload Deployer to take care of the how. This shift in approach to application environments enables the potential for significant savings, and more importantly to me, lays the foundation for a more agile, flexible approach to deploying and managing application environments.
There will be more in the weeks and months to come on IBM Workload Deployer, so stay tuned. I also want to put a plug in for a new blog from Jason McGee. For those that do not know Jason, he is an IBM Distinguished Engineer, and the lead architect behind IBM Workload Deployer. Be sure to check out his blog for insights on this new offering, as well as for all things cloud.