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.
I just wanted to point out a great opportunity for anybody considering leveraging IBM Workload Deployer v3 to deploy Database workloads. On June 29th Rav Ahuja, a Senior Product Manager for Data Management at IBM, will be hosting a webcast entitled "Easily Deploying Private Clouds for Database Workloads". He will be joined by Chris Gruber (Product Manager, Database as a Service), Leon Katsnelson (Program Director, IM Cloud Computing Center of Competence), and Sal Vella (Vice President, Database Development and Warehousing) in this panel discussion.
As many of you already know, IBM Workload Deployer v3 comes pre-loaded with DB2 images and patterns that are configured to rapidly provision standardized database servers for any number of purposes. The servers can be deployed in standalone configurations or as part of a complete virtual system including web components with the database components. These servers can also be configured for high availability scenarios. This panel discussion will cover all of these scenarios and more.
You can read more about the webcast in this blog post by Rav Ahuja.
If you want further details about how to build and rapidly deploy databases in a private cloud, be sure to attend this free webinar on June 29th.
Among the major features of the new virtual application pattern in IBM Workload Deployer is the notion of elasticity. That is, as your application needs more resources, it gets them. When your application can meet its SLAs with fewer resources, the environment shrinks. With this kind of pattern, you enable elasticity by specifying a policy and defining the scaling trigger (i.e. CPU usage, application response times, database response times, etc.). What may have been a bit lost in some of these new announcements regarding IBM Workload Deployer is the fact that you can now leverage this core feature of cloud, elasticity, in your virtual system patterns.
If you have read this blog in the past, you probably already know that the Intelligent Management Pack is an option for virtual system patterns built using WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition. When you enable the Intelligent Management Pack option, you are essentially building and deploying WebSphere Virtual Enterprise (WVE) environments. For those of you not familiar with WVE, the best way to describe it is that it provides you with application and application infrastructure virtualization capabilities. Of its many capabilities, one most germane to our discussion today is the ability for users to attach SLAs to applications and then have WVE automatically prioritize requests and manage resources in order to meet those SLAs. Inherent in this capability is the ability to dynamically start and stop application server processes (JVMs) as required. In other words, WVE provides JVM elasticity.
The fact that WVE provides JVM elasticity is nothing new. Further, IBM Workload Deployer started providing virtual machine (VM) elasticity in previous versions (when it was WebSphere CloudBurst). With this feature, you could add or remove VMs to an already deployed virtual system using dynamic virtual machine operations provided by the appliance. The catch was that the VM elasticity was a manual action and you could not link this elasticity to the same SLAs tied to your applications. Well, thanks to a new feature in WebSphere Virtual Enterprise and easy integration provided by the Intelligent Management Pack, this is no longer the case.
Starting in IBM Workload Deployer 3.0, you can take advantage of a new WVE feature called Elasticity Mode when using the Intelligent Management Pack. Elasticity mode is not unique to IBM Workload Deployer, but a concept new to the base WVE product. It allows one to define actions for how WVE should grow and shrink the set of nodes used by application server resources. Like the basic JVM elasticity capability in WVE, these node elasticity actions trigger based on SLAs tied to your applications. Consider the case that you are using elasticity mode and your application is not currently meetings its SLA. If WVE does not think it can start any more application server instances on the current set of nodes, it will grow the set of nodes per your elasticity configuration. Conversely, if WVE detects that it can meet SLAs with fewer nodes, it will shrink the resources per your elasticity configuration.
In IBM Workload Deployer, using elasticity mode becomes even easier. All you need to do is use the Intelligent Management Pack and enable the elasticity mode option in your virtual system patterns. When you do this, you get automatic integration between IBM Workload Deployer and the deployed WVE environment. What does that mean? It means that if WVE detects it needs more nodes, it will automatically call back into IBM Workload Deployer and request that the appliance provision a new VM that will serve as a node for application server processes. It also means that if WVE detects it could meet SLAs with fewer resources, it will call into IBM Workload Deployer and ask it to remove a node. All of this happens without any user scripting. All you have to do is enable this option in your patterns and configure SLAs appropriate for your applications.
To me, this exciting new feature brings out the best of elasticity capabilities in both IBM Workload Deployer and WebSphere Virtual Enterprise. The result is a single management plane that gives you both VM and JVM elasticity for your cloud-based application environments. Best of all, elasticity actions map directly to SLAs for your applications. After all, when it comes to cloud, it's the application that really matters!
The soon to be released IBM Workload Deployer is already being integrated with many IBM products. One of these is the Rational Application Developer. I created a short video demonstration of a simple scenario that includes multiple phases of an application from development to production using IBM Workload Deployer. The scenario starts with the Solutions Architect creating a workload application pattern for a stock trading application. It then moves to the developer working in Rational Application Developer and demonstrates this integration that allows the developer to access the workload pattern, publish the application that she has built in Rational Application Developer into the pattern, and then deploy the pattern to the test cloud. All of this without leaving the Rational Application Developer user interface. The scenario then continues with the test team adding policies and validating the application before the deployment manager finally makes some final adjustments and adds places the application into the production cloud.
As I have mentioned before, IBM Workload Deployer v3.0 introduces choices in pattern-based deployment models. One of those models, virtual system patterns, is a carry over from the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. When you use virtual system patterns in IBM Workload Deployer, you can take advantage of all of the techniques you put to use in WebSphere CloudBurst. This is certainly good news for current WebSphere CloudBurst users, but it goes a bit further. Instead of simply maintaining the status quo with virtual system patterns, which would have been reasonable considering the introduction of virtual application patterns, we chose to continue to expand on your customization options for this pattern deployment model. In particular, I want to discuss three new features in IBM Workload Deployer that may help you to better construct and manage virtual system patterns.
The first new feature is one that I have been eagerly awaiting. In the new version of the appliance, we provide you with the ability to specify part and script package ordering in your pattern. This means that, within the virtual system pattern editor, you can tell IBM Workload Deployer in which order to start the virtual machines in your pattern, and you can specify in which order to invoke the script packages within the pattern during deployment. This eliminates the need for special script invocation orchestration logic in your pattern (I had customers resorting to a semaphore like approach using a shared file system), and it allows you to be more declarative about the virtual machine bring-up process. There are constraints, specifically with the part ordering. Some images will impose an implied part start-up order that you cannot change. For instance, deployment manager parts in the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition image must start before custom node parts. The good news is the pattern editor will not allow you to specify a part start-up order that violates these constraints. The image below shows an example of the ordering view in the virtual system pattern editor.
Another new feature that may influence the way you build virtual system patterns is the introduction of Add-Ons. You can think of Add-Ons as special script packages that you can include in your virtual system pattern that perform system-level configuration actions. Specifically, you can include add-ons in your virtual system pattern to add an operating system user, add a virtual disk, or add a NIC during the deployment process. You include Add-Ons in your pattern by simply dragging and dropping them onto a part in your pattern, just as you do with script packages today. The difference between script packages and Add-Ons is that IBM Workload Deployer will ensure the invocation of all Add-Ons before any other scripts run during deployment. We include default Add-On implementations for adding a user, disk, and NIC.
The last new feature I want to talk about today has more to do with how you manage or govern the deployment of virtual system patterns. In WebSphere CloudBurst 2.0, we introduced the idea of Environment Profiles as a way to extend your customization reach into the deployment process. Initially, these profiles gave you the ability to directly assign IP addresses to virtual machines in your deployment, declaratively specify virtual machine naming formats, and easily split a single pattern deployment across multiple cloud groups. In IBM Workload Deployer, you will be able to use these same profiles to set resource consumption limits for pattern deployments. In particular, you will be able to set cumulative limits for virtual CPU, memory, storage, and software licenses used by deployments tied to a specific profile, thereby giving you finer-grained control over cloud resource consumption. The picture below shows the new resource limit aspects of environment profiles.
Virtual system patterns are key in the deployment model choices for IBM Workload Deployer. Not only did we carry the concept over from WebSphere CloudBurst to IBM Workload Deployer, but we made it even better. Expect this trend to continue!
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!
WebSphere configuration management practices are common items of conversation that comes up when I am talking with users about IBM Workload Deployer (formerly WebSphere CloudBurst). This conversation can take on so many different avenues that it is hard to capture all of them in a short blog post. So, for the sake of this post, let's consider two facets of WebSphere configuration management. The first facet is addressing the need to consistently arrive at the same configuration across multiple deployments of a given WebSphere environment. The second facet involves managing the configuration of a deployed environment over time to protect against living drift. What is the best way to tackle these two challenges? Well, it comes down to picking the right tool for the job.
When it comes to ensuring consistency of initial WebSphere configuration from deployment to deployment, there is really no better means than patterns-based deployments enabled by IBM Workload Deployer. Whether you are using a virtual system or virtual application pattern, the bottom line is that you are representing your middleware application environments as a single, directly deployable unit. When you need to stand that environment up, you simply deploy the pattern. The deployment encapsulates the installation, configuration, and integration of the environment, and your applications if you so choose. The benefit of this approach is that once you get your pattern nailed down, you can be extremely confident that the initial configuration of your environments is extremely consistent from deploy to deploy. Basically, no more bad deployments because someone forgot to run configuration step 33 out of 100!
Because we talk about the benefits of consistency provided by our IBM Workload Deployer patterns, users often ask what IBM Workload Deployer does in terms of configuration governance for deployed environments. In other words, they ask how IBM Workload Deployer helps them to track configuration changes or compare the configuration of a deployed environment to a known good one. The honest answer is that this is a bit beyond the functional domain of the appliance. While IBM Workload Deployer does allow you to manage the deployed environment (apply fixes, update deployed applications, snapshot, etc.), it does not layer some of the common configuration governance concerns on top of that. However, there is a good reason why the appliance does not focus on that. It's because Rational Automation Framework for WebSphere does!
If you find yourself wanting to actively track configuration changes, periodically (and automatically at specified intervals) compare configuration changes to a 'golden' baseline, import configurations of a known good environment, apply common configuration across a number of cells, then the capabilities of RAFW would likely be of interest to you. It can do all this and give you an incredible toolbox of out-of-the-box application deployment and configuration capabilities for WebSphere environments. In my mind, for those that spend a good deal of time dealing with WebSphere configuration, whether it be deploying applications, configuring containers, or debugging inadvertent changes, an examination of RAFW functionality is a must.
Now it is time for a bit of disclaimer/clarification. I am not suggesting that you pick one or the other when it comes to IBM Workload Deployer and RAFW. In fact, there are many scenarios where 1+1=3 with these two solutions, and I have written about it many, many times (including this article). That said, I think it is important to highlight the relative strengths of each product, so that it is easier to map it back to your pain points. In honesty, many of the users I talk with have challenges in getting the initial configuration right AND managing it over time. That kind of problem beckons for the integrated IBM Workload Deployer/RAFW solution.
Of course, technology only gets you so far when it comes to these kinds of problems. It would be disingenuous of me to suggest otherwise. It has always been and will continue to be important to establish clear and rigorous processes around the way you deploy, manage, and change environments. This just gives you an idea of some of the tools you can leverage to aid in the implementation of those processes.
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!