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!
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.
Maybe you remember, but not long ago I wrote a post about scenarios when WebSphere CloudBurst and Rational Automation Framework for WebSphere (RAFW) combine to form quite the pair. You can read that post for details, but the basic scenarios were configuring and capturing, importing existing environments into WebSphere CloudBurst, and migrating from virtual to physical installations. Well, after talking with customers and colleagues lately, you can add another scenario to the list: version-to-version WebSphere Application Server migrations.
I want to be clear here about one thing before I go further. I am in no way advocating against the use of the migration tooling that ships with WebSphere Application Server. It is an excellent tool that can make migrations simple and fast. I am merely pointing out that when it comes to version-to-version migrations you have options, and you should survey them all before making a decision.
With that understanding, let's take a look at WebSphere CloudBurst and RAFW in the context of a version-to-version migration. This integrated approach to migration is ideal if you are amenable to moving up to a newer version of WebSphere Application Server in a cloud-based environment. Using both products makes migrations fast and easy, and you can be very confident that the configuration of the migrated environment is faithful to the original. The figure below shows the basic flow of the migration and breaks it down into a set of discrete steps.
Now, for a quick break down of each step:
Extract config & apps from old environment: The first step involves pointing RAFW at your existing configuration, the one you want to migrate from, and using an out-of-the-box action to import all of the configuration into a RAFW environment. You can also import your application binaries in this step.
Store config & apps from old environment: In step two, you will store the extracted configuration and application binaries in a source control repository or some backup location separate from your RAFW server. This is an optional, but recommended step.
Analyze and update apps: Before migrating your applications to the newer version of WebSphere Application Server, you can use the completely free Application Migration Toolkit to analyze the source code of your applications. This toolkit will recommend any required updates to ensure your application continues to behave as expected when moving to the new version. Again, this is an optional step, but the toolkit is free and very handy. So, why not?
Deploy new version of the environment: Step four starts by building a new WebSphere CloudBurst pattern. This new pattern matches the topology of the environment you are migrating from, and you build it from an image containing the version of WebSphere Application Server to which you want to migrate. Once built, you deploy it to your private cloud and you have a running environment in minutes.
Apply stored config and deploy updated apps: Now that you have your new environment up and running, use RAFW to apply the configuration you extracted from your old environment. RAFW inherently understands any configuration translation that needs to occur to apply the old configuration to your new environment, and it can also deploy your updated applications for you.
That's the basic overview for version-to-version migrations when you are moving to a cloud-based environment. In time, I will be posting more information about this process to shed a little more light about what is going on under the covers. In the meantime, you know how to reach me if you have questions!
The majority of my posts on this blog address using various features of WebSphere CloudBurst to build private cloud computing environments. Today though, I want to switch gears and instead of talking private cloud, let's talk public cloud. Specifically, let's take a look at the capabilities and services delivered via the IBM Smart Business Development and Test on the IBM Cloud (hereafter referred to as the IBM Cloud).
For some of you, the fact that IBM has a public cloud offering may be a little surprising. After all, if you listen to some uninformed critics you may hear that IBM only cares about private clouds for large enterprises. That is simply untrue. The IBM Cloud is an Infrastructure as a Service public cloud that delivers rapid access to services hosted on IBM infrastructure via a self-service web portal. The IBM Cloud offers multiple payment options, including usage-based billing and reserved capacity billing, and even features a cost estimator so you can confidently establish a monthly budget for your usage.
Regardless of whether you use a private or a public cloud, security should always be a chief concern. As such, IBM takes security very seriously in the IBM Public Cloud. The infrastructure that constitutes the cloud is subject to internal IBM security policies that include regular security scans and tight administrative governance. Your data and virtual machines stay in the data center to which you provisioned them, and physical security policies match those of internal IBM data centers. Additionally, you can optionally make use of the virtual private network option to isolate access to the virtual machines that you provision on the IBM Cloud. Rest assured that security in the IBM Cloud was a guiding design principle and not an afterthought.
With the basics out of the way, let's get on to the question I'm sure you have: What can I run on the IBM Cloud? To get you started, the IBM Cloud provides a nice list of public images in its catalog that are ready for you to provision. These images include WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere sMash, DB2, WebSphere Portal Server, IBM Cognos Business Intelligence, Tivoli Monitoring, Rational Build Forge, and many more. In addition to the public images provided by the IBM Cloud, you can build your own private images. Private images allow you to start with a base public image and then customize it by adjusting the configuration or installing new software. Once customized, you can store these private images on the IBM Cloud and provision them whenever needed. Whether you are using public or private images, you have a number of server configurations to choose from in order to host your environments.
While very brief, I hope this overview provides you with some of the more important details regarding the IBM Cloud. There are few, if any, service providers out there with the enterprise expertise of IBM, and I think you see that reflected in the IBM Cloud. If you are looking at public cloud options for your enterprise application environments, you should definitely take a closer look at the IBM Cloud.
I spent most of my time growing up doing two things, going to school and playing sports. I made many fond memories -- mostly from the latter :) -- and learned more than a few lessons over that time. Of all of those lessons, there was one in particular that stuck out in both the classroom and on the baseball diamond: Sometimes you have to get back to the basics.
In that vein, I think it is time to revisit the basics of WebSphere CloudBurst. In revisiting the basics, I am not talking about the technical basics of the appliance. Rather, I am talking about revisiting exactly why WebSphere CloudBurst exists in the first place. In other words, let's take a look at the problem domains WebSphere CloudBurst addresses, and let's discuss a little bit about how the appliance does so.
Virtual image parts play a huge role in WebSphere CloudBurst. When crafting your own customized patterns, you include anywhere from 1 to n parts from as many different virtual images as is necessary. These parts represent the different node types or personalities within a given Hypervisor Edition image, and form the basis of your pattern. When you deploy a pattern, such as the one pictured below, WebSphere CloudBurst creates a distinct virtual machine for each part.
This means that after deploying the above WebSphere Application Server pattern, you will have four virtual machines comprising your virtual system. This gives you a clean separation of concern by providing a unique container for each of your application environment nodes. This can attribute to performance optimization, increased availability, and much more. However, this approach is not suitable to all use cases. In some scenarios, especially when trying to control costs and increase consolidation, you may want to deploy a multi-node WebSphere Application Server environment within a single virtual machine. Based on what I showed you above, you might think our approach in WebSphere CloudBurst makes this impossible, but you would be overlooking an important component of patterns.
That component is of course the second building block of patterns... script packages. As you probably know, script packages allow you to supply just about any customization you want. In the case that you want a single virtual machine to host a number of WebSphere Application Server nodes, maybe even an entire cell, all you need to do is supply a script package that constructs the necessary nodes during deployment. In fact, you don't even have to write the script package. You can use the free sample in our samples gallery. As seen in the pattern below, you include this script package on a sole deployment manager part in a pattern.
The script script package provides parameters that define the node name, number of custom nodes, and number of web server nodes you want in your cell. During the deployment process, the script takes this information and constructs the cell you define. This includes creating the custom and web servers nodes and federating the custom nodes, thus completing the creation of your WebSphere Application Server cell. In this case, the script package provides deployment flexibility that is sometimes a necessity, and it is just another example of the many degrees of flexibility enabled by the script package design.
I should point out that a part in a pattern does not always map to a single node. For instance, in the case of WebSphere Process Server, there is a part that represents a complete, multi-node golden topology encapsulated within a single virtual machine. However, if you find yourself using images that do not contain these multi-node parts, rest easy knowing script packages provide you the flexibility you need.
In my last post, I concentrated on the new enhancements to WebSphere CloudBurst 126.96.36.199. One of the major new additions was the introduction of Environment Profiles, and I promised a developerWorks article would be forthcoming. The article is now live along with a demo that showcases the capability of environment profiles.
As I mentioned in my last post, environment profiles center around giving you more customization capability during the pattern deployment process. In WebSphere CloudBurst, the pattern deployment process consists of the five main steps depicted below.
Traditionally, WebSphere CloudBurst controlled the entire deployment process, thus closing it off to the deployer. Environment profiles extend the customization reach of users to be able to effect steps 1-3 in the above diagram. Specifically, environment profiles give you the following control:
Control over the assignment of IP addresses and hostnames to pattern parts: Instead of having WebSphere CloudBurst automatically assign IP addresses, and thus hostnames, to virtual machines during deployment, you can explicitly set both values during the deployment process.
Ability to deploy single patterns to multiple cloud groups: Previously, when deploying a pattern you selected a single cloud group and WebSphere CloudBurst deployed all the parts in the pattern to machines within that cloud group. While this may be okay for many cases, other cases may require you to deploy some parts of the pattern to one group of machines while other parts map to a separate set of machines. Before environment profiles, you could accomplish this with multiple patterns. With environment profiles, you can accomplish it with a single pattern.
Ability to supply virtual machine naming standards: As part of deploying a pattern, WebSphere CloudBurst creates one to many virtual machines with distinct names. Environment profiles allow you to supply a naming standard that WebSphere CloudBurst will use when creating the machines as opposed to default naming schemes previously used.
It is important to note that the use of environment profiles is completely optional, and you can continue to use the traditional deployment process, thereby leaving WebSphere CloudBurst in control. That said, the introduction of environment profiles is a direct response to consistent user feedback we received regarding the need for more control during the deployment process. Based on my user conversations, these profiles address many of said needs in an easy to use, straightforward manner. We are, of course, eager to know what you think. As always, you can let me know right here, through email, or on Twitter (@damrhein).
In keeping with the impressive release pace, WebSphere CloudBurst 188.8.131.52 is now available for download from the IBM Support site. In some ways, this release is typical of what you may expect from a service release. In other words, there are defect fixes and other general enhancements in the new version of the firmware. However, this release is a bit more than your typical service release in that there are a couple of major additions of which you should be aware.
First, starting in WebSphere CloudBurst 184.108.40.206, you will be able to provision WebSphere CloudBurst patterns to IBM Power7 systems. We already supported both Power5 and Power6 systems, and this new addition allows you to take advantage of some of the significant enhancements in the IBM Power7 hardware. In addition, this means that from a single appliance you can provision environments to multiple different releases of VMware, IBM z/VM, and IBM PowerVM hypervisor technologies. The best thing about this is that WebSphere CloudBurst provides an effective abstraction layer over the underlying infrastructure so that no matter which of the hypervisor solutions you use, the end-user experience with the appliance remains the same. You get all of this from a single device!
The other major element in WebSphere CloudBurst 220.127.116.11 is the introduction of Environment Profiles. Traditionally, WebSphere CloudBurst controlled most of the pattern deployment process. While this allows the appliance to provide a lot of configuration activity without input from the user, it made some usage scenarios hard to accommodate. For instance, historically you have not been able to assign specific IP addresses to machines in your deployment, and you have not been able to deploy a pattern across multiple cloud groups. Now, with environment profiles you can. Environment profiles give you more control over deployment behavior, including the ability to assign IP addresses (as opposed to WebSphere CloudBurst automatically doing so), deploy parts across multiple cloud groups, and apply virtual machine naming standards. The use of these new resources is completely optional, so you can still use the traditional deployment model, but this provides you with flexibility if you so choose. You can learn more about this new capability by watching the short demonstration here.
As an aside to the above information concerning WebSphere CloudBurst 18.104.22.168, I should also point out new WebSphere Hypervisor Edition announcements detailed here. I encourage you to read the announcement, but to summarize there are two major pieces of information. First, when you buy PVUs of entitlement for WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition or WebSphere Message Broker Hypervisor Edition, those entitlements also apply to WebSphere Application Server and WebSphere Message Broker respectively. You can use the Hypervisor Edition images and traditional software packages in any combination, up to the level of use based on your Hypervisor Edition entitlements. Second, there is a new licensing for WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition called IBM HTTP Server for WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition. This allows you to deploy IBM HTTP Server instances using the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition without paying for the full Hypervisor Edition license. Again, for more details and term information, please read the announcement referenced previously.
There will be more to come about WebSphere CloudBurst 22.214.171.124, including an article on the use of environment profiles, but I wanted to give everyone a quick heads up. Let me know if you have any questions or feedback for us.
I write a lot about WebSphere CloudBurst script packages. Typically, I write about what they are, how to create them, and even provide some samples from time to time. I find that most of the time I'm either writing or talking about script packages from the standpoint that they allow you to automate the delivery of customizations to environments you deploy with WebSphere CloudBurst. More specifically, I usually explain how you can include these script packages in your patterns to ensure that your custom scripts execute as part of every pattern deployment. The truth is, that is not the whole story. In fact, it's only 1/3 of the story.
In WebSphere CloudBurst, when you define a script package you also define its execution mode. The execution mode can be one of three values, and it indicates the invocation time for the script. The default value is at virtual system creation, and that tells WebSphere CloudBurst to automatically invoke the script as part of the deployment process. This seems to be the most commonly used execution mode, and in the original version of WebSphere CloudBurst it was the only available mode (which probably attributes to why I only usually tell 1/3 of the story here). As you may expect, there is a wide range of usage scenarios for this class of script packages including installing applications, activating monitoring agents, registering cells with an externally managed DNS server, and much more.
If you are like me (and many humans), you enjoy and actually expect symmetry. In that regard, it probably comes as no surprise that there is a script package execution mode called at virtual system deletion. As the name indicates, this class of script packages executes as an automatic part of the virtual system deletion process. When a user tells WebSphere CloudBurst to remove a virtual system, before it shuts down the machines in the system, it will run each script package marked to execute at virtual system deletion. Typical use cases for these scripts include removing information about the cell from externally managed DNS servers, freeing up connections with external systems, and other external 'clean up' activities.
So this leaves the final execution mode for script packages, the when I initiate it mode to be precise. This class of script packages executes when explicitly triggered by a user. In the virtual machine detail section for a deployed virtual system, you can see a list of user-initiated script packages for a given machine. There is a start button by each of the user-initiated script packages that allows you to invoke the script when, and as many times as you need to. While these script packages have many different use cases, the most common use case is to deploy application updates. Users build these application update scripts, attach them to a pattern, and invoke them whenever they want to deliver an updated application into their already deployed environment.
WebSphere CloudBurst script packages are one of the main vehicles for delivering your customizations to your cloud environments. The three execution modes mentioned above allow you to determine when the right time to deliver those customizations is.
It's really hard to complain about my work week right now. As I write this blog, I'm sitting in the Congress Center in Düsseldorf, Germany looking out over the Rhine River. As an aside, in Germany it is the Rhein River, and I have a historical connection to this body of water. My surname, Amrhein, translates (loosely) to 'on the Rhein'. It does not take an expert in genealogy to conclude that I have ancestors who at one time or another lived very close to this important German waterway.
Okay, putting the family tree aside for a minute, there is a good reason that I am in Düsseldorf this week. The city, and specifically the Congress Center, is playing host to the IBM European WebSphere Technical Conference. I am here presenting sessions that include a WebSphere CloudBurst overview, a WebSphere CloudBurst hands-on lab, and an up-close look at one of our internal team's use of the appliance. I have done each of these sessions once so far, and attendance was great, audience participation high, and feedback forthcoming. I am hearing and seeing the same thing in other sessions, which is of course, ideal for us presenters.
Now, to focus in on WebSphere CloudBurst for a bit, it seems that I am hearing a recurring question this week from the mostly European audience: "Why is WebSphere CloudBurst delivered as an appliance?" I am sure that I addressed this question in a previous blog post, but I believe it bears revisiting. There are various reasons I could give for the appliance form factor, but I like to distill all of that down into three major reasons: Consumability, Performance, and Security.
From a solution consumability perspective, nothing beats the appliance approach. WebSphere CloudBurst is an integrated hardware and software solution that delivers a specific set of function. You do not have to install software, procure and maintain storage for resources on the appliance (images, patterns, scripts, etc.), and maintain software components over time. You simply drop the appliance in to your data center, perform a one-time initialization, hook it up to the network, and you are ready to start leveraging WebSphere CloudBurst to build out your private cloud. While there is definitely work to setup the cloud infrastructure that WebSphere CloudBurst deploys environments to, we can completely eliminate a significant portion of solution implementation lead time by delivering everything you need in the appliance.
The performance benefits of an appliance approach are a natural result of building an integrated hardware and software stack. Design and development teams provide optimizations in both the hardware and software based on the fact that both the hardware and software have intimate knowledge of each other's design. In other words, this is not a 'least common denominator' tuning approach. Rather, the integrated design leads to enhanced performance for the specific set of functionality provided by WebSphere CloudBurst.
Finally, appliances enable us to deliver a very hardened, secure device. We provide private key encryption of every resource stored on the appliance. That private key is unique to each appliance and cannot be modified. In addition, the physical casing is tamper-resistant. If someone removes the casing, a 'Get Smart' style kill switch puts the appliance in a dormant state. You must send the appliance to IBM so we can reset it before further use, thus providing an additional layer of physical protection on top of the encryption. These security features, plus more, like a shield that prevents anyone from executing code on the appliance, come right out of the box and require no end-user configuration activity. In this way, you can simply focus on leveraging the user security and access controls provided by WebSphere CloudBurst.
If you had any questions on the rationale behind the appliance form factor of WebSphere CloudBurst, I hope this helps. I am off for now... back to the conference and the wonderful city of Düsseldorf.