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.
If you are going to install and use WebSphere CloudBurst in your own environment, it is very likely that you would want at least two appliances. Perhaps you want to have a standby appliance in case of a failure on the main appliance, or maybe you have different teams that are looking to utilize the appliance in different data centers. In any case, once you install multiple appliances there's another requirement that will pop up pretty quickly. Naturally you are going to want to share custom artifacts among the various WebSphere CloudBurst boxes.
When I say custom artifacts, namely I mean virtual images, patterns, and script packages. Script packages have been easy enough to share since WebSphere CloudBurst 1.0 because you can simply download the ZIP file from one appliance and upload it to another. However, there are some enhancements in WebSphere CloudBurst 1.1 that make it easy to share both patterns and images among your different appliances.
As far as patterns go, there is a new script included in the samples directory of the WebSphere CloudBurst command line interface package called patternToPython.py. This script will transform a pattern you specify into a python script. The resulting python script can then be run against a different WebSphere CloudBurst (using the CLI), and the result is the pattern is created on the target appliance. You need to be sure that the artifacts that pattern references (script packages and virtual images) exist on the target appliance and have the exact same name as they do on the appliance from which the pattern was taken. There are no other caveats, and this new sample script makes it really simple to move patterns between appliances.
For virtual images, a new feature was added that allows you to export a virtual image from the WebSphere CloudBurst console. Simply select a virtual image, specify a remote machine (any machine with SCP enabled), and click a button to export the image as an OVA file. This OVA file can then be added to another WebSphere CloudBurst catalog using the normal process for adding virtual images. You can see this feature in action here.
Stay tuned for more information about some of the handy new features in WebSphere CloudBurst 1.1. We also should have a comprehensive look at the new release coming soon in a developerWorks article.
One of the key benefits of WebSphere CloudBurst adoption is rapid -- seriously fast -- deployments of middleware application environments. Our users are leveraging the appliance to bring up enterprise-class middleware environments in mere minutes. If you know a little bit about WebSphere CloudBurst, that statistic may be a little surprising considering the appliance dispenses large virtual images from the appliance over the network to a farm of hypervisors. You may ask how the appliance can achieve such rapid deployments in light of the mere physics involved in transferring large amounts of data over a network. The simple answer is caching of course!
WebSphere CloudBurst creates a cache for each unique virtual image on datastores associated with the hypervisors in your cloud. On subsequent deployments of the same virtual image to the same datastore, WebSphere CloudBurst does not need to transfer the image over the wire. It simply uses the virtual disks that are in the cache on the datastore. In the context of the virtual image cache, the deployment process goes something like this:
WebSphere CloudBurst identifies the images necessary to deploy the pattern selected by the user.
WebSphere CloudBurst identifies the hypervisors and associated datastores that will host the virtual machines created during deployment.
WebSphere CloudBurst checks the selected datastores to see if they already have caches for the images it will be deploying. From here, one of two things happens:
WebSphere CloudBurst detects that there is no cache on the datastore and transfers the images over to the hypervisor, thereby creating the cache on the underlying datastore.
WebSphere CloudBurst detects that there is a cache on the selected datastore and uses that cache in lieu of transferring the disk over the wire.
The process may sound complicated, but it is completely hidden from you, the user. You do not need to know how the cache works since WebSphere CloudBurst handles all of these interactions. So, why am I telling you all of this then? As a WebSphere CloudBurst user, it is good to be aware of the cache for two main reasons. First, you need to account for the storage space the cache needs when doing capacity planning for your WebSphere CloudBurst cloud. Second, anytime you upload or create a new image through extend and capture, I would strongly suggest you automatically prime the cache for this new image. You can do this by simply deploying a pattern built on the image to each unique hypervisor/datastore in your environment. This may take a temporary re-arrangement of cloud groups, but it is a simple process, and it guarantees rapid deployments for all users of the new image.
I hope this sheds a little light on a subject we do not discuss too often. As always, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to let me know!
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!
One of the new features that debuted in WebSphere CloudBurst 1.1 is the ability to resize the disks in a virtual image during the extend and capture (image customization) process. If you remember, the virtual images that exist in the WebSphere CloudBurst catalog are made of multiple virtual disks. In WebSphere CloudBurst 1.0 a default size was used for the virtual disks and this could not be changed, even during the image extension process. To be quite honest we got quite a bit of feedback about this, and so with version 1.1 while default sizes are still provided, you can specify the eventual size of each of the virtual disks during the image extension process.
As an example, consider the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition virtual image. This image contains four virtual disks: one for the WebSphere Application Server binaries, one for the WebSphere Application Server profiles, one for the IBM HTTP Server, and one for the operating system. The default size of each of these disks in the 220.127.116.11 version of the image is 6GB, 2GB, 1GB, and 12GB respectively, for a total of roughly 21GB. While that may be fine for some, what happens if you are going to be installing various other third-party software packages in the image? You may need more disk space for the operating system's virtual disk. Perhaps your WebSphere applications produce log files of considerable size. In that case you may want to increase the default size of the WebSphere Application Server profiles disk space.
Those scenarios and more are exactly why the resizing capability was added. When you extend the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition 18.104.22.168 virtual image in WebSphere CloudBurst 1.1, you will be presented the option to resize one or more of the virtual disks:
In the case above the default operating system disk size is bumped up to 16GB from the default 12GB size. Also note that in addition to changing the disk size, you can specify the number of network interfaces for your custom image.
Obviously, when you increase the size of the disks within the virtual image you are also increasing the storage requirements for that image when it is deployed to a hypervisor. Keep this in mind when you are calculating the upper bound capacity of your cloud. If you want to see more about how this feature works, check out this video.
Though I feel like we've come a long way in some of the initial confusion surrounding IBM CloudBurst and WebSphere CloudBurst, I still get quite a few basic questions on the solutions. The two most common questions are, 'Are they different products?', and 'Can/should I use them together?'. I put together a really brief overview that answers these questions and talks about the basics of the combined solution. I hope it provides a good introduction!