A while back I co-authored an article along with Chris Ahl from Tivoli and Ken Klingensmith from WebSphere Technical Sales about the customization of virtual images in WebSphere CloudBurst. In the article we approached image customization as a means to enable IBM Tivoli Monitoring for the operating system within virtual machines dispensed by WebSphere CloudBurst. Today I posted a short demonstration that discusses and shows this particular integration scenario. If you are interested, but haven't had time to read the article, you may want to watch the video first as it should give you a good overview of the process and results.
Talk of Tivoli reminds me that IBM Pulse 2010 is just around the corner. I'll be going to discuss WebSphere CloudBurst and how it can be paired with software from IBM Tivoli for high-value integration scenarios. In the session I'll be talking about the Tivoli Monitoring integration as well as other key points such as our integration with Tivoli Service Automation Manager, IBM CloudBurst, and more. The best part about the session is that I will be co-presenting alongside a WebSphere CloudBurst customer that will dole out practical advice for using WebSphere CloudBurst within the enterprise. Join us on Tuesday February 23rd from 3:30 - 4:30 in Conference Center 306.
Remember, any time you have questions about WebSphere CloudBurst please pass them along. You can leave comments on this blog, or you can reach me at my new Twitter location @damrhein.
As I have mentioned before, IBM Workload Deployer v3.0 introduces choices in pattern-based deployment models. One of those models, virtual system patterns, is a carry over from the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. When you use virtual system patterns in IBM Workload Deployer, you can take advantage of all of the techniques you put to use in WebSphere CloudBurst. This is certainly good news for current WebSphere CloudBurst users, but it goes a bit further. Instead of simply maintaining the status quo with virtual system patterns, which would have been reasonable considering the introduction of virtual application patterns, we chose to continue to expand on your customization options for this pattern deployment model. In particular, I want to discuss three new features in IBM Workload Deployer that may help you to better construct and manage virtual system patterns.
The first new feature is one that I have been eagerly awaiting. In the new version of the appliance, we provide you with the ability to specify part and script package ordering in your pattern. This means that, within the virtual system pattern editor, you can tell IBM Workload Deployer in which order to start the virtual machines in your pattern, and you can specify in which order to invoke the script packages within the pattern during deployment. This eliminates the need for special script invocation orchestration logic in your pattern (I had customers resorting to a semaphore like approach using a shared file system), and it allows you to be more declarative about the virtual machine bring-up process. There are constraints, specifically with the part ordering. Some images will impose an implied part start-up order that you cannot change. For instance, deployment manager parts in the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition image must start before custom node parts. The good news is the pattern editor will not allow you to specify a part start-up order that violates these constraints. The image below shows an example of the ordering view in the virtual system pattern editor.
Another new feature that may influence the way you build virtual system patterns is the introduction of Add-Ons. You can think of Add-Ons as special script packages that you can include in your virtual system pattern that perform system-level configuration actions. Specifically, you can include add-ons in your virtual system pattern to add an operating system user, add a virtual disk, or add a NIC during the deployment process. You include Add-Ons in your pattern by simply dragging and dropping them onto a part in your pattern, just as you do with script packages today. The difference between script packages and Add-Ons is that IBM Workload Deployer will ensure the invocation of all Add-Ons before any other scripts run during deployment. We include default Add-On implementations for adding a user, disk, and NIC.
The last new feature I want to talk about today has more to do with how you manage or govern the deployment of virtual system patterns. In WebSphere CloudBurst 2.0, we introduced the idea of Environment Profiles as a way to extend your customization reach into the deployment process. Initially, these profiles gave you the ability to directly assign IP addresses to virtual machines in your deployment, declaratively specify virtual machine naming formats, and easily split a single pattern deployment across multiple cloud groups. In IBM Workload Deployer, you will be able to use these same profiles to set resource consumption limits for pattern deployments. In particular, you will be able to set cumulative limits for virtual CPU, memory, storage, and software licenses used by deployments tied to a specific profile, thereby giving you finer-grained control over cloud resource consumption. The picture below shows the new resource limit aspects of environment profiles.
Virtual system patterns are key in the deployment model choices for IBM Workload Deployer. Not only did we carry the concept over from WebSphere CloudBurst to IBM Workload Deployer, but we made it even better. Expect this trend to continue!
I was very encouraged by the consistently positive response we got at IMPACT for our WebSphere CloudBurst and Rational Automation Framework for WebSphere (RAFW) integration. I believe there were many reasons for this response: accelerated time to value, decreased investment needs for activities that are not core to your business, lowered barrier of entry for provisioning and configuring WebSphere cells, and much more. While those are certainly all very real and valuable benefits, I also believe that quite a bit of interest in this integrated solution comes from the fact that it is applicable to a number of needs common to you, our WebSphere users.
With that in mind, let's look at some (not all) of the scenarios where WebSphere CloudBurst and RAFW integration can help you:
Create WebSphere CloudBurst patterns that include configuration without scripting: Users love our WebSphere CloudBurst patterns. They really see the value in codifying both the topology and configuration of their application infrastructure. However, some users do not have existing WebSphere configuration scripts and do not have the time and/or resource to invest in creating these scripts. They are looking for a solution that provides not only the provisioning of WebSphere environments but also the configuration of said environments (configuration beyond what our IBM Hypervisor Edition images encapsulate, specifically application-oriented configuration). RAFW provides this capability in the form of 500+ out-of-the-box configuration actions for WebSphere environments. This includes actions to create JDBC resources, create JMS queues, deploy applications, configure application containers, and much, much more. You can create WebSphere CloudBurst patterns that contain a special script package, which points back to a RAFW project containing a set of configuration actions. During deployment, WebSphere CloudBurst will provision your WebSphere environment and then cause the invocation of the specified RAFW project, which in turn runs a set of configuration actions against the provisioned environment. This means you can set up full-blown, ready-to-go application environments with absolutely no user-supplied scripting. In fact, I took this approach to setup a J2EE performance benchmark application, DayTrader 2.0, running on WebSphere Application Server. Those of you familiar with the application know this is not a trivial environment to stand up. Yet, I did it without having to personally write a single line of configuration scripting, and it was all ready to go in around thirty minutes.
Creating WebSphere CloudBurst patterns from existing environments: This comes up all the time. I go through a standard introduction to WebSphere CloudBurst, users see the value, love the patterns-based approach, and immediately want to know how they get their existing environments into the form of a pattern. RAFW, along with the special WebSphere CloudBurst script package, can make this a straightforward and hardened process. You use a capability in RAFW to import the configuration of an existing cell, thereby creating a RAFW environment for that configuration. You then create a WebSphere CloudBurst pattern with a topology congruent to your existing environment, attach the special script package I mentioned earlier, and you are done with the import! When you deploy this pattern, you simply specify the RAFW environment that you created earlier (the one that holds the configuration data for your existing environment) and a RAFW project that will apply the configuration data in that RAFW environment to the WebSphere environment provisioned by WebSphere CloudBurst. The creation of the WebSphere environment, as well as its configuration, happens in a completely automated fashion.
Configure, capture, reuse: There are many situations that may require you to make manual changes to a WebSphere cell after it has been deployed. For example, during performance testing for your application, you might discover that you need to tweak the number of available threads in the web container. As another example, for the first setup of a given application environment, you may want to quickly deploy the cell using WebSphere CloudBurst and then manually install and configure your applications to make sure everything is just right. In either case, it is likely that you want to capture the updated configuration and make sure that any future deployments use those updates. Again, WebSphere CloudBurst and RAFW makes this simple. First, you build a pattern that encapsulates your WebSphere topology (the types and quantity of nodes you want) and attach the special script package mentioned above. For the first deployment, you simply specify the name of the new RAFW environment you want to create. Once the system is up, you log into the WebSphere administration console, make your necessary customizations, and then you use RAFW to import that updated configuration thus updating the initially created RAFW environment. For subsequent deployments, you simply deploy the same pattern, specifying the same RAFW environment as well as a RAFW project, which RAFW automatically created for you during the first deployment. This project applies the configuration (the one you manually established and imported into RAFW) to the WebSphere environment setup by WebSphere CloudBurst.
Configure WebSphere environments across virtual and physical settings: It seems that in many cases our users manage the same WebSphere environment across both virtual and physical settings. For example, they may provision the application environment using WebSphere CloudBurst for everything from development to pre-production, and then for production provision that same environment to a set of physical servers. At least, they try to provision the same environment. In reality, it is tough to reproduce the exact same configuration once you break from the WebSphere CloudBurst patterns-based approach. However, if you stored the configuration of your WebSphere cell as a RAFW environment, you could apply that configuration data to a WebSphere cell regardless of whether it existed in the physical or virtual world. Once you move to physical, you do lose out on the fast provisioning, WebSphere intelligence, cloud management capabilities, and automated integration with RAFW that you get when using WebSphere CloudBurst, but if it is in your process to move to physical hardware at some point, reusing the same RAFW environment certainly eases the migration task.
I hope this sheds some light on some of the common issues WebSphere CloudBurst and the Rational Automation Framework for WebSphere can combine to solve really well. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but really meant to point out the broad application of the solution. If you want to see how it works, check out this video.
I’m going to take a different approach this week in the blog. Instead of me telling you about some of the features or uses of WebSphere CloudBurst, I thought I would catch up with someone using the product everyday, WebSphere Test Architect Robbie Minshall. Robbie is responsible for a team of testers that harness a lab of over 2,000 physical machines to put our WebSphere Application Server product through some pretty rigorous testing. Toward the beginning of this year Robbie’s team started to leverage the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance in order to create the WebSphere Application Server environments needed for their testing.
Robbie, can you tell us a little bit about what the WebSphere Application Server test efforts entail?
In WebSphere Application Server development and test we have two primary scenarios. The first is making sure that developers have rapid access to code, test cases and server topologies so that they can write code, test cases and then execute test scenarios on meaningful topologies. The second scenario is an automated daily regression where in response to a build, we provision a massive amount of WebSphere Application Server topologies and execute our automated regression tests.
Previously we have supported these scenarios through the deployment of the Tivoli Provisioning Manager for operating system provisioning, some applications for checking out environments, and then a lot of automation scripts for the silent install and configuration of WebSphere Application Server cells.
Given those scenarios and the existing solution, what are your motivations for setting up a private cloud using WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance?
We are supporting these scenarios through a pretty complicated combination of technologies. These include silent WAS install scripts, wsadmin configuration scripts, a custom hardware leasing application and the utilization of Tivoli Provisioning Manager for OS Provisioning. This solution is working very well for us though as always we are looking for areas to improve, opportunities to simplify and to reduce our dependency on investment in our custom automation scripts. Mainly, there were 3 areas where we wanted to improve our framework: Availability, Utilization and Management. This is why we started looking to the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance.
Can you expand a bit on what you are looking for in those three areas?
The first focus area we have is availability of environments. We really wanted to lower the entry requirement for the skills and education necessary to get a development or test environment. Setting up these environments has just been too hard, too time consuming, and too error prone. Using WebSphere CloudBurst we can provide an easy push button solution for developers to get on-demand access to the topologies they need.
The second area we are looking for significant improvements on is hardware utilization. Our budgets are tight and in our native automation pools we are only using between 6-12% of the available physical resources. In order to improve this we were looking at leveraging virtualization. WebSphere CloudBurst offers the classic benefit of virtualization with the nice additions of optimized WebSphere Application Server placement and really good topology and pattern management. In our initial experiments we were able to push the hardware utilization up to 90% of physical capacity and consistently were leveraging around 70% of our physical capacity.
Finally we are looking to improve and simplify our management of physical resources and automation. We work in a lot of small agile teams and organizational priorities change from iteration to iteration. Not only does WebSphere CloudBurst allow us to maintain a catalog of topologies or patterns for releases but it also allows us to adjust physical resource allocation to teams through the use of sub clouds or cloud groups.
Basically we felt that WebSphere CloudBurst would improve the availability of application environments, enhance automation, and improve hardware utilization all with very low physical and administrative costs.
What were some of the challenges involved with getting a cloud up and running in your test department?
One of our challenges seems like it would be common to many scenarios, especially in today’s world. Our budget for new hardware to build out our cloud infrastructure was initially very limited. Most cloud infrastructure designs depict very ideal hardware scenarios including SANs, large multicore machines, and private and public networks within a dedicated lab. Quite frankly we did not have the budget to create this from scratch. It was important for us to demonstrate value and data to warrant future investment in dedicated infrastructure. After some performance comparisons we were very happily surprised to see that we could leverage our existing mixed hardware within a distributed cloud. The performance of application environments dispensed by WebSphere CloudBurst on many small existing boxes in comparison to large multicore machines with a SAN was very comparable. This allows us to leverage existing hardware, with minimal investment all the while demonstrating the value and efficiencies of cloud computing. That data in turn has allowed us to obtain new dedicated hardware to iteratively build up a larger lab specifically for use with WebSphere CloudBurst.
Specifically with WebSphere CloudBurst, are there any tips/hints you would offer users getting started with the appliance?
Sure. First, we quickly realized as we added hypervisors to our WebSphere CloudBurst setup it was critical to have someone with network knowledge on hand. This is because the hypervisors came from various sections of our lab, and we really needed people with knowledge of how the network operated in those different sections. Once we had the right people we were able to setup WebSphere CloudBurst and deploy patterns within an hour and a half.
Moving forward we continued to have challenges as we dynamically moved systems between our native hardware pool and our cloud. Occasionally the WebSphere CloudBurst administrator would move a system into the cloud but incorrectly configure the network or storage information. This lead to some misconfigured hypervisors polluting our cloud. We overcame this, quite simply and satisfactorily I may add, by creating some simple WebSphere CloudBurst CLI scripts which add the hypervisors, test them individually, by carrying out a small deployment to that hypervisor, and then move the correctly configured hypervisors into the cloud after verifying success. Misconfigured hypervisors go into a pool for problem determination. This has allowed us to maintain a clean cloud, and we are able to dynamically move our hardware in and out of the cloud to meet our business objectives.
We also use the WebSphere CloudBurst CLI to prime the cloud so to speak. Before using a given hypervisor in our cloud, we execute scripts that ensure each unique virtual image in our catalog has been deployed to each of our hypervisors at least once. When the image is first deployed to a hypervisor, a cache is created on the hypervisor side of the connection, thus meaning subsequent deployments do not require the entire image to be transferred over the wire. This gives us consistent and fast deployment times once we are using a hypervisor in our cloud.
I would assume that like many applications deployed on WebSphere Application Server, your team’s applications have several external dependencies. Some of these dependencies won’t necessarily be in the cloud, so how did you handle this?
You’re right about the external dependencies. Our applications and test cases run on the WebSphere Application Server but are dependent upon many external resources such as databases, LDAP servers, external web services etc. WebSphere CloudBurst allows us to deploy WAS topologies in a very dynamic and configurable way but the 1.0.1 version does not allow us to deploy these external resources in the same manner. This was overcome by using script packages in our patterns. These script packages allow us to associate our test applications with various patterns we have defined. The script package definition also allows us to pass in parameters to the execution of our scripts. We supply these parameter values during deploy time, and these values are used to convey the name or location of various external resources. The scripts that install our applications can access these values and ensure the application is properly integrated with the set of resources not managed by the appliance.
What is your team looking to do next with WebSphere CloudBurst and their private cloud?
The next challenge on our plate is to keep up with the demand of our expanding cloud and to develop a more dynamic relationship between our native pools and our cloud using the Tivoli Provisioning Manager. These are fun challenges to have and we look forward to sharing our progress.
I'm glad I got to spend some time with Robbie to glean some insight into their work and progress with WebSphere CloudBurst. I hope this information was useful to you. It's always nice to hear about a product from practitioners who can give you hints, tips, gotchas, and other useful information. Be sure to let me know if you have any questions about what Robbie and his team are doing with WebSphere CloudBurst.
If you are reading this blog then I am pretty sure that you are interested in the agility that can be achieved by rapidly provisioning middleware systems and standing up virtual applications in a private cloud environment. However there are other aspects of agility that you should also consider. One such aspect is the ability to build applications that can be easily maintained, updated, and extended. This is where OSGi technology comes into the picture.
If you have been working with the IBM Workload Deployer (or watching some IBM Workload Deployer demos) you may have noticed a category of components in the virtual application builder called OSGi Components.
Maybe you already know all about OSGi applications and the value they bring to an enterprise. Or, perhaps you noticed this and decided that you would search for some more information on this odd acronym and just what an OSGi application is all about.
In a nutshell OSGi technology is a way to define dynamic modules for Java. It provides a standard way to encapsulate components (called bundles) with metadata that define versioned package dependencies, service dependencies, packages exported, services exported, etc... basically everything you need to know about this bundle so that it can be connected up with other bundles to support a particular solution. These bundles can then be grouped together into applications and dynamically wired to fulfill necessary dependencies at runtime. The OSGi framework provides all of the necessary capability to manage the dependencies and resolve any problems.
Those who leverage OSGi technology benefit from improved time-to-market and reduced development costs. The loose coupling provided by the OSGi framework reduces maintenance costs and facilitates the dynamic delivery of components in a running system. Of course there's a lot more to it than just that ... involving portability across different environments, achieving the appropriate level of isolation or sharing within an environment, and integrating with the many different technologies and patterns already available today. I don't think I know enough about OSGi to do it justice here. But fortunately for me (and you) there are several experts who can make it all clear.
One such expert is Graham Charters and there is a great opportunity to hear him introduce this topic and also participate in a dialogue about the concepts and what they mean for your business. Graham will be leading a Global WebSphere Community Lab Chat on Wednesday of this week (July 20th) entitled: How can OSGi make your enterprise more agile. Graham is the IBM technical lead in the OSGi Alliance Enterprise Expert Group and an active participant in the open source community implementing many of these standards. So register now for this free session and learn how OSGi can make your enterprise even more agile.
I was at a customer meeting the other day, and someone asked me if they could query WebSphere CloudBurst for an inventory of all of their virtual system deployments. This person was of course aware that he could go to the web console and very quickly view all of the virtual systems. What he wanted though was something that he could run to generate a report that contained all of this information. For a purpose like this, harnessing the WebSphere CloudBurst CLI is exactly the way to go.
I thought I'd write a simple CLI script that provides an example of how you could do this.
from datetime import datetime
outFile.write("WebSphere CloudBurst Virtual System Inventory\n")
outFile.write("Total virtual systems: " + str(len(cloudburst.virtualsystems)))
def writeVSDetails(outFile, virtualSystem):
outFile.write("\tVirtual system name: " + virtualSystem.name)
outFile.write("\tCreated from pattern: " + virtualSystem.pattern.name)
outFile.write("\tVirtual system status: " + virtualSystem.currentstatus_text)
created = datetime.fromtimestamp(virtualSystem.created)
outFile.write("\tVirtual system creation date: " + created.strftime("%B %d, %Y %H:%M:%S"))
outFile.write("\tTotal virtual machines: " + str(len(virtualSystem.virtualmachines)))
def writeVMDetails(outFile, virtualMachine):
outFile.write("\t\tVirtual machine name: " + virtualMachine.name)
outFile.write("\t\tVirtual machine display name: " + virtualMachine.displayname)
outFile.write("\t\tCreated from image: " + virtualMachine.virtualimage.name)
outFile.write("\t\tVirtual machine hypervisor: " + virtualMachine.hypervisor.name + " | " + virtualMachine.hypervisor.address)
outFile.write("\t\tVirtual machine IP address: " + virtualMachine.ip.ipaddress)
outFileLoc = sys.argv
outFile = open(outFileLoc, 'w')
for virtualSystem in cloudburst.virtualsystems:
for virtualMachine in virtualSystem.virtualmachines:
As a result of invoking this script using the CLI's batch mode, content is written to the file location supplied by the caller.
WebSphere CloudBurst Virtual System Inventory
Total virtual systems: 3
Virtual system name: Single server
Created from pattern: WebSphere single server
Virtual system status: Started
Virtual system creation date: January 15, 2010 16:37:20
Total virtual machines: 1
Virtual machine name: Standalone 0
Virtual machine display name: Single server cbvm-110 default
Created from image: WebSphere Application Server 22.214.171.124
Virtual machine hypervisor: Ruth ESX | https://<hypervisor_host>/sdk
Virtual machine IP address: <ip_address>
Virtual system name: Development WAS Cluster
Created from pattern: Custom WAS Cluster - Development
Virtual system status: Started
Virtual system creation date: January 18, 2010 14:08:46
Total virtual machines: 2
Virtual machine name: DMGR 0
Virtual machine display name: Development WAS Cluster cbvm-112 dmgr
Created from image: WebSphere Application Server 126.96.36.199
Virtual machine hypervisor: Ruth ESX | https://<hypervisor_host>/sdk
Virtual machine IP address: <ip_address>
Virtual machine name: Custom Node 1
Virtual machine display name: Development WAS Cluster cbvm-111 custom
Created from image: WebSphere Application Server 188.8.131.52
Virtual machine hypervisor: Ruth ESX | https://<hypervisor_host>/sdk
Virtual machine IP address: <ip_address>
Virtual system name: DB2 for development use
Created from pattern: DB2
Virtual system status: Started
Virtual system creation date: January 18, 2010 14:09:58
Total virtual machines: 1
Virtual machine name: DB2 Enterprise Server 32bit Trial 0
Virtual machine display name: DB2 for development use cbvm-113
Created from image: DB2 Enterprise 184.108.40.206 32-bit Trial
Virtual machine hypervisor: Ruth ESX | https://<hypervisor_host>/sdk
Virtual machine IP address: <ip_address>
I withheld IP addresses and host names above for obvious reasons, but if you ran the script against your environment you would see actual host name and IP address values. The script above is written once, and it can be subsequently run anytime you want an inventory of virtual systems running in your WebSphere CloudBurst cloud. There's other information available for virtual systems and virtual machines that I didn't show here, and you can retrieve it if necessary for your inventory report. In addition, I chose to print this information as regular text in a file supplied by the caller, but you might choose to generate the report in another format including XML, JSON, or anything else for that matter.
-- Dustin Amrhein
p.s. As with any sample code or script I provide here, the above is only a sample and offered as-is.
One of my favorite things to do with users or potential users of WebSphere CloudBurst is to help them understand how they can construct a custom environment using the appliance. Typically, we take one of their existing application environments and discuss the configuration steps that contribute to its makeup. From there, we map the required configuration actions to different customization capabilities in the appliance. It is one thing to talk about how you can customize every layer of your application stack with WebSphere CloudBurst, it is quite another to talk about it in the context of an existing environment. This exercise usually serves to greatly enhance a user's understanding of how to construct tailored environments with the appliance.
While I cannot take every one of you through this exercise in the context of one of your own application environments, I can propose a scenario that will help to illustrate the WebSphere CloudBurst customization process. Consider that I want to deploy a clustered WebSphere Application Server environment whose application server instances utilize WebSphere DataPower XC10 for HTTP session management. In order to deploy such an environment, I would need to do the following:
Install an OS and WAS
Install the WebSphere eXtreme Scale Client binaries - required for integration
Construct a clustered cell
Augment profiles with WebSphere eXtreme Scale profile templates
Configure the application server instances to use WebSphere DataPower XC10 for session management
So those are the steps, but how do they map to WebSphere CloudBurst? First, I know that the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition image used by WebSphere CloudBurst encapsulates the installation of the OS and WAS. I also know that WebSphere CloudBurst will automatically construct the clustered cell during the deployment process. That means I need to address the installation of client binaries, augmentation of profiles, and configuration of application server instances. In order to do this, I will use a combination of image extension and custom script packages.
To get started, I extend an existing WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition image and simply install the WebSphere eXtreme Scale Client binaries. I then capture that image and store it as my own unique image in the WebSphere CloudBurst catalog. Now, you may wonder why I did not capture the profile augmentation in the custom image. Remember, you cannot change profile configuration during the extend and capture process as WebSphere CloudBurst resets the profiles as part of capturing the custom image.
My custom image encapsulates the installation of the client binaries, so now I turn to custom script packages. I need two in this case. One script package will augment a profile (either deployment manager or custom node) with the WebSphere eXtreme Scale profile template. The second script package will configure application server instances to use WebSphere DataPower XC10 for HTTP session management. Once done with these script packages, I have all the assets I need to build my target environment.
Using my custom image, I build a pattern that contains the number and kind of WebSphere Application Server nodes that I want. I use the advanced options to define a WebSphere Application Server cluster ensuring its creation happens during deployment. Next, I drag and drop the profile augmentation script onto the deployment manager and custom node parts in my pattern. Finally, I drag and drop the WebSphere DataPower XC10 configuration script onto the deployment manager. The pattern is now ready to deploy!
For those of you that are visual learners like me, this demonstration provides a nice overview of exactly what I wrote about above. Check it out and let me know what you think.
One of my favorite books from childhood is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Although targeted at children, the book illustrates a frequently occurring human behavior that is important for all of us understand. That behavior is the tendency for escalating expectations. The book offers this up by starting out with the simple action of giving a mouse a cookie. The mouse in turn asks for a glass of milk, various flavors of cookies, and on and on, until the mouse circles back to asking for another cookie.
Nearly all of us exhibit this same kind of behavior, and it can often produce positive results. In particular, in IT we always push for the next best thing or a slightly better outcome. Personally, I am no stranger to this behavior because I experience it from WebSphere CloudBurst users quite frequently. In these cases, it usually revolves around one particular outcome: speed of deployment.
Bar none, users of WebSphere CloudBurst are experiencing unprecedented deployment times for the environments they dispense through the appliance. The fact that we say you can deploy meaningful enterprise application environments in a matter of minutes is far beyond just marketing literature. Our users prove it everyday. However, just because they are deploying things faster than ever does not mean they are content to rest on those achievements. They want to push the envelope, and I love it.
For our users looking to achieve even speedier deployment times, I offer up one reminder and one tip. First, analyze all of your script packages to ensure you are using the right means of customization. If you have some scripts that run for considerably longer than most other script packages, you may want to at least consider applying that customization by creating a custom image. You still need to adhere to the customization principles outlined here, but you may benefit from applying the customization in an image once and avoiding the penalty for applying it during every deployment. You may also be able to break this customization out with a combination of a custom image and script packages. For instance, instead of having a script that installs and configures monitoring agents, you may install the agents in a custom image and configure them during deployment. Being selective about how and when you apply customizations can go a long way in improving your deployment times.
In addition to the reminder above, I also have a tip. Take a look at all of the script packages you use in pattern deployments and look to see if there are any that you can apply in an asynchronous manner. In other words, identify customizations that need to start, but not necessarily complete as part of the deployment process. Going back to our example of configuring monitoring agents during the deployment process, it may be important to kick off the configuration script during deployment, but is it crucial to wait on the results? Maybe not. If it is not, consider defining the executable argument in your script package in a manner that kicks off the execution and proceeds -- i.e. nohup executable command &. This approach can save deployment time in certain situations.
My advice to users of WebSphere CloudBurst: keep pushing your deployment process! Pare as many minutes off the process as you can. I hope that the tips above help in that regard, and be sure to pass along other techniques that you have found helpful.
In the course of my job, I am lucky to be able to work with both enterprise users and business partners who are adopting and using the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. When it comes to the business partner camp, one of my absolute favorites is the Haddon Hill Group. The Haddon Hill Group is an IBM Premier Business Partner, and they have been an early adopter and vocal advocate of the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. They have extensive knowledge of the use of the appliance in enterprise accounts, and quite frankly, they are doing some really cool things with WebSphere CloudBurst.
Given the above, I was glad to see summarized results from their various implementations made available recently on the IBM site. The summary is fairly concise, so I encourage you to take a look at the results Haddon Hill Group is getting with WebSphere CloudBurst.
I am not going to rehash the contents of the results here, but there are a couple of things I want to call out. First off, Haddon Hill Group says that WebSphere CloudBurst can provide companies with a '100 times faster time to market' delivery experience. In a practical sense, this means reducing the amount of time to deliver WebSphere environments from 40-60 days on average to just hours. That is an eye-opening data point!
The other thing I want call out here is a quote from Phil Schaadt, President and CTO, Haddon Hill Group. I have had the pleasure of working with Phil and team, and I have heard him echo these same sentiments many times:
"The important thing about the IBM WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance is that it will dispense a WebSphere Application Server image onto your WebSphere Application Server environment or private cloud along with other products within the WebSphere stack, and that application server will be ready in a few minutes. You can do it in a clustered environment, and you can even roll out IBM WebSphere Process Server and get it right in a fully clustered environment with a database connection, in about 90 minutes. You can also easily manage all the configurations of IBM WebSphere Process Server that you need. All the steps that took up so much time and effort on the part of IT staff have been removed. The savings for companies with large WebSphere implementations can be in the millions."
It is always great to see clients putting our technology to use to produce tangible business value. Again, I encourage you to take a look at these reports. As always, I am eager to hear what you think, so leave me a comment or reach out to me on Twitter @damrhein.
One of the most powerful features of WebSphere CloudBurst is the ability to take one of the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition virtual images that are shipped with the appliance and extend it to a produce a custom virtual image. This allows users to begin creating customized environments from the bottom up, starting with the operating system. To put it in better context, let's take a look at a couple of scenarios where this feature comes in quite handy.
First off, a very common need for our customers is the ability to continually monitor their application environments. For instance, you may install Tivoli monitoring agents on all of your machines hosting WebSphere Application Server processes and configure those agents to report back to a management server. This is a great case for image extension in WebSphere CloudBurst.
In this scenario, you would start by extending an existing WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition image. WebSphere CloudBurst creates a running virtual machine based off of the selected image, and you log into that virtual machine and install the Tivoli monitoring agents. Once the installation is done, you capture the virtual image back into the WebSphere CloudBurst catalog and use the new image to build a custom pattern. The last step is to include a script package on this custom pattern that, upon deployment, will configure the installed monitoring agents to report back to your desired management server.
Another use case is likely to be of interest to you if you are using WebSphere Virtual Enterprise (or something similar), and you could benefit from the same ease of provisioning for those environments that WebSphere CloudBurst brings to WebSphere Application Server environments. You can use the same customization combination above (image extension and custom scripts) to enable WebSphere CloudBurst to essentially dispense WebSphere Virtual Enterprise cells.
Again, this scenario starts off by extending a WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition virtual image. Once the virtual machine for the extension is created by WebSphere CloudBurst, you log in and install the WebSphere Virtual Enterprise product. After the installation is done, you capture the image and store it in the catalog. Next, you build a custom pattern based off of this image and include script packages that, upon deployment, augment the various parts in the pattern from WebSphere Application Server profiles to WebSphere Virtual Enterprise profiles. (You may wonder why you wouldn't just create the WebSphere Virtual Enterprise profiles during the image extension process. This is because during image extension, you cannot make changes to the virtual disk that contains the WebSphere Application Server profiles. Any changes made to the profiles will be wiped out during the capture process.)
There are countless more scenarios for creating custom virtual images in WebSphere CloudBurst. To name a few, you may want to install JDBC drivers that are common to almost all of your application environments, install required anti-virus software, or just make operating system configuration changes. All of these things can be accomplished through the image extension and capture process. Look for an article coming out soon that will discuss and explain, in much greater detail than I provided here, the process of installing and configuring Tivoli monitoring agents in environments dispensed by WebSphere CloudBurst. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, drop us a line here or check out our forum.
When it comes to managing users and user groups within WebSphere CloudBurst, you can choose to manage all aspects of those resources within the appliance. Mainly this means that you can define and store user information (including login passwords) within the appliance, and you can define and maintain user groups and their associated membership list on the appliance. While you can do this and be sure that your information is extremely secure, you may instead want to integrate with an existing LDAP server that has some of this user and user group data. WebSphere CloudBurst certainly allows you to integrate with LDAP servers, but what does that mean for you?
For starters, when you integrate WebSphere CloudBurst with an LDAP server and enable the LDAP authentication feature, you no longer specify password information when defining users of the appliance. When users login, the password they specify will be authenticated against information stored in the LDAP server. Naturally, if you add a new WebSphere CloudBurst user with LDAP authentication enabled, that user must be defined in the LDAP server. Otherwise, WebSphere CloudBurst will prevent you from adding the user because it has no way to authenticate that person.
From a user groups standpoint, integrating with LDAP means you can no longer modify user group membership. User membership in groups is determined by information in the LDAP server. As a result, the same rule concerning adding new users applies when adding new user groups: You cannot define new user groups that do not exist in the LDAP server.
If you want to take a look at what LDAP integration looks like with WebSphere CloudBurst, I put together a short video. Let me know what you think.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a sample I was working on that would allow one to apply a layer of governance to their WebSphere CloudBurst patterns. Earlier this morning, I posted the sample to the WebSphere CloudBurst Samples Gallery under the 'Sample CLI Scripts for WebSphere CloudBurst' section. The name of the new sample is 'Check WebSphere CloudBurst patterns', and you can download it here.
As hinted in my earlier post, the new sample is a simple way to check your patterns against assertions you supply in a properties file. It allows you to check that patterns contain the correct parts and scripts, and it allows you to verify that they were built from valid images. The assertion format is pretty basic, but it should be flexible enough to allow you to check patterns against a wide array of requirements. The sample archive includes a readme file that explains exactly how to use the script, and it contains a sample assertions file to give you an idea of the input syntax.
I hope this helps to address some of the requirements of many WebSphere CloudBurst users that told me they were in need of a way to apply governance to their patterns. If you have any questions about the sample, please let me know. Alternatively, if you have another idea or a problem you would like to see addressed by a sample in our gallery, please let me know.
If you frequently find yourself setting up and tearing down application environments that run on offerings from the WebSphere portfolio (like WebSphere Application Server or WebSphere Process Server), I have little doubt that you see the benefit of WebSphere CloudBurst. The appliance allows you to setup these environments with unprecedented speed and extreme simplicity. In fact, WebSphere CloudBurst makes it so simple and fast to setup these environments, it would be surprising if you did not spin up more WebSphere application environments with WebSphere CloudBurst than you did before your adoption of the appliance. Soon, you will find yourself faced with another challenge: that of managing and governing an increasingly growing ecosystem of your application environments.
From the beginning, WebSphere CloudBurst focused on the complete lifecycle for WebSphere application environments in an on-premise cloud. Therefore, in addition to easily creating and deploying these environments, the appliance delivers many features that help you manage and govern the dispensed virtual systems. This includes capabilities such as usage monitoring, fix and upgrade application, and virtual system state management. In the recently announced WebSphere CloudBurst 2.0, management capabilities go a step further, and now you can manage software license usage for your on-premise cloud.
What does it mean to be able to manage your software licenses? Well, in the new version of the appliance (firmware released planned for June 18th), as you dispense environments, WebSphere CloudBurst will keep track of the PVUs you are consuming for the particular IBM software you are instantiating. In doing this, it accounts for the physical machine architecture on which the supporting hypervisor sits, and it takes into account the IBM subcapacity/virtualization licensing policy. This means you can get an accurate view of your PVU usage at any point, and the appliance can produce a highwater mark report for any product over a date period you specify. This is license counting made easy!
In addition to simply tracking your PVU usage, you can optionally configure enforcement behavior. Enforcement behavior tells the appliance what to do when you exceed your PVU threshold for a particular product. You have three basic options: Ignore, Warn, Enforce. In Ignore mode, nothing happens when you exceed your PVU entitlement for a given product. Deployments that use those products continue to deploy as usual. In Warn mode, deployments for products for which you have exceeded your PVU entitlement continue as usual, but appliance administrators receive an email warning them of the situation. Lastly, in Enforce mode deployments that will put you over your PVU threshold for a given product simply fail. This prevents you or deployers using your appliance from overstepping your entitlement.
The software license management features in WebSphere CloudBurst 2.0 really add to the overall management capabilities of the appliance. I want to be sure to reiterate that the configuration of enforcement behavior, specifically the Warn and Enforce modes, is optional. It is not required from IBM. The software license management capabilities delivered in WebSphere CloudBurst 2.0 are purely meant to enhance your capability to manage and govern environments in your on-premise cloud. If you are interested in seeing this in action, check out this short video.
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?
During the week of IMPACT this year, we announced the launch of the WebSphere CloudBurst Samples Gallery. You can go to this gallery to find and download sample script packages, CLI scripts, and other tools that we hope help you in your endeavors with the appliance. The samples are free to use and offered in an "as-is" fashion.
While I certainly will not write about each and every sample we post out there, I did want to bring your awareness to a new one I just put up today. The new sample is neither a CLI script nor a script package, though you will find it in the script packages section of the gallery. Instead, the new sample is a tool that you can run to produce WebSphere CloudBurst script packages.
Specifically, the tool runs against a target WebSphere cell to produce a WebSphere CloudBurst script package that encapsulates that cell's configuration. The tool works by running the backupConfig command against the target cell. It packages the ZIP file that results from running the command into a special WebSphere CloudBurst script package that you can include in patterns which match the source cell in node quantity and type.
The script package produced by the tool packages logic to run the restoreConfig command using the backed up configuration from the source cell. This will apply the source configuration to a new WebSphere Application Server cell created as the result of deploying a pattern. In addition, the script package contains logic to handle the possibility of changing cell, node, and host names in the target environment.
The tool’s purpose is to help you accelerate the process of importing your existing WebSphere Application Server environments into the appliance as patterns (which is a problem I believe many of you would like to solve). It certainly does not handle everything you need to do to import environments. In fact, it has the same limitations as the backupConfig/restoreConfig utilities in WebSphere Application Server. However, I do believe that it makes it a little easier to start moving your existing environments into the appliance as new WebSphere CloudBurst patterns.
Check out this video to see a quick overview of the tool, and then go download it for free from the samples gallery. The ZIP file that you download has a readme file that gives specific detail about how to use this sample tool. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or feedback.