Typically we spend most of the real estate on this blog talking about cloud computing and specifically, IBM Workload Deployer. However, I am hoping that this week you permit me to take a bit of a detour to discuss a very important new announcement. Last week, IBM announced the early availability of the WebSphere Application Server v8.5 Alpha. In all fairness, your response may be 'You guys always have WAS Alphas. Why should I care about this one?' I have two words for you: Liberty Profile.
Based on my own experience in the IBM labs and my conversations with numerous enterprise developers out there, I think I understand many of the needs to create an efficient development environment. Developers need tools and runtimes that are lightweight, easy to install, simple to configure, and fast to recycle or otherwise update. Enhancements in our WebSphere Application Server v8.0 took many of these concerns head on with features such as directory-based install and drastically improved server startup times. The new v8.5 Alpha, and specifically the Liberty Profile, extend this developer focus even further.
The Liberty Profile is a lightweight, fast, and easy to use application runtime that you can download for free by visiting the WASdev community site. The design of the runtime is best described as fit-for-purpose and you configure it by selectively enabling and disabling features based on application need. For example, you may enable the servlet, JPA, and JSP features, or you may decide you only need to enable the servlet feature of the runtime. It is completely up to you! In addition to this innovative new runtime, the WebSphere Application Server v8.5 Alpha also includes free tools for Eclipse. These tools make it simple to create Liberty Profile server instances, start server instances, stop server instances, install applications, and remove applications. In fact, you can do all of this and even download and install the WebSphere Application Server v8.5 Alpha without ever leaving your Eclipse workspace! Check out the demonstration below to see an example of installing and using the new Alpha.
I really hope that you will participate in the new WebSphere Application Server v8.5 Alpha. The setup process that includes both tools and runtime will take just a few minutes of your time, and leaves but a small footprint on your machine (the Liberty Profile of the WAS v8.5 Alpha is only ~50 MB unzipped). In the meantime, you can find more information about the Alpha on the WASdev site or in the new Information Center. Finally, don't forget to join in on the conversation on the WASdev forum!
One of the things that often comes up at some point in IBM Workload Deployer conversations is the notion of self-service access. Specifically, users want to know what the appliance provides that enables them to allow various teams in their organization to directly deploy the middleware environments they need. In other words, they want to use IBM Workload Deployer to tear down the traditional barriers that exist between those that request the environment and those that fulfill said request. Now, as we begin to elaborate on this notion, it becomes quickly apparent that in order to effectively enable self-service, IBM Workload Deployer must deliver a few things.
First, IBM Workload Deployer must provide the means to define users with various levels of access. Second, IBM Workload Deployer must provide the means to define resource access at a fine-grained level to different users and groups of users. Check and check. The appliance has been doing this since the beginning of WebSphere CloudBurst. Without those two things, the conversation of self-service access would end pretty quickly. However, there is a final capability that is equally important: IBM Workload Deployer must deliver a means to limit resource consumption at a fine-grained level.
In IBM Workload Deployer there are a couple of ways to achieve this. First, you could define multiple cloud groups and allow access to those groups in a way that maps directly to resource entitlements. While that may work in some situations, others call for even more granularity. You may want to allow multiple different users or groups to access a cloud group, but you may want to allow different consumption limits for each of these groups. In this situation, you can take advantage of environment profiles and a new option when defining users of IBM Workload Deployer.
Consider the case that you have a group of developers and you want to limit their consumption of memory in the cloud. First, you start by defining your development users and for each you select Environment Profile Only as the value for the Deployment Options field.
By selecting the above value for the deployment options of a user, you restrict that user to only deploying via an environment profile as opposed to general cloud group deployments. After defining all of your development users, you may choose to organize them into a user group for easier management. At that point, you can define environment profiles and determine which ones your developers should have access to using the Access granted to field of the profile.
Within the environment profile, you can define resource consumption limits for compute resource and software licenses. For instance, you can define a limit on the amount of virtual memory consumed by all deployments using the profile. It is important to note that the limit is cumulative for ALL deployments that use the profile.
Now that all of the controls are in place, consider the deployment process for one of your development users. They pick a virtual system pattern, click the deploy icon and begin to configure the pattern for deployment. In the Choose Environment section of the deployment dialog, your development user will only be able to select the Choose profile option for deployment. Further, they will only be able to deploy using the environment profiles to which they have access.
After the deployment completes, a look at the Environment limits section in the profile shows the current usage totals.
Now suppose another development user, or even the same one, comes along and attempts to deploy another virtual system pattern even though the profile limits have already been reached. The user can initiate the deployment, but they will get a near immediate failure owing to the fact that they would exceed consumption limits if the deployment were allowed to proceed.
The same kind of enforcement occurs regardless of the resource limit type. You can use this approach to limit the consumption of CPU, virtual memory, storage, or software licenses among the various different users or groups of users you define in IBM Workload Deployer. If you combine fine-grained resource consumption limits with varying permissions and fine-grained access, I think you are on the road to truly enabling self-service in the enterprise.
A couple of weeks ago, I dropped by the Intel Developer Forum to present a session and listen in on a few others. As always in these types of shows, I learned quite a bit. Most strikingly though, I was reminded of something that is probably quite obvious to many of you: Consumer interest in cloud computing will not be letting up any time soon.
Based on this, and some of the other things I heard at the show, I decided to catch up with fellow IBMer Marc Haberkorn. Marc is an IBM Product Manager and is responsible for IBM Workload Deployer amongst other things. I asked him about IBM Workload Deployer, the competition, and cloud in general. Check out what Marc had to say below:
Me:IBM Workload Deployer is one among many of a growing wave of cloud management solutions. How do you differentiate the focus and business value of it versus the myriad of other solutions out there?
Marc: To sum it up, we offer a combination of depth and breadth. IWD delivers both workload aware management and general purpose management. Workload aware management differentiates IWD from its competition, as it can deliver more value for the set of products for which it has context. There is a set of actions that workload aware management tools can do that is normally left to the user by general purpose management tools. This list includes configuring a middleware server to know its hostname/IP address, configuring multiple middleware servers to know of one another, arranging clusters, applying maintenance, and handling elasticity. By handling more of these activities in the automated flow, there are fewer chances for manual errors and inconsistencies to enter a managed environment.
That said, without infinite resource or time, it’s impossible to deliver this context-aware management for everything under the sun. As such, in order to allow IWD to deliver differentiated value AND allow it to handle a customer's entire environment, we offer a mix of workload-aware management and general purpose management.
Me:VMware is a good example of a company active in the cloud space, and they seem to keep a consistent pace of new product delivery. What do you think of their product development focus?
Marc: I think VMware has built a very compelling set of capability in the virtualization space. I think the main difference between VMware's suite and IBM Workload Deployer is the perspective from which the environments are managed. VMware puts the administrator in the position of thinking about infrastructure from the ground up. The administrator is thinking about virtual images, hypervisors, and scripts. In IBM Workload Deployer, we think about things from the perspective of the app, because that's ultimately what the business cares about. By providing a declarative model through which an application can be instantiated and managed, we feel we deliver a deeper value proposition to clients, through workload-aware management.
Me:The 'one tool to do it all' approach is a popular, if not hard to achieve goal. What is your advice to users when it comes to choosing between breadth and depth for cloud management solutions?
Marc: The advantages of a "one tool to do it all" are many: less integration, more uniformity, less complexity. As such, customers will always prefer a single tool when possible. This is why IBM Workload Deployer has focused on not only providing differentiated, deeper value for common use cases but also providing a way to handle the "everything else." As such, my advice to users is not to choose between breadth and depth - use IBM Workload Deployer which offers both.
Me:To close, I'm curious to know where you think we are heading in the cloud market. What do you think users will be most readily adopting over the next one to two years? Where does the cloud industry need the most innovation?
Marc: I think most users are currently looking at the broad picture of cloud computing, and have been adopting primarily in the private cloud realm. There are several reasons for this. One reason is that many customers have a large set of hardware resources which amount to sunk cost that needs to be leveraged. Another reason is around data security concerns in off-premises clouds, and still another reason is around the human factor of comfort, which has taken time to develop around off-premise cloud models. However, businesses have become increasingly comfortable with various sources of outsourcing in recent years, especially in mission critical areas involving very sensitive data. Just look at IBM's Strategic Outsourcing business, which handles entire IT operations for many large businesses. I think that trend will (and really, has already begun to) continue in the area of cloud computing, and will lead to more public and ultimately hybrid cloud computing adoption. In order to get to hybrid cloud computing, I see much of the focus and innovation being associated with data security, workload portability (across private and public, in a seamless fashion), and license transferability between private and public. When this space reaches fruition, clients will be able to enjoy true elastic economics in a computing model that allows a mixture of owning and renting compute resources and software licenses.
Sorry for the late notice - but I just realized that I hadn't blogged about a webcast that I am participating in tomorrow (Tuesday, 9/13)!
Chris Brealey (a Senior Technical Staff Member and Rational Enterprise Architect) and I are hosting an InformationWeek WebCast tomorrow (Tuesday, 9/13) entitled "Quickly and Efficiently Design, Develop, Deploy, and Test Workload Application Patterns to Save Months and Millions". I encourage you to register now for this free event (or if you can't make it tomorrow listen to it at your convenience as it will be recorded ... but you still need to register).
I'm really looking forward to this webcast. IBM Workload Deployer's predecessor, WebSphere Cloudburst Appliance, delivered unmatched capabilities for middleware deployments and management using Virtual System patterns (topology) - delivering complete middleware topologies in a rapid, consistent, and repeatable fashion. This has greatly improved the ability of development and test organizations to meet the ever increasing demands of today's agile development processes in addition to the assurance it provides for production environments. All of that value is still present (and improved) in IBM Workload Deployer but there is even more value in the new Virtual Application Patterns, as we've mentioned in previous posts.
Virtual Applications build upon this same notion of consistency and speed found in Virtual Systems while at the same time introducing a radical simplification to hosting your applications. Using an application-centric, declarative approach with Virtual Applications (workloads) it is even easier to deliver your applications rapidly leaving Workload Deployer to ensure the middleware environment is constructed and optimized to meet your application criteria. Virtual Applications usher IBM Workload Deployer into the realm of Platform-as-a-Service ... with even greater simplicity and agility to host your application in the most efficient fashion. As with Virtual System patterns earlier, we expect the introduction of Virtual Applications to continue to improve the dev/test lifecycle as well as production. The robust capabilities of Rational Application Developer and the simplicity of Virtual Application patterns in Workload Deployer make for a great combination.
I will start off the webcast with a discussion of PaaS and IBM Workload Deployer Virtual Application patterns. Chris will then discuss the application development process and how that is influenced with the introduction of the cloud environment. Chris will then explore the integration that is available in Rational Application Developer for IBM Workload Deployer. Finally, we will walk through a scenario that demonstrates how to leverage Virtual Application patterns in IBM Workload Deployer to design a solution that is then shared with the developer. Using Rational Application Developer the developer delivers the application into the pattern and moves it to test and finally pre-production. We will end with a question and answer time. I hope you can join us as we explore how we can use these technologies to increase agility and efficiency.
Script packages are an integral part of virtual system patterns in IBM Workload Deployer. By attaching script packages to your patterns, you provide customizations particular to your unique cloud-based middleware environments. Customizations provided by script packages might include installing applications, creating application resources, integrating with external enterprise systems, and much more. The bottom line is, if you are creating virtual system patterns, you will almost certainly be creating script packages.
Largely, the act of creating a script package is independent of IBM Workload Deployer. The appliance does not dictate a particular scripting language, so all you need to do is make sure you can invoke your logic in the operating system environment. Your script package may be a wsadmin script, shell script, Java program, Perl script, and on and on. After you create the actual contents of your script package, you will then load that asset into the IBM Workload Deployer catalog.
Once loaded into the catalog, you define several attributes of your script package, including the executable command, command arguments, variables, execution time, and more. The process for defining these attributes is trivial using the intuitive UI in IBM Workload Deployer, but I wanted to take a little time to remind you of a technique I recommend to all users defining script packages. You can actually package a JSON file within the script package that defines all of the script's attributes. The format of the file is simple, and I am including an example below:
The example above is one taken from a script package in our samples gallery, and it shows the basics of which you need to be aware. Notice that in the JSON file, you can provide a name, description, unzip location, executable command, command arguments, variables, and more. You only need to ensure that the name of this JSON file is cbscript.json and that you include it at the root of the script package archive. Once you have done that, you load the script package archive into the catalog, refresh the script package details, and voila -- all the attribute definitions appear!
You may ask why I recommend this since it could seem like an unnecessary step. My answer to that is that you have to define these attributes anyway, so you might as well capture it once in the file. Once you capture it once in the file, you can ensure that if the same script needs to be reloaded, or if you need to move it to another appliance, its definition will be exactly the same (and presumably correct). I use this approach for all of my work, and for all of the samples I contribute to our gallery, and it really saves me a lot of misplaced effort that can result from typos. If you are out there creating script packages, try adopting this approach. I'm pretty sure you will be happy you did!
We've begun to seed this location with all sorts of helpful information on IBM Workload Deployer. Check it out and you will find links to a "getting started" section, articles, demos, redbooks, whitepapers, pointers to various blogs where authors write about private clouds or IBM Workload Deployer (yep, this blog is included), links to product documentation and education assistant, upcoming events, and more included in the wiki. We're still populating this location with content and we're looking for input on how to improve things ... so please provide your feedback and check back often to see how it evolves.
The content provided in the community is open and visible to everyone immediately. However, there is even more value if you create an id (or use your existing developerWorks id) to become a member of the community. Members can participate in the many collaborative elements that the community provides. This includes the ability to open discussions and collaborate on the forum, post blog entries in the IBM Workload Deployer community blog, or even share content that you have created which may be of interest to others.
There is even a specific section in the community focused on the Plugin Developer's Kit that Dustin mentioned in the previous post on extensibility ( see IBM Workload Deployer PDK wiki page ).
So please visit this new IBM Workload Deployer community and send us your feedback so that we can improve and grow this into a valuable resource. Ultimately, we want this to be a place where we can help each other be successful using IBM Workload Deployer. We also want to learn valuable insights from your experiences with IBM Workload Deployer so that we can continue to make improvements and optimizations in the appliance with the goal of improving your private cloud experience, making your business more agile and efficient. As always, please send us your feedback.
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!
If you were to compare the deployment mechanics for virtual application patterns and virtual system patterns, you would notice differences in the way IBM Workload Deployer establishes these environments in your cloud. In both cases the end result is a virtualized environment with which you can work, but the construction of these environments varies. For the most part, you need to understand the virtual application pattern deployment process when creating custom patterns of that type, and you need to understand the virtual system pattern deployment process when creating custom patterns of that type. However, the way in which IBM Workload Deployer deploys virtual application patterns may have an effect on how you build custom virtual system patterns.
When deploying virtual application patterns, IBM Workload Deployer does not use traditional IBM Hypervisor Edition images to initially create the virtual machines for your deployment. Instead, the appliance deploys a virtual image that contains only a hardened operating system environment. After the virtual machine initializes, the appliance triggers the installation, configuration, and integration of software and applications that make up the requested virtual application pattern. This is a bit more of a bottom-up, modular approach as compared to the virtual system pattern deployment process which involves the use of IBM Hypervisor Edition images. Neither is necessarily better than the other (after all they both result in customized deployments that happen in mere minutes), but they are different.
Okay, so I promised that the way in which the appliance deploys virtual application patterns had something to do with virtual system pattern customization techniques, but what exactly? It goes back to the beginning of virtual application pattern deployment and the base virtual image deployed by IBM Workload Deployer. When you deploy virtual application patterns, you never directly interact with this image. However, the image comes pre-loaded on the appliance and appears in the catalog right next to the IBM Hypervisor Edition images. This is important because it means you can use this base OS image in the creation of your custom virtual system patterns as well!
The current version of the base image contains a 64-bit Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system and a single part that you can use in your virtual system patterns. Further, we place no restrictions on how you use or customize this image. You can even subject this image to the extend and capture process in IBM Workload Deployer. In this way, you can install any software content you want into the image (provided it runs on the OS of course), use the image in a pattern, and deploy that software via the appliance. Since you can use the image to build a virtual system pattern, you can include any configuration scripts that you require. Again, we do not inhibit the way in which you customize the image, nor do we constrain the way you use it in a virtual system pattern. It is entirely up to you.
Personally, I think this base image opens up a new set of possibilities for you, our users. Over the course of WebSphere CloudBurst and now IBM Workload Deployer, we got a lot of feedback requesting a base OS image that allowed this kind of flexibility. Well, it is here now, and I cannot wait to see how everyone starts using it!
As Joe mentioned in his last post, virtual application patterns are all the rage in IBM Workload Deployer. The high degree of abstraction provided by these patterns means users can remove tedious, time consuming tasks like middleware installation, configuration, and integration from their field of view. As a consequence, users can build and deploy application environments in unprecedented time, thus freeing up more time to focus on the actual application.
This is obviously important because building and deploying application environments are crucial, traditionally time consuming activities. However, what happens after you build and deploy the application? You manage it, that's what! Joe brought up the fact that IBM Workload Deployer makes this easier too by delivering an integrated management portal through which you can manage and monitor your application environments. Now, this probably already sounds valuable, but what really puts it over the top is the management portal exposes an interface that is workload aware. But, what does that mean?
To get an idea of what that means, consider the case that you use the shipped virtual application pattern to build a simple application environment with a web application and database. You deploy it with IBM Workload Deployer, and your application is up and ready. Now you want to start checking things out. You start by opening the management portal directly from the appliance, and you see both the application and database components listed in the view:
After you looked at basic machine statistics such as network activity and memory usage, you could move on to a more workload-centric view. For instance, you could examine statistics particular to a web application such as request counts and service response times:
You may also decide that you want to alter certain aspects of your deployed environment. As an example, you could update your deployed application or change certain configuration data in the deployed environment:
It is important to note that you have a management interface for each of the components in your environment. That means that from the same management interface, you can manage and monitor the database you deployed as part of your environment. For example, at different intervals, you may want to backup your database. You can do this directly from the management portal provided by IBM Workload Deployer:
Lest you think that you can only manage and monitor, this unique management interface is also a one stop shop for all of your troubleshooting needs. From the centralized portal, you can view log and trace data for each component:
Virtual application patterns are an attempt to encapsulate each phase of your application's lifecycle, from creation to deployment to management. In this regard, I hope the above provides a taste of some of the management capabilities provided by virtual application patterns. It truly is the tip of the iceberg!
Virtual Application Patterns are one of the major new features in IBM Workload Deployer v3. You've heard this concept discussed on this blog before and it is really a revolutionary way to manage your applications in a private cloud environment. With Virtual Application Patterns you provide declarative information about your application including functional and non-functional requirements of that application. You get to focus on the application rather than the middleware configuration and IBM Workload Deployer takes care of all the details necessary to launch your application with the criteria you specify. This application-centric approach radically simplifies the deployment of applications in a private cloud. And it is not just the deployment that is simplified; it is also the monitoring, metering, logging, security, caching, etc ... that is consolidated and simplified as well. Everything is custom tailored for the particular application type to provide a significant level of integration and optimization for elastic, efficient, multi-tenant, automated management and execution of that application workload.
In IBM Workload Deployer v3 there are two different types of virtual application patterns provided out of the box; a pattern for web applications and a pattern for database applications. It's no accident that these are also the two most heavily utilized types of applications in most enterprises. Of course more patterns will be appearing in the future and you have the opportunity to create your own custom patterns ... but these first two patterns can cover a substantial number of current application workloads.
So why am I introducing all of this again? Well, I want to make you aware of a new article that was just published which covers virtual application patterns in a very consumable way with enough detail and screen shots to get you started down this path. It is appropriately named: Easy virtual app automation using Workload Deployer . It really does a great job of covering not only the web application pattern - but it also introduces the database pattern (DBaaS) and shared services. If you are about to embark on virtual applications this is a great place to start.
In a post not long ago, I mentioned new enhancements to virtual system patterns in IBM Workload Deployer. A prominent part of those enhancements were updates to pattern construction that allow you to order virtual machine startup, order script package invocation, and include add-ons that provide system level configuration options. Recently I uploaded a demonstration to YouTube that highlights some of these new capabilities. Specifically, this provides a brief look at ordering and add-on enhancements.
I hope you take a look, and even more importantly, I hope to see some feedback. If you have something you would like to see captured in a demo, let me know and I'll work it to the top of a long and continually growing list!
If you are reading this blog then I am pretty sure that you are interested in the agility that can be achieved by rapidly provisioning middleware systems and standing up virtual applications in a private cloud environment. However there are other aspects of agility that you should also consider. One such aspect is the ability to build applications that can be easily maintained, updated, and extended. This is where OSGi technology comes into the picture.
If you have been working with the IBM Workload Deployer (or watching some IBM Workload Deployer demos) you may have noticed a category of components in the virtual application builder called OSGi Components.
Maybe you already know all about OSGi applications and the value they bring to an enterprise. Or, perhaps you noticed this and decided that you would search for some more information on this odd acronym and just what an OSGi application is all about.
In a nutshell OSGi technology is a way to define dynamic modules for Java. It provides a standard way to encapsulate components (called bundles) with metadata that define versioned package dependencies, service dependencies, packages exported, services exported, etc... basically everything you need to know about this bundle so that it can be connected up with other bundles to support a particular solution. These bundles can then be grouped together into applications and dynamically wired to fulfill necessary dependencies at runtime. The OSGi framework provides all of the necessary capability to manage the dependencies and resolve any problems.
Those who leverage OSGi technology benefit from improved time-to-market and reduced development costs. The loose coupling provided by the OSGi framework reduces maintenance costs and facilitates the dynamic delivery of components in a running system. Of course there's a lot more to it than just that ... involving portability across different environments, achieving the appropriate level of isolation or sharing within an environment, and integrating with the many different technologies and patterns already available today. I don't think I know enough about OSGi to do it justice here. But fortunately for me (and you) there are several experts who can make it all clear.
One such expert is Graham Charters and there is a great opportunity to hear him introduce this topic and also participate in a dialogue about the concepts and what they mean for your business. Graham will be leading a Global WebSphere Community Lab Chat on Wednesday of this week (July 20th) entitled: How can OSGi make your enterprise more agile. Graham is the IBM technical lead in the OSGi Alliance Enterprise Expert Group and an active participant in the open source community implementing many of these standards. So register now for this free session and learn how OSGi can make your enterprise even more agile.
A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a current WebSphere customer about the potential value they could derive from the use of IBM Workload Deployer. Right away, this customer saw value in the consistency that a patterns-based approach could afford them. It was clear that patterns eliminate the uncertainty that can make its way into even the best-planned deployment processes. Initially though, the customer questioned the value of being able to do fast deployments because, in their words, "We don't deploy WebSphere environments that often." So, we continued our discussion, and then they asked an important question that I encourage all of our users to ask: "Why don't we deploy our WebSphere environments more frequently?"
It is interesting to talk with our WebSphere users that have a long history with our products. Often times, they have been taking a shared approach to WebSphere installations for many, many years. They develop innovative approaches and isolation schemes that allow them to carve up a single WebSphere installation (cell) amongst multiple different application teams. This allows them to avoid having to setup a cell for each application deployment and saves them the associated time. However, having talked to many different users taking this approach, it is not without its challenges.
As was the case in the customer I mention above, users typically made trade-offs when electing for larger, shared cells. As an example, if you have multiple different application teams with different types of applications using a single cell, applying fixes and upgrades to that cell can be a lot more complex. After all, you now have to coordinate plans across a number of different teams and find a window that fits all of their needs. For the same reason, trying incremental function via our feature packs is much more arduous in these types of cells. Additionally, administrative controls become more complex since teams with varying needs all require administrative access. Admittedly, this gets simpler with newer fine-grained security models in WebSphere Application Server v7 and v8, but it still requires organizational discipline and process.
At this point I should be clear that I am not denigrating the shared cell approach. It can work well, and we have many facilities built into the WebSphere Application Server product to support that model. However, if you are using this approach and you find yourself stumbling too much for your own liking, then I would strongly suggest that you explore the patterns-based approach of IBM Workload Deployer. By deploying patterns that represent your WebSphere cells using IBM Workload Deployer, you can quickly and consistently setup multiple WebSphere Application Server cells to support the varying needs of your application teams. You will still avoid spending an inordinate amount of time installing and configuring cells as that is an automated part of pattern deployment, and your application teams will still get the resources they need. Further, this can liberate your application teams in terms of how they apply maintenance, install upgrades, and absorb new function in the form of feature packs.
I am not suggesting a complete pendulum swing in your approach to how you manage multiple application environments. There is definitely a happy medium in terms of how many cells you end up with. After all, you do not want to trade in one set of problems for the problem of managing way too many different cells. However, I do think that decomposing monolithic, multi-purpose cells into smaller, more purposeful cells can be beneficial. In the course of thinking about this different approach, you may come to the same conclusion that the customer I mention above did. IBM Workload Deployer's rapid deployment capabilities are indeed valuable if you take a slightly different view of current processes.
In my opinion, declarative deployment models are key to the entire notion of Platform as a Service (PaaS). That is, users should concern themselves with what they want, but not necessarily how to get it. The PaaS system should be able to interpret imperatives from the user and automatically convert that to a running system. In this respect, I think the new virtual application pattern, and more specifically policies, in IBM Workload Deployer takes a giant leap toward a more declarative deployment model.
In IBM Workload Deployer, policies allow you to 'decorate' your virtual application pattern with functional and non-functional requirements. In other words, they provide a vehicle for you to tell the system what qualities of service you expect for your application environment. To put a little context around this discussion, let's examine the policies available in the virtual application pattern for web applications. Specifically, let's look at the four policy types you can attach to Enterprise Application, Web Application, and OSGI Application components in this pattern:
Scaling policy: When it comes to cloud, the first thing many folks think about is autonomic elasticity. Applications should scale up and down based on criteria defined by the user. Well, that is exactly what the scaling policy lets you do. You simply attach this policy to your application component, and then specify properties that define when to scale. First, you choose a scaling trigger from a list that includes application response time, CPU usage, JDBC connection wait time, and JDBC connection pool usage. After choosing your trigger, you decide the minimum and maximum number of application instances for your deployment, and then you choose the minimum number of seconds to wait for an add or remove action. At this point, you can deploy your application and IBM Workload Deployer will monitor the environment, automatically triggering scaling actions as needed.
JVM policy: I would be willing to bet that nearly all of you tune the JVM environment into which you deploy your applications. The JVM policy allows you to take two common tuning actions, setting the JVM heap sizes and passing in JVM arguments, as well as attach a debugger to the Java process (especially useful in development and test phases). You can also use the policy to enable verbose garbage collection (invaluable to understanding heap usage patterns for your application) and select the bit level (from 32 or 64) for your application. Again, all you have to do is attach the policy and specify the properties. IBM Workload Deployer will take care of the required configuration updates.
Routing policy: The routing policy provides a simple way to specify virtual hostnames and allowable protocols (HTTP or HTTPS) for your application. Attach the policy, provide the virtual hostname you want to use, select the desired protocols, and that's it! Remember, once you set the virtual hostname you will need to update your name server to map the hostname to the appropriate IP address.
Log policy: During the development and test phase, it is likely that you will want to enable certain trace strings in the application runtime. The log policy allows you to provide trace strings for your application, and it makes sure that the appropriate configuration updates occur in the deployed environment.
While this is not an exhaustive explanation of each of the policies above, I hope it gives you a basic idea of what they are and how to use them. To me, declarative deployment models are going to be a crucial part of making PaaS successful, so I am really excited about the notion of policies in IBM Workload Deployer. What do you think?
We've been talking a lot about IBM Workload Deployer V3 and we will continue to highlight different aspects of the capabilities it provides in the coming weeks. As we've already mentioned - IBM® Workload Deployer V3 is not just another release of the IBM WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. While it builds on WebSphere CloudBurst's success, and supports and improves upon all of its original capabilities, Workload Deployer provides new application-centric computing capabilities for your private cloud, and brings you higher utilization, improved ease of use, and more rapid application deployment.