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!
One of my favorite things to do with users or potential users of WebSphere CloudBurst is to help them understand how they can construct a custom environment using the appliance. Typically, we take one of their existing application environments and discuss the configuration steps that contribute to its makeup. From there, we map the required configuration actions to different customization capabilities in the appliance. It is one thing to talk about how you can customize every layer of your application stack with WebSphere CloudBurst, it is quite another to talk about it in the context of an existing environment. This exercise usually serves to greatly enhance a user's understanding of how to construct tailored environments with the appliance.
While I cannot take every one of you through this exercise in the context of one of your own application environments, I can propose a scenario that will help to illustrate the WebSphere CloudBurst customization process. Consider that I want to deploy a clustered WebSphere Application Server environment whose application server instances utilize WebSphere DataPower XC10 for HTTP session management. In order to deploy such an environment, I would need to do the following:
Install an OS and WAS
Install the WebSphere eXtreme Scale Client binaries - required for integration
Construct a clustered cell
Augment profiles with WebSphere eXtreme Scale profile templates
Configure the application server instances to use WebSphere DataPower XC10 for session management
So those are the steps, but how do they map to WebSphere CloudBurst? First, I know that the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition image used by WebSphere CloudBurst encapsulates the installation of the OS and WAS. I also know that WebSphere CloudBurst will automatically construct the clustered cell during the deployment process. That means I need to address the installation of client binaries, augmentation of profiles, and configuration of application server instances. In order to do this, I will use a combination of image extension and custom script packages.
To get started, I extend an existing WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition image and simply install the WebSphere eXtreme Scale Client binaries. I then capture that image and store it as my own unique image in the WebSphere CloudBurst catalog. Now, you may wonder why I did not capture the profile augmentation in the custom image. Remember, you cannot change profile configuration during the extend and capture process as WebSphere CloudBurst resets the profiles as part of capturing the custom image.
My custom image encapsulates the installation of the client binaries, so now I turn to custom script packages. I need two in this case. One script package will augment a profile (either deployment manager or custom node) with the WebSphere eXtreme Scale profile template. The second script package will configure application server instances to use WebSphere DataPower XC10 for HTTP session management. Once done with these script packages, I have all the assets I need to build my target environment.
Using my custom image, I build a pattern that contains the number and kind of WebSphere Application Server nodes that I want. I use the advanced options to define a WebSphere Application Server cluster ensuring its creation happens during deployment. Next, I drag and drop the profile augmentation script onto the deployment manager and custom node parts in my pattern. Finally, I drag and drop the WebSphere DataPower XC10 configuration script onto the deployment manager. The pattern is now ready to deploy!
For those of you that are visual learners like me, this demonstration provides a nice overview of exactly what I wrote about above. Check it out and let me know what you think.
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.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a sample I was working on that would allow one to apply a layer of governance to their WebSphere CloudBurst patterns. Earlier this morning, I posted the sample to the WebSphere CloudBurst Samples Gallery under the 'Sample CLI Scripts for WebSphere CloudBurst' section. The name of the new sample is 'Check WebSphere CloudBurst patterns', and you can download it here.
As hinted in my earlier post, the new sample is a simple way to check your patterns against assertions you supply in a properties file. It allows you to check that patterns contain the correct parts and scripts, and it allows you to verify that they were built from valid images. The assertion format is pretty basic, but it should be flexible enough to allow you to check patterns against a wide array of requirements. The sample archive includes a readme file that explains exactly how to use the script, and it contains a sample assertions file to give you an idea of the input syntax.
I hope this helps to address some of the requirements of many WebSphere CloudBurst users that told me they were in need of a way to apply governance to their patterns. If you have any questions about the sample, please let me know. Alternatively, if you have another idea or a problem you would like to see addressed by a sample in our gallery, please let me know.
In the course of my job, I am lucky to be able to work with both enterprise users and business partners who are adopting and using the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. When it comes to the business partner camp, one of my absolute favorites is the Haddon Hill Group. The Haddon Hill Group is an IBM Premier Business Partner, and they have been an early adopter and vocal advocate of the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. They have extensive knowledge of the use of the appliance in enterprise accounts, and quite frankly, they are doing some really cool things with WebSphere CloudBurst.
Given the above, I was glad to see summarized results from their various implementations made available recently on the IBM site. The summary is fairly concise, so I encourage you to take a look at the results Haddon Hill Group is getting with WebSphere CloudBurst.
I am not going to rehash the contents of the results here, but there are a couple of things I want to call out. First off, Haddon Hill Group says that WebSphere CloudBurst can provide companies with a '100 times faster time to market' delivery experience. In a practical sense, this means reducing the amount of time to deliver WebSphere environments from 40-60 days on average to just hours. That is an eye-opening data point!
The other thing I want call out here is a quote from Phil Schaadt, President and CTO, Haddon Hill Group. I have had the pleasure of working with Phil and team, and I have heard him echo these same sentiments many times:
"The important thing about the IBM WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance is that it will dispense a WebSphere Application Server image onto your WebSphere Application Server environment or private cloud along with other products within the WebSphere stack, and that application server will be ready in a few minutes. You can do it in a clustered environment, and you can even roll out IBM WebSphere Process Server and get it right in a fully clustered environment with a database connection, in about 90 minutes. You can also easily manage all the configurations of IBM WebSphere Process Server that you need. All the steps that took up so much time and effort on the part of IT staff have been removed. The savings for companies with large WebSphere implementations can be in the millions."
It is always great to see clients putting our technology to use to produce tangible business value. Again, I encourage you to take a look at these reports. As always, I am eager to hear what you think, so leave me a comment or reach out to me on Twitter @damrhein.
Over time, many of our users learn to effectively leverage WebSphere CloudBurst user roles and fine-grained access controls to map activities and responsibilities in the appliance to the appropriate people and teams within their organization. Using these controls, they are able to define actions that a user or group can take, and they can define the set of resources on which they can take those actions. It is efficient, flexible, and an absolute necessity in many enterprise scenarios.
In some cases though, I talk with users that want a little more control, or probably better put, governance over the actions a user can take within a given role. Most often, this need arises when the discussion of pattern authoring comes up. If you want a user in WebSphere CloudBurst to be able to create patterns, you simply give them the Create new patterns permission. Once you give them that permission, the user can create patterns using both virtual image parts and script packages in the catalog. For many of the users I talk with, this approach suits their needs.
However, in some scenarios administrators want a little more insight and control over how the pattern authors build their patterns. Specifically, they want to ensure that patterns contain only approved virtual image parts and script packages. While you can certainly use the fine-grained access controls of the appliance to expose only the 'approved' virtual image parts and script packages, that alone may not be enough. After all, the definition of what is 'approved' may be different when building a pattern for testing purposes versus one built for production purposes. If the same pattern author builds both of those patterns, fine-grained access controls do not help as much. So, what can you do?
Have I ever told you how much I love the WebSphere CloudBurst CLI? It's powerful, easy to use, and a great automation enabler. It is also the perfect tool for our problem above. If you are looking to enforce certain constraints on WebSphere CloudBurst patterns, I strongly recommend using the CLI as a governance tool.
To provide a concrete example of what I mean, let's take a look at a generic pattern checking script I am working on now (I hope to have this in the samples gallery soon). Consider the case that I want to check that all of my test patterns for a specific application environment contain 1 deployment manager and between 1 and 3 custom nodes. In addition, I want to make sure that the parts for these nodes come from an approved virtual image, and I want to verify that the deployment manager contains the correct application installation script package. With the script I am currently writing, you would start by encapsulating this information in a properties file.
PatternAssertion_1=Customer Processing Test Environments
PatternAssertion_1_Requirements=Deployment manager:1:415:Install customer process app;Custom nodes:1-3:415
In the above, the PatternAssertion_1 key provides a name for the pattern verification assertion. The PatternAssertion_1_Requirements key provides the requirements for the pattern. The above requirements indicate that for a pattern to meet the assertion, it must contain 1 deployment manager part from the virtual image with reference number 415. In addition, the deployment manager must contain a script named Install customer process app. A valid pattern must also contain 1 to 3 custom node parts, also based on the virtual image with reference number 415. When done defining my requirements in the properties file, I simply invoke a script and pass in the file. As a result, I get information about which patterns satisfy or do not satisfy the assertions. For example:
The Customer Process Application pattern satisfied the requirements of the Customer Processing Test Environments assertion.
OR The Customer Process Application pattern did not satisfy the requirements of the Customer Processing Test Environments assertion
due to the following reason: The pattern is required to have a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 3 Custom node part(s), but it had 4.
As I said, I hope to have this sample script posted to the samples gallery soon. I am going through some final revisions and enhancements that I hope make it better and more generally applicable. In the meantime, I wanted to point out that pattern governance is indeed doable, and in fact not very hard to achieve with the CLI. I will be sure to post an update when the sample script is ready. In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions or comments.
I spend most of my time talking with our users about the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. While I believe the appliance is somewhat of a hybrid among the Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service layers of the cloud, it is definitely closer to IaaS than PaaS. Users recognize that, and they can identify the capabilities of WebSphere CloudBurst that correlate with IaaS cloud functionality.
That said, I often get questions regarding IBM and work in the PaaS arena. These include questions like, 'Is IBM planning to do anything with PaaS?', 'What is your take on PaaS?', 'What kind of applications do you plan on targeting with your PaaS offering?', and more.
Well, rest assured that IBM is definitely embracing the PaaS movement. Instead of trying to answer these questions in this post though, I want to make you aware of a recent InfoQ interview with IBM WebSphere CTO, Jerry Cuomo. In the interview, Jerry answers the questions above and much more. Jerry talks about IBM's plans for PaaS, what such a platform might look like, and how he sees IBM competing against some of the cloud players in this space.
The interview runs about a half hour, but there is a very nice table of contents that allows you to navigate to specific question/answer segments with Jerry. If you are interested in PaaS, and specifically in IBM's intention in this space, I encourage you to take a look at the interview. Let me know what you think!
When it comes to administration of WebSphere environments, I (and many others) am a big fan of scripting. In my view, any administrative action you carry out with frequency > 1 is ideally suited for a script. The downside to not using scripts (longer configuration times, inconsistent configurations, isolated expertise) is simply too steep in most cases. I also realize that simply saying that you should script is not enough. For some, the learning curve can be a bit daunting. Quite frequently, I talk about our samples gallery or provide posts with embedded scripts in the hopes that I can help flatten out this curve a bit.
While these samples can certainly help to speed up your scripting efforts for certain use cases, they are more or less helpful for solving tactical challenges when scripting. If you and your company are embarking down a strategic path that includes beefing up your administrative scripting capability, I would strongly suggest you look at a resource a few of my colleagues pointed me at recently.
The resource I am talking about is the wsadminlib.py package referenced here. This python script file is a collection of hundreds of methods that carry out common WebSphere Application Server administrative tasks. The authors carefully constructed these methods with clear method and parameter names. The result is a script resource that can become the foundation for your custom-crafted administrative scripts.
I recently downloaded the wsadminlib.py script and began constructing WebSphere CloudBurst script packages to utilize it. To say I am impressed would be an understatement. This file makes so many tasks so incredibly simple. Take for instance the creation of an SIBus. That's just a simple call like the following:
wsadminlib.createSIBus(clusterName, nodeName, serverName, SIBusName, scope, secure)
How about associating a shared library with an application or application module? Another one-line call:
wsadminlib.associateSharedLibrary (libName, appName, warName)
Or what about setting a custom property in the webcontainer? You guessed it. One-line:
wsadminlib.setWebContainerCustomProperty(nodeName, serverName, propName, propValue
This is just an extremely small sample of what the wsadminlib.py includes. As I mentioned earlier, there are hundreds of other methods that carry out various tasks including: installing applications, creating core groups, creating virtual hosts, installing BLAs, creating JMS queues, and much more. If you are looking to beef up your WebSphere Application Server scripting efforts, or if you are just starting, I strongly encourage you to look into and make use of this valuable resource!