Customization capabilities have been very important to the design of IBM Workload Deployer going back to the beginning with WebSphere CloudBurst. Having the ability to quickly spin up environments in a cloud really does little good if those environments are not customized according to your needs. If you look at the virtual system pattern capability, it is why we always had the notion of custom images, custom patterns, and custom scripts. We give you a strong foundation, and you tweak it here and there to create what you want.
Customization is not a concept unique to virtual system patterns. The virtual application model in IBM Workload Deployer supports many different mechanisms for you to tailor your cloud-based environments. You can start with the virtual application pattern types that we ship and use any components in those patterns to build a custom environment. The patterns you build can include your own configuration (within the set of configurable parameters) and include policies that you need for your environment. In looking at just the IBM Workload Deployer Pattern for Web Applications and the IBM Workload Deployer Pattern for Databases, there are quite a number of scenarios you can support with your cloud. However, what happens when you want to go a little further and color outside the lines of what we provide?
At some point you may have heard or read that the entire virtual application pattern model resides on a pluggable architecture. In effect, this means that everything about a virtual application pattern type, from the elements that show up when building a pattern to the management interface you interact with after deployment, is customizable. The fundamental unit of customization for a virtual application pattern type is a plugin. Plugins provide the know-how in terms of installing, configuring, integrating, and managing the application types supported by a given pattern. Plugins also provide metadata that control what users see as they build and manage these patterns. In short, plugins are the source of truth for virtual application patterns!
If you looked in IBM Workload Deployer, you would find the collection of plugins that support the virtual application pattern types shipped with the offering. While that is interesting, you should also know that you can supply your own plugins. That's right. You can develop a plugin, and load it directly into the appliance. This allows you to do two very important things. First, you can extend the virtual application pattern types that come with IBM Workload Deployer with any kind of functionality you deem important. This may be additional monitoring, integration with external systems, or any number of other extensions. Second, you can create new virtual application pattern types that support your desired workloads. You can support the workloads with the software of your choosing so long as you can supply the necessary know-how in your plugins. In either case, you contribute the plugin, and your customized components become first class members of the IBM Workload Deployer landscape.
Okay, so I admit that this is not necessarily news. We have supported user-contributed plugins since the release of IBM Workload Deployer. However, there is something new that significantly lowers the barrier to entry in the custom plugin game. Early last week, IBM announced the IBM Workload Plugin Development Kit. This kit provides a set of tools and samples designed to make the construction and packaging of custom plugins a simple process. In my opinion, this reiterates our commitment to an extensible, application-centric cloud approach, and it represents a huge step forward in the industry as a whole. Be sure to check this out, and don't be shy with the comments and feedback!
More and more, I am getting a question about how to bring existing WebSphere environments into IBM Workload Deployer. While "bringing in an environment" can mean any number of things, let's take it to mean that a user wants to import their existing WebSphere cells, applications, and configuration into IBM Workload Deployer as a pattern they can subsequently deploy. While there may not be a big red easy button in the appliance that lets you point to an existing environment and import it, there are a couple of techniques that one can employ. I have covered both techniques before, but since I'm getting the question with increasing frequency, I felt like it was time for recap.
The first option is to use a combination of IBM Workload Deployer and Rational Automation Framework for WebSphere. This is a use case I have spoken about numerous times at conferences and in blog posts and articles. In fact, you can read a little about it here. In this sense, RAFW provides excellent capabilities to point at an existing cell, and import everything about it. This includes WebSphere configuration, applications, shared libraries, and more. Once imported as a RAFW project, you can use the IBM Workload Deployer integration script package provided by RAFW to replay that configuration on top of deployments created by the appliance.
The second option is something I talk about a little less frequently. This option revolves around the use of a sample script (provided for free in our samples gallery) that you can run against existing WebSphere cells. The invocation of this script produces IBM Workload Deployer script packages that you can use in patterns to apply the configuration of the target cell to your new cloud-based deployments. Under the covers the utility script and resultant script packages use backupConfig and restoreConfig respectively. They do ensure the update of the cell, node, and host names during the restoreConfig execution (which happens automatically during pattern deployment). Beyond that, the use of the script is subject to the same limitations and rules in place for the use of the backupConfig and restoreConfig commands. You can read more about this capability, watch it in action, and download it for free.
I hope this is all useful information for those of you looking for ways to import existing environments into IBM Workload Deployer as patterns. If you have any questions, please let me know!
One of the fundamental tenants of IBM Workload Deployer is a choice of cloud deployment models. Starting in v3.0, users will be able to deploy to the cloud using virtual appliances (OVA files), virtual system patterns, or virtual application patterns. The ability to provision plain virtual appliances is a way to rapidly bring your own images, as they currently exist, into the provisioning realm of the appliance. As such, I think the use cases and basis for deciding to use this deployment model are fairly evident. However, when comparing the two patterns-based approaches, virtual system patterns and virtual application patterns, the decision requires a bit more scrutiny.
Our pattern approach is a good thing for you, the user. Basically, when we refer to patterns in the context of cloud, we are referring to the encapsulation of installation, configuration, and integration activities that make deploying and managing environments in a cloud much easier. Regardless of what kind of pattern you end up using, you benefit from treating a potentially complex middleware infrastructure environment or middleware application as a single atomic unit throughout its lifecycle (creation, deployment, and management). In turn, you benefit from decreased costs (administrative and operational) and increased agility via rapid, meaningful deployments of your environments. That said, it is imperative to understand the differences between virtual system and virtual application patterns, and more importantly, it is important to understand what those differences mean to you. Let's start by considering the admittedly simple 'Cloud Tradeoff' continuum below.
In the above graph, the X-axis represents the degree to which you have customization control over the resultant environment. The degree of control gets lower as we move from left to right. The left Y-axis represents total cost of ownership (TCO), which decreases as we move up the axis. The right Y-axis represents time to value, which similarly decreases as we go up the axis. Naturally, enterprises want to move up the Y-axis, but, and it can be quite a big but, they are sometimes hesitant to relinquish much control (move to the right on the X-axis) in order to do so. In that light, I think it helps to explore our two patterns-based approaches a bit more.
The most important thing to understand about this continuum is that the X-axis really represents the customization control ability from the point of view of the deployer and consumer of the environment. An example is probably the best way to explain. Let's consider a fairly simple web service application that we want to deploy to the cloud. If we were to use a virtual system pattern to achieve this, we would probably start by using parts from the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition image to layout our topology. We may have a deployment manager, two custom nodes, and a web server. After establishing the topology, we would add custom script packages to install the web service application and then configure any resources the application depended on. Users that wanted to deploy the virtual system pattern would access it, provide configuration details such as the WAS cell name, node names, virtual resource allocation, and custom script parameters, and then deploy. Once deployed, users could access the environment and middleware infrastructure as they always have. That means they could run administrative scripts, access the administrative console provided by the deployed middleware software, and any other thing one would normally do. The difference in using virtual system patterns is not necessarily the operational model for deployed environments (though IBM Workload Deployer makes some things, like patching environments, much easier). Instead, the difference is primarily in the delivery model for these environments.
Using a virtual application pattern to support the same web service application results in a markedly different experience from both a deployment and management standpoint. In using this approach, a user would start by selecting a suitable virtual application pattern based on the application type. This may be one shipped by IBM, such as the IBM Workload Deployer Pattern for Web Applications, or it may be one created by the user through the extensibility mechanisms built into the appliance. After selecting the appropriate pattern, a user would supply the web service application, define functional and non-functional requirements for the application via policies, and then deploy. The virtual application pattern and IBM Workload Deployer provide the knowledge necessary to install, configure, and integrate the middleware infrastructure and the application itself. Once deployed, a user manages the resultant application environment through a radically simplified lens provided by IBM Workload Deployer. It provides monitoring and ongoing management of the environment in a context appropriate for the application. This means that there are typically no administrative consoles (as in the case of the virtual application pattern IBM ships), and users can only alter well-defined facets of the environment. It is a substantial shift in the mindset of deploying and managing middleware applications.
Okay, with that explanation in the bag, let's revisit the diagram I inserted above. I hope it's clear that, all things being equal, virtual application patterns indeed provide the lowest TCO and shortest TTV because of the degree to which they encapsulate the steps involved in setting up complex middleware application environments. So, let's get back to my assertion that the customization control continuum really applies to the deployer and consumer. Why do I say that? It's simple. In the case of either the virtual system pattern or the virtual application pattern, the pattern composer has quite a bit of liberty in how they construct things. Sure, we enable you right out of the chute by shipping pre-built, pre-configured IBM Hypervisor Edition images, as well as pre-built virtual system and virtual application patterns. The key is though, that the IBM Workload Deployer's design and architecture also enables you to build your own patterns -- be they the virtual system or virtual application type. With anywhere from a little to a lot of work, you can build virtual system and virtual application patterns tailored to your use cases and needs.
At this point, you may be saying, "Well now you have really confused things! How am I supposed to decide what kind of patterns-based approach fits my needs?" I have some advice in that regard. First, map your needs to things that we enable with the assets you get right out of the box with IBM Workload Deployer. If your application fits into the functional scope of one of the virtual application patterns that we ship, use it. If you can support the application by using IBM Hypervisor Edition images, virtual system patterns, and custom scripts, do it. In this way, you benefit most from the value offered by IBM Workload Deployer. However, if you find that you cannot use any of the assets we provide right out of the box (e.g. you want to deploy your environment on software not offered in IBM Hypervisor Edition form or in a virtual application pattern), then ask yourself one simple question: "What do I want my user's experience to be?"
In this sense, I primarily mean a user to be a deployer or consumer of your patterns. You need to decide whether you favor the middleware infrastructure centric approach afforded by virtual system patterns, or if you prefer the application centric approach proffered by virtual application patterns. There is no way to answer this generically for all potential IBM Workload Deployer users. Instead, you have to look at your use case, understand what's available to help you accomplish that use case, and finally, decide on what you want your user's experience to be. I hope this helps!
Application-centric cloud computing is the main thrust behind the new capabilities of IBM Workload Deployer v3.0. But what does that really mean? After all, application-centricity is really just a concept. Granted, it is an important concept, but it is fairly meaningless until it is put into action or implemented. IBM Workload Deployer does just that with its new Virtual Application Patterns (VAPs).
VAPs are the embodiment of the workload pattern approach I briefly discussed in an overview post a few weeks back. The idea with a VAP is to give the user an interface through which they can provide their application, specify dependencies, declare functional and non-functional requirements and then deploy. Of course application middleware is a part of the overall solution, but IBM Workload Deployer has the smarts to build, configure, and integrate the necessary infrastructure in order to support the user's application. This is completely hidden from the user, so they are liberated to focus on the application and its requirements.
If we scratch a bit further beneath the surface of a VAP, we see that these patterns contain three primary pieces. These primary pieces are components, links, and policies, and they are fundamental to understanding how virtual application patterns work. Let's start with the building blocks of VAPs, components. Put simply, components represent different resources and functionality profiles that make up your application environment. As an example, the IBM Workload Deployer Pattern for Web Applications is a VAP that contains components for an EAR file, WAR file, message queue, and any number of other components that are typical requirements for a web application. The components will certainly vary based on the workload type (i.e. the components included in a web application VAP would be different than those included in a batch application VAP), but they are the foundation of any VAP.
From the ground up, the next logical element we come to in the VAP is a link. A link is a way to declare a dependency or integration point between two components. As an example, consider a VAP with a WAR file component and a database component. You might draw a link between the WAR component and the database component to indicate that your web application uses or otherwise depends on the database. IBM Workload Deployer interprets this link, and takes it as a directive to configure the integration between the two components as a part of deployment. In this case, that may mean configuring a data source in the application's container. This is just a simple example, and an application may have any number of links between components.
Finally, we come to the policy element within the VAP. A policy is a way for a user to specify functional and non-functional requirements for their application environment. Users attach policies to the VAP, or to components in their VAP, and IBM Workload Deployer interprets and enforces those policies. In the context of a web application, one example of a policy could be a scaling policy. The scaling policy might indicate scaling requirements for the application that included minimum application instances, maximum application instances, and conditions that triggered scaling activities. IBM Workload Deployer would use the information in a scaling policy within a VAP to appropriately manage the deployed, running environment. Other examples of a scaling policy may include a JVM policy that provides configuration directives for the java virtual machines in your application environment or a logging policy that defines logging configuration options. In any case, the policy element allows VAP builders to influence the configuration and management of the application environment.
In the example VAP below you can see the use of components (Enterprise Application, Database, User Registry, Messaging Service), links (blue lines between components), and policies (Scaling Policy, JVM Policy):
In total, when I look at a VAP a particular word sticks out to me: declarative. VAPs really enable declarative, application-centric cloud computing. What do I mean? By declarative, I mean you are telling IBM Workload Deployer what you want, but not necessarily how you want it done. It is the job of IBM Workload Deployer to take care of the how. This shift in approach to application environments enables the potential for significant savings, and more importantly to me, lays the foundation for a more agile, flexible approach to deploying and managing application environments.
There will be more in the weeks and months to come on IBM Workload Deployer, so stay tuned. I also want to put a plug in for a new blog from Jason McGee. For those that do not know Jason, he is an IBM Distinguished Engineer, and the lead architect behind IBM Workload Deployer. Be sure to check out his blog for insights on this new offering, as well as for all things cloud.
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!
I hardly ever have a conversation about WebSphere CloudBurst, or generally cloud computing for application middleware, without the topic of databases coming up. Databases are such an important piece of nearly every application middleware environment, so users want to be sure that whatever they do for their application servers, they can also do for the databases on which their applications rely. That is why the capability to deploy DB2 from WebSphere CloudBurst has been around for as nearly as long as the capability to deploy WebSphere Application Server.
Even though DB2 deployment capability has been around for a while, there are still some common misconceptions regarding the offering. First, I have talked to a fair number of users who are under the impression that we only offer a trial version of DB2 for deployment via WebSphere CloudBurst. While that was true for the first few months of the offering, that is no longer the case. For several months now, a fully supported, 64 bit, production-ready DB2 image has been ready for use in WebSphere CloudBurst. If you were waiting for a DB2 image that you could go live with, wait no longer!
The other misconception, or rather, point of confusion, arises from the fact that the DB2 image for WebSphere CloudBurst is not, by name, a Hypervisor Edition image. I can assure you that is in name only. The DB2 image looks like and behaves like any other IBM Hypervisor Edition image once you load it into the appliance. You can use it to build and deploy patterns in the same way you use other images in WebSphere CloudBurst. You may just have trouble finding it if you search for 'DB2 Hypervisor Edition' as opposed to 'DB2 Server for WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance.'
Instead of going into further detail, I want to refer you to a blog entry from a fellow IBMer, Leon Katsnelson. Leon is a program director for DB2 and is responsible for the team that develops and delivers the DB2 image for WebSphere CloudBurst. In his most recent post, he provides a nice overview of the image and gives good information for those looking to use DB2 and WebSphere CloudBurst (there is also a bit on cloud computing at the beginning that I think is spot on). Check out Leon's post, and let us know what you think!
In last week's post, I put the spotlight on various aspects of bundles in the Image Construction and Composition Tool. I finished with a look at a WebSphere CloudBurst virtual image created from the bundle. However, you do not just magically go from a bundle to an image that you can use in WebSphere CloudBurst, Tivoli Provisioning Manager, or on the IBM Cloud. Today, I want to show you how to go from a bundle to a custom virtual image using the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool.
Once you have defined at least one bundle and one base operating system image, you are ready to compose a custom image. We already talked about creating a bundle, but the base operating system image is a new topic. You can do this by either starting from ISO and kickstart configuration files, or you can import an existing Open Virtual Appliance (OVA) image that contains your operating system of choice. Once you have that base image imported or defined in the Image Construction and Composition Tool, you can extend it to create a custom image on top of the base OS image.
After creating your extended image, you can add bundles that represent the software you want to install in your custom image. Simply click on the Software tab of the new virtual image. Click the add icon, and select the bundle that you want to add. You can add as many bundles as you would like to your custom image.
After adding a bundle, it will show up in the Planned list of software for the image. Click on it to display its details in the right side of the screen. You will notice General, Install, and Configuration sections for the bundle. In the Install section, you will find a list of the installation parameters you defined for the bundle. You can provide values for the parameters at this time.
If you click on the Configure section, you will see all of the configuration paramters you specified for the bundle. You can provide default values, and you can specify whether or not these should be configurable by deployers of your custom image. If you mark them as configurable, users will be able to provide values for the parameters at image deploy time, regardless of whether they provision the image using WebSphere CloudBurst, Tivoli Provisioning Manager, or the IBM Cloud.
After you add the necessary bundles and specify installation and configuration data, you can save the image. Upon saving, the image status changes from Synchronized to Out of Sync.
Now you are ready to synchronize the image. To do this, simply click the synchronize icon. This will result in the creation of a virtual machine in the cloud envrionment (VMware or IBM Cloud) you defined in the selected cloud provider. The Image Construction and Composition Tool will then invoke the appropriate installation tasks (per the bundles you included in the image) within the running virtual machine. It will also copy over any configuration scripts you defined in the bundle.
After a while, the synchronization process completes, and the image returns to the Synchronized state. At this point, you are ready to capture the image by clicking the capture icon. This results in the creation of an OVA virtual image with your customizations. When the capture process completes, the image status changes to Deployable.
Once the image is in the deployable state, it is nearly ready to use. If you are using the IBM Cloud as your cloud provider, you can simply mark the image complete by clicking the complete icon. At this point, the image will show up in your private catalog on the IBM Cloud and it is ready to use. If you are using VMware as the cloud provider, you need to export the image. Click the export icon and provide information about an SCP-enabled server to which you want to export the image. Ideally, this location is directly reachable by the WebSphere CloudBurst or Tivoli Provisioning Manager environment into which you will import the image.
You can monitor the export status in a separate window by clicking on a link shown after clicking the OK button in the dialog above. When the export finishes, you are ready to import your new custom virtual image into WebSphere CloudBurst or Tivoli Provisioning Manager.
I hope the last three posts have given you a better idea of what the new IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool is all about. There will definitely be more to come about this tool in the near future, but in the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, please reach out to me. Until then, good luck and full speed ahead on your custom image compositions!
Since bundles are such a core component of the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool, I thought it would help to take a closer, more thorough look at them than I did in my post last week (if you have not already, I suggest reading the overview post before continuing). To help us in our closer examination, we will consider an example bundle I built using the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool. The example bundle I built encapsulates the logic to install and configure WebSphere Application Server Community Edition. Let's take this step by step.
The first part of the bundle is the General section. This section allows you to provide a name and description for the bundle, the bundle ID and version, and the products represented by the bundle.
The next section of a bundle is the Requirements section. In this section, you can define the operating system and software requirements for your bundle. In the OS section, you specify the type, distribution, and version level of the OS your bundle requires. In the software section, you can indicate that your bundle requires other bundles defined in the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool. You do this by providing the bundle ID for required bundles.
Next, we move on to the Install section of the bundle. Two major subsections make up this section. The first subsection is the Files to Copy section. Here, you provide files, via a file upload dialog or by providing a URI, and you specify a destination directory. When you add a bundle to an image and initiate the synchronization process, the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool will automatically copy the files you list here to the specified destination directory on the virtual machine. In the sample WebSphere Application Server Community Edition bundle, I specify a single install.sh file to copy to the virtual machine.
The second major subsection of the Install section is the Command subsection. In this section, you will specify the installation command that the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool should automatically invoke during the synchronization process. Additionally, you can define variables that you want to make available to your installation scripts. The tool makes these available as environment variables for the process within which your script runs. In the sample bundle, I tell the Image Construction and Composition Tool to invoke the install.sh script specified above, and I define parameters that specify the location of the binaries to install, the location to install the binaries on disk, and more.
The next section in a bundle is the Configuration section. The configuration section allows you to define configuration operations that provide actions that execute for each deployment of an image containing the bundle. You can define 0 to N configuration operations in a bundle, and each configuration operation definition contains three major subsections. The first is the Files to Copy subsection. This subsection is similar to the Files to Copy subsection in the Install section. You provide files or file URIs and you provide a destination directory to which the tool will copy the file. The WebSphere Application Server Community Edition bundle contains a single configuration operation called ConfigWASCE. In the Files to Copy section, I define a single file to copy into the image's activation engine directory.
The second major subsection in the configuration operation definition is the Command subsection. Like the Command subsection in the Install section of the bundle, you specify a command to execute and optionally associate variables with the command. There is a key difference between the command definition for configuration operations as opposed to installation operations. The Image Construction and Composition Tool invokes the command you specify for installation operations exactly ONCE at image creation (synchronization) time. On the other hand, commands you specify in the configuration operation definition execute EACH time someone deploys an image containing your bundle. In the sample bundle, my ConfigWASCE.sh script will automatically execute for each deployment. The tool will package the image in such a way that ensures the automatic passing of parameters defined in the Arguments list (including num_servers, WASCE_HOME, and more) to the ConfigWASCE.sh script.
The final major subsection of a configuration operation definition is the Dependencies section. This allows you to define other services on which your configuration operation is dependent. This can include other configuration operations in the same or other bundles, and it can include general operating system services. The WebSphere Application Server Community Edition sample bundle includes a few dependencies.
The Install and Configuration sections are really the meat of your bundle, but there is more. There is a Firewall section that allows you to define port ranges and associated protocols that the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool should ensure are open when provisioning an image containing your bundle. Currently, the tool supports firewall configuration data when building images for the IBM Cloud. The Reset section of the bundle allows you to define tasks that should execute when capturing the image back into the Image Construction and Composition Tool (after synchronziation completes). This allows you to clean up the state of the image after the install completes. Reset configuration is not currently available in the alphaWorks version of the tool. Finally, there is a License section where you can define software licenses associated with your bundle. The tool automatically adds these licenes to the constructed image's metadata, thereby allowing deployment tools to prompt the user to accept all pertinent licenses. The WebSphere Application Server Community Edition sample bundle defines a product license.
Of course, once the bundle definition is complete, you can leverage it to compose and produce an image that you can use in WebSphere CloudBurst, Tivoli Provisioning Manager, or on the IBM Cloud. In the case of the WebSphere Application Server Community Edition sample bundle, I used it to create an image that I loaded into WebSphere CloudBurst and used to build patterns.
I hope this helps to provide a better idea of what bundles are all about in the Image Construction and Composition Tool. Don't forget to take a look at the overview demo and stay tuned for more to come about this new tool!
When I talk with WebSphere CloudBurst users, the topic of custom virtual images comes up frequently. In some cases they simply want to customize a shipped IBM Hypervisor Edition, and in other cases they want to create a completely custom image. Creating a customized version of an IBM Hypervisor Edition is relatively easy since we give you extend & capture in WebSphere CloudBurst. Creating a completely custom image has historically been a bit tougher, mostly owing ot the fact that there was not a standard tool or process for image assembly. I am happy to say that today's publication of the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool changes all that.
Watch a demo of the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool
The primary purpose of the Image Construction and Composition Tool is to enable a modular approach to virtual image construction, while taking into account the typical division of responsibilities within an organization. The tool allows the right people within an organization to contribute their specialized knowledge as appropriate to the virtual image creation process. This means OS teams can handle the OS and software teams can handle the appropriate software. A separate image builder can then use both OS and software components to meet the needs of users within the organization. Best of all, the image builder does not need intimate knowledge of how to install or configure any of the components in the image. They simply need to know which OS and software components to use.
When using the Image Construction and Composition Tool, you start by defining the base operating system you wish to use for your images. You can do this by importing an existing virtual image with an OS already installed, providing an ISO for the OS, or pointing to a base OS image on the IBM Cloud. The bottom line is that you have necessary flexibility to start with your certified or ‘golden’ operating system build. Once you have the base OS image defined in the Image Construction and Composition Tool, you can start defining custom software for use in the images you will compose.
In the tool, bundles represent the software you wish to install within a virtual image. The definition of a bundle contains two major parts: Installation and Configuration. The installation component of a bundle tells the Image Construction and Composition Tool how to install your software into the virtual image. You provide a script or set of scripts that install the necessary components into your image, and you direct the tool to call these scripts. These tasks run once during the initial creation of the virtual image, thus allowing you to capture large binaries, long-running installation tasks, or other necessary actions directly into your image.
The configuration section of a bundle defines actions that configure the software installed into the image. Like with the installation tasks, you provide a script or set of scripts for configuration tasks. Unlike installation tasks that run exactly once, configuration scripts become part of the image’s activation framework and as such, run during each image deployment. Using the tool, you can define input parameters for configuration scripts and optionally expose them so that users can provide values for the parameters at image deploy-time. Configuration tasks are important in providing flexibility that allows users to leverage a single virtual image for a number of different deployment scenarios.
Once you have your base OS image and one or more bundles defined in the Image Construction and Composition Tool, you can compose a virtual image. To compose a virtual image, you extend the base OS image and add any number of bundles into the new image. A base OS image plus a set of bundles defines a unique image.
After you define the image you want to construct, you initiate a synchronize action in the Image Construction and Composition Tool. When you start the synchronize action, the tool first creates a virtual machine in either a VMware or IBM Cloud environment (based on how you configured the tool). Next, the installation tasks of each bundle you included in the virtual image run to install the required software. Finally, the tool copies the configuration scripts from each bundle into the virtual machine and adds them to the image’s activation framework. This ensures the automatic invocation of all configuration scripts during subsequent image deployments.
Once the image is in the synchronized state, you can capture it. Capturing the image results in the creation of a virtual image based on the state of the synchronized virtual machine. The tool also automates the generation of metadata that becomes part of the virtual image package. When the capture of the virtual image completes, you can export it from the Image Construction and Composition Tool and deploy it using WebSphere CloudBurst, Tivoli Provisioning Manager, or the IBM Cloud.
I am excited for users to get their hands on the Image Construction and Composition Tool. I believe it represents the first big step in helping users to design and construct more sustainable virtual images. Did I mention it is completely free to download and use? Visit the Image Construction and Composition Tool website for more details and a download link. I look forward to your comments and feedback.
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!
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 188.8.131.52. 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 184.108.40.206 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 220.127.116.11, 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 18.104.22.168 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 22.214.171.124, 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 126.96.36.199, 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.