Jason McGee will be leading the second GWC Lab Chat this week on Wednesday, 4/20. The very timely topic is related to recent announcements from IBM regarding the IBM Workload Deployer (see previous posts). Entitled "Application-Centric Cloud Computing" the discussion will focus on the concept of deploying and managing your application workloads in a shared, self-managed environment rather than manually creating and managing the application middleware topologies. It places the focus on the application rather than the infrastructure. This concept promises to deliver greater simplicity, elasticity, and
density among other things. It can position your business to react more
quickly and efficiently to the increasing demands of your customers and
free you from the managing all of the details.
Many of you may have already heard Jason speak last week at IMPACT 2011 in the cloud mini main tent or perhaps at any number of other sessions that Jason was involved in. Jason is the key architect behind IBM's WebSphere cloud activities. Obviously, Jason understands the cloud space very well and has a clear view of the evolution into Application-Centric Cloud Computing. This GWC Lab Chat will provide the opportunity to get your questions answered and share your perspective on this technology.
Jason will provide a brief introduction to the concepts and ideas and then lead an open discussion. Put it on your calendar and plan to attend - and please plan to bring your questions and comments to help foster a rich discussion. We want to hear from you.
If you haven't registered yet it is not too late - learn more and register here. It is easy to register and there is no cost. This is a very timely event and a great way to dig a little more deeply into concepts you first heard at IMPACT or perhaps hear them for the first time. Don't miss it!
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.
Though I feel like we've come a long way in some of the initial confusion surrounding IBM CloudBurst and WebSphere CloudBurst, I still get quite a few basic questions on the solutions. The two most common questions are, 'Are they different products?', and 'Can/should I use them together?'. I put together a really brief overview that answers these questions and talks about the basics of the combined solution. I hope it provides a good introduction!
IBM Workload Deployer v3.1 firmware has been released and is available for download. V3.1 includes many improvements, building upon the solid foundation that was laid in V3.0 and earlier releases of WCA. There are many improvements and enhanced features. Dustin already alluded to a few of these in his previous post but let me list again here some of the more prominent new features:
The ground breaking capabilities offered in our Virtual Application Patterns have been extended to include deployments for AIX on PowerVM - giving you more choices for your private cloud environment. Along with this support a new base operating system image for AIX is also available for extension using either extend and capture or the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool. Of course, Virtual System Patterns continue to be supported on all three private cloud hypervisors we support: VMWare, PowerVM, and zVM.
A new version of the Web Application Pattern Type (formerly WebApp Pattern Type) has been released. The Web Application Pattern Type V2.0 is built upon the feature rich WebSphere Application Server V8.0 release.
The DBaaS Pattern Type has been updated and is now the IBM Database Patterns 1.1 which includes both the IBM Data Mart Pattern 1.1 and the IBM Transactional Database Pattern 1.1 (OLTP - the default). These pattern types support a broader range of offerings for both production and non-production use. You can choose to create a new type of workload standard to apply to the DB instance or you can choose to clone an existing DB image that has been backed up to your DB image catalog repository.
A number of improvements have been made to the shared services leveraged by Virtual Application patterns. The caching service used to persist session data when scaling a web application can itself now be configured to scale, adjusting to increased demand. We have also extended the shared services to support external caching services and to leverage an external monitoring service based upon Tivoli Enterprise Monitoring Server (TEMS). You can also deploy multiple instances of shared services by deploying to multiple cloud groups.
The Plugin Developer Kit that was previously released to support building your own plugins and pattern types for Virtual Application patterns is now available for download directly from the IBM Workload Deployer dashboard - making it even easier to gain access and experience using this extension mechanism to deliver your own custom plugins and pattern types.
Images created using the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool are now fully supported in IBM Workload Deployer V3.1 Virtual System patterns. Furthermore, the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool is now a generally available product that is fully supported and available for download directly from the IBM Workload Deployer dashboard.
Speaking of Virtual System Patterns - a new hypervisor edition image of WebSphere Application Server V8 is now delivered with the appliance. WebSphere Application Server V8 fully supports the JavaEE6 programming model and includes many other programming models directly in the base image that were previously delivered only as feature packs including OSGi, JPA, and many more.
One item already mentioned by Dustin is the ability to configure multiple IBM Workload Deployer appliances in a master/slave relationship with a floating IP address to support continuous availability in the event that the master become unavailable. This feature can also be leveraged to support continuous operation while performing maintenance.
Another key appliance improvement is increased appliance security through the introduction of several new security roles for separation of duties. This is to ensure that no single user has unrestricted control without oversight. Among the new roles is an auditing role and auditing operations to provide data for forensic analysis of security attacks and better assist with compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX).
We believe that these new features and several more make the value proposition delivered by IBM Workload Deployer V3.1 an even more compelling offering that can increase agility, consistency, and time to value for your applications. You can download IBM Workload Deployer V3.1 from IBM Fix Central. Please let us know what you think!
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 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!
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.
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.
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!
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:
Clouds form known patterns of shape, consistency and color. These patterns have formal names too: cumulus, stratus, nimbus, etc. But there are also the patterns that are only in the eyes of the imaginative: a dragon, or a face, or Aunt Betty being chased by a fire-breathing turtle.
Cloud computing implementations are composed of common elements such as network servers, enterprise software, routers, etc. There will be common configurations, however, the power of the cloud comes from the idea that capacity, software, storage, etc. are delivered on demand as a service. So despite the fixed configuration that is really the connected inventory, the shapes of clouds are indeed malleable. So what shapes will we see in these clouds?
One of the most widely used examples of a cloud benefit is the greeting card company that has flat business through the year except for specific holiday peaks. The cloud allows that company to expand their capacity for those peaks only, saving them money. In this example, the cloud is hosted by a third party provider.
But what about that nebulous provider? Such a company will still have to manage capacity and other IT services for all its customers. It has the same issues that any IT shop would have. Finite resources that have to handle all the demand. The cloud principle allows it to provision resource as it is needed, but then this provider will only be able to handle so many customers that have peak business around the various holidays other wise there is no gain. In fact I think that these providers will have to plan which kinds of business they can host to maximize their 'face' time.
It's about the time of year when we all look back and try to determine exactly how we spent the past twelve months. Whether we do it because we have to as part of year-end job reviews or because we like to take stock in what we've done and figure out where to improve next year, it's a time for reflection and recall. For me, this exercise made me take a look at various things we have done to deliver WebSphere CloudBurst technical collateral (articles, demos, blogs, etc.) in 2009.
For all practical purposes, our mission and efforts for such technical collateral for WebSphere CloudBurst started when it was announced at Impact in May of this year. Though there was certainly some preparatory work being done on this front, there was nothing we could really push to the public until after the announcement, and in some cases even after the appliance's release in June. Given that most of the content was produced over a six month stretch, I really think we put forth a strong effort, and I hope that this technical material has helped to both raise awareness of and educate users on the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance.
Seeing as I already went back and rounded up this content, I thought I'd provide you a centralized look at the information. To start, I accounted for the articles that we published to the IBM developerWorks site over the six month stretch. All together I counted 8 articles and a special column entry:
As you can see the articles cover quite a bit of content and range from general level overview articles to technical in-depth "how-to" style articles. In general they seem to have been received well with over 26,000 views to this point. Our goal is to keep the pace up for 2010, and we already have a few articles on our plate for early in the new year (including an overview of what's new in WebSphere CloudBurst 1.1).
Another main medium we utilized to spread the word about WebSphere CloudBurst was YouTube. On our YouTube channel at http://youtube.com/websphereclouds, we currently have 17 different videos that demonstrate how to use certain features of the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. Though I think each demo provides value depending on exactly what a viewer is looking for, 3 of them really stick out for me.
Check out our videos if you get a chance. We've made an effort to keep them as short as possible while still providing value to viewers.
We have some WebSphere CloudBurst content spread around other places as well including this blog and my personal blog. Over the next few weeks we'll be taking a look at what worked and didn't work with respect to getting information out to the public. Of course at any time we very much appreciate your feedback on how you like to see content delivered because you are our target audience! If you have a comment, idea, or suggestion, leave a comment on the blog or send me a tweet to @WebSphereClouds.
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.
The concepts that govern users and user groups in WebSphere CloudBurst are fairly basic, but I get asked about them enough that I believe they warrant a short discussion. First things first, you can define users in WebSphere CloudBurst and optionally define user groups to assemble users into logical collections. For both users and user groups, you can assign roles that define the actions a particular user or group of users can take using the appliance.
All of that is straight forward, but it can get a bit tricky once we start considering the effects of user permissions when managing at the user group level. The basic premise is that when a user belongs to a group or groups, the user's effective permissions are a sum of the permissions to all of the groups to which they belong. While that is easy to say, and maybe even to understand, I feel like an example always helps.
Consider that we have a single user WCAGuy that belongs to the PatternAuthors, ContentCreators, and CloudAdmins groups. The permissions for those groups are as follows:
PatternAuthors: Users in this group have permission to create and deploy patterns
ContentCreators: Users in this group have permission to create catalog content as well as create and deploy patterns
CloudAdmins: Users in this group have permission to administer the cloud, create catalog content, and create and deploy patterns
Naturally then, it follows that the WCAGuy user can administer the cloud, create catalog content, create patterns, and deploy patterns. So then, what happens if we remove the WCAGuy user from the CloudAdmins user group? Well, as you may expect, there is an update to the user's permissions. The WCAUser user can no longer administer the cloud, but they can still create catalog content, create patterns, and deploy patterns (owing to their membership in the other two groups). Similarly, if we next removed the WCAGuy user from the ContentCreators group, then the user would retain only the permission to create and deploy patterns.
Just one more thing, let's talk about what happens when I remove a user from a group and they no longer belong to any groups. Consider that I created the WCAGuy user with the permission to create catalog content as well as create and deploy patterns. Next, I added the user to the CloudAdmins group, meaning the user now has the permission to administer the cloud. I promptly decide that the user has no business with those permissions, so I remove the user from the CloudAdmins group. What happens? The user retains the permission set of the last group to which they belonged. In this case, that means the WCAGuy user retains cloud administration rights. I have to update the user's permission set if I want to take that right away, but in this case, it will not automatically disappear upon removing them from the CloudAdmins group.
I hope this helps clear up any ambiguity you may have had concerning users, user groups, and permission sets in WebSphere CloudBurst.
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!
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 things I haven't written about much here is how the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance integrates with other IBM software solutions. One of those interesting integration scenarios, and one I think is particularly useful for developers, involves Rational Build Forge.
Very simply put, Rational Build Forge is an adaptive execution framework that allows users to define completely automated workflows for just about any purpose. These workflows are represented as projects that contain a discrete number of steps. When looking at Rational Build Forge through the software assembly prism, the offering allows users to fully automate and govern the process of building, assembling, and delivering software into an application environment.
Now, on to the integration of WebSphere CloudBurst and Rational Build Forge. Users can build custom patterns in WebSphere CloudBurst that include a special script package (which I'll eventually provide a link to from here). This script package provides the glue between the deployment process in WebSphere CloudBurst and Rational Build Forge. When deploying a WebSphere CloudBurst pattern that contains this script package, users provide the name of a Rational Build Forge project as well as information about the Rational Build Forge server on which the project is defined.
Once the necessary information is supplied, the deployment process gets underway. Toward the end of the deployment, like all other scripts included in patterns, the special Rational Build Forge script is invoked. This results in the project specified during deployment being executed on the virtual machine created by WebSphere CloudBurst.
Because the Rational Build Forge project executes on a virtual machine setup by WebSphere CloudBurst, the individual steps of the project can very easily access the WebSphere Application Server environment. Thus, the Rational Build Forge project could very easily contain steps to build, package, and deploy an application into the WebSphere Application Server cell. The result is a fully automated process that includes everything from standing up the application environment to delivering applications into that environment.
I put together a short demonstration of this integration, and you can take a look at it here. As always, please let us know if you have any questions or comments. Your feedback is much appreciated!
In my prior job at IBM, I was, on more than one occasion, reminded of the pains of dealing with software development tools. It seemed to be a constant battle to keep up with licenses, install critical fixes, and update to the latest version of whatever tool I happened to be using. Since I often worked on projects across multiple machines, I had to ensure that versions of the tool on different machines were reasonably close and that any code formatting settings were consistent across the different tool instances. On top of this, the tools were sometimes so CPU intensive that multitasking on the same machine running the tool was impossible.
All of the above pains were a direct function of the tools being installed on my local machine, so you can imagine my interest in a recent announcement by IBM signaling the launch of a pilot program offering Tools as a Service. The program, initially offered to students and faculty of selected universities, delivers hosted software development tools to developers. Users of the development tools do not install, maintain, or run the products on their local machine, instead they access them through a cloud maintained by IBM. The tools can be accessed from any machine with an internet connection, and a developer's sandbox is persisted across multiple sessions. The developer simply logs in, does work, and at some point saves his/her changes and logs out. The saved changes can be accessed at some point in the future from the same machine or an entirely different one.
This is exactly what I needed! Like many developers, I wanted to focus on writing code not maintaining a suite of tools. I for one hope this eventually extends beyond a pilot program and becomes a mainstream practice. You can read more about IBM's Tools as a Service initiative here.
I'm out at the RSA conference in San Francisco this week, and I'm expecting a lot of good conversations about WebSphere CloudBurst and security. This topic always comes up when I'm out and talking to customers, and I approach it from a few different angles.
First of all, WebSphere CloudBurst enables the creation of on-premise clouds (clouds in your data center). This means that you retain control over the resources that make up and support your cloud, and you have the ability to very tightly secure said resources. Notice that I say "you have the ability". I'm careful to point out that on-premise clouds do not inherently make your environment secure. If you don't already have a robust security strategy in place within your enterprise, then simply moving to a cloud model will not solve much. That being said, if you do have a comprehensive security strategy in place, one built around customized processes and access rights, then on-premise clouds are likely to make much more sense for you.
Moving beyond the opportunity for customized security controls provided by on-premise clouds, WebSphere CloudBurst delivers additional, unique security features. It starts on the outside with the tamper-resistant physical casing. If a malicious user attempts to remove the casing to get to the inner contents, the appliance is put into a dormant state, and it must be sent to IBM to be reset. "So what!" you say. If the user removes the casing and gets to the contents, couldn't they simply read the contents off the flash memory or hard disks directly, or insert them into another WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance and read them from there? Nope. All of the contents stored on the appliance's flash memory and hard disks are encrypted with a private key that cannot be changed and is unique to each and every appliance.
If you are at all familiar with WebSphere CloudBurst, you know that the appliance dispenses and monitors virtual systems running on a collection of hypervisors. Obviously then, the appliance must remotely communicate with the hypervisors. In order to secure this communication, all information between WebSphere CloudBurst and the hypervisors (and vice versa) is encrypted. This encryption is achieved by using an SSL certificate that is exchanged when a hypervisor is defined in WebSphere CloudBurst. This certificate must be accepted by a user, thus preventing rogue hypervisors from being defined in WebSphere CloudBurst.
Finally, WebSphere CloudBurst provides for the definition of users and user groups with varying permissions and resource access rights in the appliance. You don't have to turn over the keys to your cloud kingdom when you add a user to the appliance. You have the capability to define varying permissions (from simply deploying patterns, to creating them, all the way up to administering the cloud and appliance), and you have the ability to control access to resources (patterns, virtual images, script packages, cloud groups, etc.) at a fine-grained level. These two capabilities combine to allow you to control not only what actions a user can take, but also on which resources they can take those actions.
WebSphere CloudBurst was designed with focus on delivering a secure cloud experience, and I think it hit the mark. I'm sure I didn't address all your WebSphere CloudBurst and security related questions. If you have something specific in mind, leave a comment on the blog or reach out to me on Twitter. I'll do my best to address your question.
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.
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?
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 recent post, Joe Bohn detailed some of the new capabilities and enhancements that come along with the recently delivered IBM Workload Deployer v3.1. To be sure, there are many valuable new features such as PowerVM support for virtual application patterns, the Plugin Developer Kit, WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition v8, and more. Each of these topics probably merit their own post, but today I want to talk about something I did not mention above. Specifically, I want to talk about the announcements regarding the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool (ICCT) and what that means for IBM Workload Deployer users.
You may have read an earlier post that I wrote about the ICCT, but allow me a brief overview here. In short, the ICCT enables the construction of custom virtual images for use in IBM Workload Deployer. You use the tool to create virtual images, much like IBM Hypervisor Edition images, and then you can use those custom images (containing whatever content you need) to create your own custom virtual system patterns. The key point about the custom images you create with the ICCT is that they are dynamically configurable. That is, the tool helps you to create the images in such a way that you can defer configuration until deploy time rather than burning such configuration directly into an image. For those of you familiar with virtual image creation, you know this type of 'intelligent construction' is a huge step towards keeping image inventory at a reasonable level.
Okay, enough of a general overview for now. Let's talk about the two new items of note regarding IBM Workload Deployer v3.1 and the ICCT. The first thing you should know is that starting in IBM Workload Deployer v3.1, the ICCT is shipped with the appliance. This means that you do not need to go anywhere else in order to get your hands on the tool to start creating your custom images. You simply log into IBM Workload Deployer and click the download link on the appliance's welcome panel (shown in image below).
Getting your hands on the tool is one piece of the puzzle, but using it is quite another. While the ICCT has been available as an alphaWorks project for some time, that also implies that there has never been official support for the tool. That changes starting with IBM Workload Deployer v3.1. The ICCT is now a generally available product from IBM, and that means that it is fully and officially supported as well. Further, the images you create using the tool are also officially supported for use as building blocks of your IBM Workload Deployer virtual system patterns. For many of you who have been using the ICCT for some time, but have been hesitant to expand use because of the lack of a formal support statement, you should now feel free to charge forward!
I hope this helps clear up exactly what the new Image Construction and Composition Tool announcements that were part of IBM Workload Deployer v3.1 actually mean. I cannot wait to hear about how you all are putting the ICCT to use with IBM Workload Deployer. Finally, don't forget to send us any questions, comments, or other feedback that you may have regarding this or any other new feature in IBM Workload Deployer v3.1!
For the next installment of this series of FAQs, let's move from product positioning and integration, square into the land of operational procedure. For this post, we will consider you are getting ready to deploy a pattern based on the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition. During the deployment process, you provide configuration information, which includes a password for a user named virtuser.
You read the documentation, and you understand that virtuser is both an operating system user and the user that WebSphere CloudBurst configures as the primary administrative user for WebSphere Application Server. Naturally, this user owns the WebSphere Application Server processes that run in the virtual machine. While it is convenient that this is all pre-configured for you, you want to know one thing: "Can I define a user besides virtuser?"
It certainly would not be the first time this question came up. The short answer to this is yes, but there are of course caveats. You can define another user and have that user own the WebSphere Application Server processes, but you cannot completely remove the virtuser user, nor should you remove virtuser as the primary administrative user. The reason for this is that WebSphere CloudBurst relies on virtuser when it carries out certain actions such as applying maintenance, applying fixes, or otherwise interacting with the WebSphere Application Server environment.
All that being said, I recently put together a script package that allows you to utilize a user other than virtuser. I hope to put the script package in our samples gallery soon, but here's a basic overview of using the script package and what it does:
Attach the script package to all parts in a pattern that contain a WebSphere Application Server process.
Deploy the pattern and provide the necessary parameter values. These include the name of the new user, a password, a common name, and a surname. The last two bits are necessary when creating a new administrative user in WebSphere Application Server.
During deployment, the script package first creates a new OS user with the specified password.
The script adds the new user to the existing OS users group.
The script creates a new WebSphere Application Server user with the same username and password and grants administrative privileges to the user.
The script shuts down the WebSphere Application Server processes.
The script changes the runAsUser value for all servers to the empty string and sets the runAsGroup value for those servers to users. This allows members of the OS users group to start the WebSphere Application Server process.
The script starts the WebSphere Application Server processes.
There are a few other activities in the script, but that should give you a basic overview. Again, note that the script does not remove the virtuser user or change that user's OS or WebSphere Application Server permissions in anyway. I would also point out that if you use WebSphere CloudBurst to apply maintenance to the WebSphere Application Server environment, it will do so as virtuser and it will restart processes as virtuser, so plan accordingly.
I hope this sheds some light on a very common question. I hope to get the sample up soon, and as always let me know if you have any questions.
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?