One of the key benefits of WebSphere CloudBurst adoption is rapid -- seriously fast -- deployments of middleware application environments. Our users are leveraging the appliance to bring up enterprise-class middleware environments in mere minutes. If you know a little bit about WebSphere CloudBurst, that statistic may be a little surprising considering the appliance dispenses large virtual images from the appliance over the network to a farm of hypervisors. You may ask how the appliance can achieve such rapid deployments in light of the mere physics involved in transferring large amounts of data over a network. The simple answer is caching of course!
WebSphere CloudBurst creates a cache for each unique virtual image on datastores associated with the hypervisors in your cloud. On subsequent deployments of the same virtual image to the same datastore, WebSphere CloudBurst does not need to transfer the image over the wire. It simply uses the virtual disks that are in the cache on the datastore. In the context of the virtual image cache, the deployment process goes something like this:
WebSphere CloudBurst identifies the images necessary to deploy the pattern selected by the user.
WebSphere CloudBurst identifies the hypervisors and associated datastores that will host the virtual machines created during deployment.
WebSphere CloudBurst checks the selected datastores to see if they already have caches for the images it will be deploying. From here, one of two things happens:
WebSphere CloudBurst detects that there is no cache on the datastore and transfers the images over to the hypervisor, thereby creating the cache on the underlying datastore.
WebSphere CloudBurst detects that there is a cache on the selected datastore and uses that cache in lieu of transferring the disk over the wire.
The process may sound complicated, but it is completely hidden from you, the user. You do not need to know how the cache works since WebSphere CloudBurst handles all of these interactions. So, why am I telling you all of this then? As a WebSphere CloudBurst user, it is good to be aware of the cache for two main reasons. First, you need to account for the storage space the cache needs when doing capacity planning for your WebSphere CloudBurst cloud. Second, anytime you upload or create a new image through extend and capture, I would strongly suggest you automatically prime the cache for this new image. You can do this by simply deploying a pattern built on the image to each unique hypervisor/datastore in your environment. This may take a temporary re-arrangement of cloud groups, but it is a simple process, and it guarantees rapid deployments for all users of the new image.
I hope this sheds a little light on a subject we do not discuss too often. As always, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to let me know!
I've blogged previously about some of IBM's work in the public cloud and specifically on our partnership with Amazon to deliver IBM offerings on the Amazon EC2 cloud. Mostly on this blog I've been focused on IBM WebSphere offerings on the Amazon cloud, but coming up on October 1st, you'll get a chance to hear about and see the full breadth of IBM software offerings available on the Amazon EC2 cloud. Better than simply hearing and seeing, by attending the virtual developer's day, you'll get access to try out some of this software absolutely free!
By leveraging IBM software on Amazon EC2, users can very quickly benefit from the advantages of a cloud computing approach to IT. Instead of focusing valuable time and resource on installing, updating, and otherwise maintaining software, users can simply activate instances of the IBM software of their choosing on Amazon's infrastructure. Besides delivering this rapid approach to getting up and going, users can also leverage cloud computing techniques to quickly and dynamically scale up and down their entire application infrastructure. This ability to dynamically scale up and down means your end-users will always enjoy a satisfactory experience when accessing your applications on the cloud.
You can sign up for the Cloud Computing for Developers day here. In the meantime you can learn more about IBM offerings on the Amazon EC2 cloud by visiting the IBM/Amazon EC2 landing page. I hope you can take advantage of a chance to hear both IBM and Amazon experts and learn how IBM software delivered on the Amazon EC2 cloud can make a real difference for your business.
Applications - just like humans, animals, plants, and many other things - have a life cycle. They are conceived, given birth, grow, do foolish things in youth, hopefully improve over time, have problems that need to be fixed, don't always age well .... and eventually they will die and release their assets to the next generation. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it?
One of the many benefits of virtual application patterns in IBM Workload Deployer and related IBM offerings is support for the complete life cycle of the application. You can manage the complete life cycle of virtual applications from a single interface that is fully integrated and well thought out - not just a series of links from one product UI to a different product UI. This eliminates the complexity of having to work with different interfaces, paradigms, metaphors, controls, labels, names, authorization, and so on - that is often the norm in many customer environments today. I think the benefits of this integration are obvious - eliminating confusion, configuration, miscommunication, interpretation, and mapping errors. Providing a truly complete solution also facilitates a common knowledge base and encourages cooperation and collaboration among teams. You can share patterns, providing consistent governance for a solution, guarantee consistency in deployments, and build upon the expertise provided by others. Having an integrated solution for design, development, deployment, configuration changes, monitoring, and problem determination ensures that time is not wasted and valuable information is not lost.
For this post, I'm turning the tables. Usually, I try to write about things that I think are helpful, or I try to answer some pretty commonly asked questions. I hope that at least a few of these posts have been helpful, but today I am not going to take a shot at what may (or may not) be useful. Nope. Today, I want to ask you: What do you want to know?
To be clear, I'm asking this question in two scopes:
What do you want to know about WebSphere CloudBurst and our IBM Hypervisor Edition images?
What do you want to know about emerging software technologies and trends?
For the first question, you may think I'm engaging in a bit of lazy web behavior. To be fair, that may be partially true, but I really want to make sure that these blogs either continue to stay relevant for you or that they begin to become more relevant for you. I'm open for any kinds of questions, queries, feedback, etc., so please fire away.
The second question is in reference to something new we are just starting in conjunction with SMEs from the IBM labs. We are going to be posting interviews with experts from the IBM labs about the things our users (you) want to know. This could be emerging trends, common development pain points, new product offerings, or anything else that comes to your mind. Again, anything goes, so send me your thoughts, questions, ideas, feedback, etc.
So, I'm leaving you with some homework: give me some answers for these two questions. You can help to steer the direction of this blog as well as the direction of our interview sessions with IBM experts. Leave me a comment here, reach out to me on Twitter (@damrhein), or send me an email.
When we talk about WebSphere CloudBurst, its applicability to development and test environments usually jumps out at the audience. Using the appliance, you can provision fully configured WebSphere cells (your applications included) as a set of virtual machines in a matter of minutes. Further, a patterns-based approach means you can be sure that you are going to get consistent results every time.
The ability to very quickly and consistently stamp out customized WebSphere environments is a huge benefit for test and development purposes because these are typically dynamic. Users frequently stand up and tear down these environments to support the application development process.
This is fine, but sometimes these benefits and particular use case for the appliance lead customers to wonder how it is applicable to production environments. After all, you do not frequently setup and tear down production environments. It is much more common that you deploy your production environment and leave it be so long as you are getting the desired behavior. So, how does WebSphere CloudBurst help with your production environments?
To answer this, we have to avoid looking at the appliance's applicability to production environments in a vacuum. What do I mean? Well, as you are well aware, an application environment goes through many stages in order to get to production. For example, in your organization a given application environment may go through development, test, staging, and pre-production before you finally promote it to production.
One of the challenges as you move your application environment from one stage to the next is maintaining configuration consistency. In other words, you somehow have to ensure that the environment you tested and verified is the same one that you eventually deploy into production. This is where WebSphere CloudBurst patterns can prove invaluable.
You can build WebSphere CloudBurst patterns that represent your various application environments (from the topology to the configuration), and effectively parameterize those patterns so that they can be used across each stage of your application lifecycle. For instance, as you move an application environment from development to test, the location of backend data sources may change. Simply make this location a parameter configurable during pattern deployment, and you can reuse the pattern for both development and test. If you extend this parameterization methodology to include the variable bits of configuration for each stage in the application's lifecycle, you can reuse the pattern from development all the way to production. The result is that you can be certain the environment you test and verify is the exact same one that you put in production.
For me, the beauty of WebSphere CloudBurst is really the patterns-based approach. This approach not only makes configuring and deploying WebSphere environments faster and simpler than ever, but it also makes the standing up of such environments easily repeatable. This can mean tremendous benefits for the deployment of your applications throughout their lifecycle.
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.
About two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to work with the WebSphere sMash, DB2, and Rational teams on a pretty exciting project. It started during a meeting with the sMash team in which they decided to build a sample application to demonstrate at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco last week. Given the lead team the first thought was to simply show off the application at various IBM expo booths. However, we quickly decided the best way to show off the coolness of sMash was to put it in the hands of users. This led us down a path that would include Rational EGL capabilities, the WebSphere sMash Amazon Machine Image (AMI), and the DB2 AMI.
In a little over a week, we delivered a meaningful Web 2.0 application and put it in the hands of conference attendees. Using WebSphere sMash, we produced services that allowed users to view and search for booths at the conference. Each booth at the conference started with a list of keyword tags, and users could add more tags to let other users know what to expect at the booth. We also delivered a Buzz feature that displayed an aggregated feed from both Twitter and Flickr containing entries about the Web 2.0 Expo.
The Rational team, which was already working on an EGL application that would run on attendee handhelds, leveraged the services from our new sMash application, being hosted on the Amazon EC2 infrastructure, to add to their capabilities. Our decision to host the sMash application on EC2 was driven by two factors. The first was that we had virtually no time to go through the in-house server acquisition process. Second, given sMash’s capabilities to export and import applications, we were easily able to transfer our local application copy to the AMI instance with no code change. Once the application was imported into the running AMI instance, we changed a single configuration file to reference our newly running DB2 AMI instance which stored the booth data for the expo.
I just thought I’d share this example to highlight a couple of cool technologies, Rational EGL and WebSphere sMash, and to illustrate a scenario in which the IBM Amazon Machine Images deliver value. If you have any questions or want to see some of the application code, send us an email. Here's a couple of screen shots of the application:
Dustin and I have been seeingweb sites pop up all over the place with the word 'Cloud' in the name.Everything from web based remote PC services to elastic Web Mail.
I remember in 2000when Business to Business Integration (B2Bi) was the big market buzzword. Every company in the industry was claiming to be "The B2Bicompany". B2Bi was and is not an easy task. Everyone uses and storesdata differently; sometimes even within the same company. So whathappened? Most companies could not deliver products that made the jobeasier in a more generic way and it fell to services based companies.The expense soared and the results were generally poor. XML was justgaining prominence and few "B2Bi companies" ever even heard of EDI (Electronic Data Interchange. It was how businesses shared data before the internet became so capable). Thenet result ended up being that to succeed these providers had to scaleback their claims and muddy the definition of B2Bi. Now you hardly everhear it. The need still exists and the market is robust but the buzzword faded from the lexicon.
Cloud Computing is a powerful concept and the term can encompass many different implementations that achieve Dynamic Infrastructure, On Demand Capacity and Virtualized Enterprises. However, tagging glorified remote desktops and pay-for-GB mail boxes as cloud computing will do nothing but obscure the definition, allow charlatans to deliver poor or incomplete solutions and make it more difficult to convey the value of products and services that support true clouds.
Real cloud providers should be diligent in detailing their services and the value they provide. If the smoke is cleared, the view of the clouds will remain breathtaking.
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 previous post, entitled Layers of Elasticity, I talked about the new dynamic virtual machine operations in WebSphere CloudBurst. Specifically, I showed you how to use the WebSphere CloudBurst web console to add more virtual machines (nodes) to an existing virtual system. Well, you can do this with the WebSphere CloudBurst command line interface as well.
First, let's assume I start off with a basic WAS ND environment represented by the pattern below:
When I deploy this pattern in WebSphere CloudBurst, I end up with two virtual machines: one for the deployment manager with an embedded IHS instance, one for my custom node federated into the cell. After deployment, suppose I want to use the CLI to interact with this virtual system. Assuming the name of my virtual system is Cluster, I can view my custom node virtual machine with the following CLI code:
The call to the clone function above takes care of creating a new profile and federating the new node into the cell. In addition, WebSphere CloudBurst automatically invokes any script packages from the source virtual machine marked to run at virtual system creation. All because of this single line of code!
The WebSphere CloudBurst CLI is a powerful interface that enables you to automate the function of the appliance. Check it out, become familiar with it, and make WebSphere CloudBurst processes a seamless part of your overall data center management approach.
When I first started to become aware of the cloud computing movement, I remember being intrigued but not all that aware of its possible consequences to me. After all, I was a developer not a systems administrator, so other than professional curiosity why was cloud computing all that important to me? Maybe you are a developer that can see right through my early, naive perception of cloud computing, but maybe you are a developer that, like me in the early going, doesn't quite see why cloud computing should matter to you. In the case of the latter, I've come to realize that there are several reasons why cloud computing matters to the developer. Let me try to sum up a few of those reasons for you here.
Reason #1: Developer services can be delivered via the cloudThere are many different types of services that can be realized from a cloud (public, private, or hybrid) that could have a large impact on the way developers work. As I mention in a previous post, IBM announced a Tools as a Service initiative in which IDEs are made available within a public cloud. IDEs in the cloud give developers a single development environment that can be accessed from any machine at any time. Better yet, we don't have to worry with installing and maintaining the environment. In addition to IDEs in the cloud, with the increased focus on virtualization and virtualization management that cloud is bringing, the ability to rapidly procure and instantiate runtime environments should become standard practice. This means that new ideas and new product code can be rapidly prototyped and tested. No longer should a proof of concept be delayed because it couldn't be proven in a runtime environment.
Reason #2: Cloud computing means a world of new products and offeringsAs a developer, it is a continuous battle to keep up with constantly emerging technologies, but it is imperative that we do so in order to ensure we take full advantage of available solutions. Cloud computing providers introduce a whole new world of service offerings for consumption by application developers. Cloud providers are offering new storage solutions, new database implementations, new content distribution mechanisms, new application integration capabilities, etc. As developers who may potentially be writing applications that run in the cloud, these new offerings directly affect the code we write. We need to educate ourselves about these new services, and we should understand when these solutions can be best leveraged to deliver our end product.
Reason #3: SOA becomes more importantOkay, so maybe this is not aimed squarely at the developer, but I know many times a developer wears the hat of architect as well... even if they don't know it! In a cloud computing world, the applications and services we deploy to the cloud should align and fit into our SOA. This is critical if we are to fully exploit the benefits of ubiquity offered by the cloud. Cloud computing inherently provides the ability to access services from any machine with a network connection, automatically giving the kind of service ubiquity sought by many companies. By developing these services in a SOA-compliant manner, we extend the reach by making it more readily consumable by other application components. We move beyond pure end-user applications and services, and in doing so new or increased revenue streams may be realized for the service.
These are just a few of the ways I see cloud computing currently affecting the developer's role. There are a myriad of reasons that developers should be cognizant of cloud computing, and I expect the list of reasons to boom as cloud computing continues to advance. I'd also like to hear what you think about cloud computing and the developer, so post a comment below if you would like to join the discussion.
If you are going to install and use WebSphere CloudBurst in your own environment, it is very likely that you would want at least two appliances. Perhaps you want to have a standby appliance in case of a failure on the main appliance, or maybe you have different teams that are looking to utilize the appliance in different data centers. In any case, once you install multiple appliances there's another requirement that will pop up pretty quickly. Naturally you are going to want to share custom artifacts among the various WebSphere CloudBurst boxes.
When I say custom artifacts, namely I mean virtual images, patterns, and script packages. Script packages have been easy enough to share since WebSphere CloudBurst 1.0 because you can simply download the ZIP file from one appliance and upload it to another. However, there are some enhancements in WebSphere CloudBurst 1.1 that make it easy to share both patterns and images among your different appliances.
As far as patterns go, there is a new script included in the samples directory of the WebSphere CloudBurst command line interface package called patternToPython.py. This script will transform a pattern you specify into a python script. The resulting python script can then be run against a different WebSphere CloudBurst (using the CLI), and the result is the pattern is created on the target appliance. You need to be sure that the artifacts that pattern references (script packages and virtual images) exist on the target appliance and have the exact same name as they do on the appliance from which the pattern was taken. There are no other caveats, and this new sample script makes it really simple to move patterns between appliances.
For virtual images, a new feature was added that allows you to export a virtual image from the WebSphere CloudBurst console. Simply select a virtual image, specify a remote machine (any machine with SCP enabled), and click a button to export the image as an OVA file. This OVA file can then be added to another WebSphere CloudBurst catalog using the normal process for adding virtual images. You can see this feature in action here.
Stay tuned for more information about some of the handy new features in WebSphere CloudBurst 1.1. We also should have a comprehensive look at the new release coming soon in a developerWorks article.
One of my favorite things to do is create content that you, our users, can directly use to adopt and implement our products. Luckily for me, my job allows me to spend a considerable time doing just that for our WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. In the course of this kind of work, I use multiple different mediums to hand over what I hope is helpful content to you. This includes blogs, articles, demos, and the WebSphere CloudBurst Samples Gallery.
While I like creating content for all of these forums, if I had to pick a favorite, I'm going to go with the samples gallery every time. The reason for this is simple. Users can download and directly use the content in the samples gallery. The samples gallery plays host to script packages, CLI scripts, and other tools that are ready to use with WebSphere CloudBurst (of course, one can also extend these or simply use them as reference). Further, the samples in the gallery are mostly direct responses to suggestions or requests I get from users regarding this type of content, thus increasing its usefulness and relevance.
A good example of the kinds of assets in the gallery is the latest script package I put out there. Recently, I was talking to a user and asked, 'What do you do every single time you establish a WebSphere Application Server environment?' He outlined a few different tasks, one of those being the creation of virtual hosts in the server's configuration. The creation of virtual hosts piqued my interest because many users do that, and the configuration logic itself is fairly consistent regardless of the administrator doing the task. Therefore, I set about creating a sample script package that you can use to create virtual host configuration in WebSphere Application Server.
The script package does two things. It creates virtual host entries, and it configures host aliases for these entries. The script allows the user to supply the data for the entries and aliases they want to create via a properties file. The properties file is pretty basic and allows for the configuration of multiple host aliases for each virtual host entry. Here is an example properties file:
The script package parses the data from a properties file like the one above, and it creates the appropriate WebSphere Application Server configuration. If you are using WebSphere CloudBurst and this kind of configuration task is common for your deployments, you may want to download this free sample. I also want to point out that there are quite a few more samples that are completely free for you to download in the gallery. Check them out and let me know what you would like to see in the samples gallery!
When we talk about clouds, we tend to think of the usual enterprise with servers centralized in data centers or in server rooms. At least, I do. But why does
it have to be so? Any IT shop will have many more computers than what is in the server farm. With hardware technology accelerating, as always, even desktop machines are capable of multiprocessor computing and doubling as servers.
Cloud offers the ability to do more than web commerce. The concept of cloud can have broad implications for all kinds of parallel processing needs. Right now, there are a number of organizations from SETI to large medical research firms that use volunteers on the internet to help compute through massive computational workloads. The ability to do that on a wider scale is limited by the need to deliver more sophisticated or even proprietary software on the member systems.
What if workstations could be conscribed to be part of a cloud? When the workstation owner is not using it, the entire machine could be repurposed for another need. Then during work hours, the owner's image could be restored. Private owners could even lease their processing time and make some extra money or earn credit of some kind.
Right now I am surrounded by several multicore processor based systems. Any one of them could power a web presence for a small business. All of them could power the website for a medium business. If I maintained a small cloud using the computers of my neighbors, I could possibly lease powerful computing cycles to render the next animated movie or to compute fractal geometry calculations for climate models. If I operated between 9PM and 6AM I could deliver more than a day's worth of computing gain. What would that be worth?