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What's new in WebSphere Application Server V9?

Now's the time to extend your development architecture to the cloud. See why.

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Extend the reach of your application infrastructure to the cloud with IBM® WebSphere® Application Server V9. In this release of WebSphere Application Server, you can continue to meet existing enterprise or regulatory requirements for deploying V9 on-premises, while extending your infrastructure to take advantage of cloud-based resources and services. You can deploy WebSphere Application Server V9 on an on-premises cloud, on a remote cloud, or on a hybrid cloud that consists of on-premises deployments and remote cloud deployments. V9 also eases access and connection to cloud services, such as IBM Watson™ and Cloudant®, and the use of APIs by including API Connect.

As outlined in this article, the new features in WebSphere Application Server V9 fit into the following categories:

  • Create new cloud applications
  • Optimize costs for application infrastructure
  • Connect existing applications and data

There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.

Gilbert K. Chesterton, English writer and philosopher

Create new cloud applications

With IBM WebSphere Application Server V9, you can create new cloud ready applications by using Java™ Enterprise Edition (Java EE) 7 technologies and other commonly employed technologies, such as the Spring frameworks. Then, you can easily deploy these applications to various cloud infrastructures.

Full Java EE 7 certification for WebSphere Application Server traditional and Liberty

WebSphere Application Server V9 adds Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) 7 certification for traditional WebSphere Application Server in addition to the previously delivered Java 7 EE certification for Liberty (V8.5.5.6 in June 2015). Java EE 7 offers several new APIs, including WebSockets, Concurrency Utilities, and Java for JSON. It also includes improvements to many of the existing Java EE APIs. For example, it includes non-blocking I/O in Servlet 3.1 that addresses the evolving application needs of modern software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. These applications are commonly referred to as The 12 Factor App or systems of engagement (SOE). In addition, Java Batch (JSR 352), which is also part of Java EE 7, fills a significant application architecture gap. JSR 352 addresses the long-standing need for standard implementation of bulk record processing that's an essential part of enterprise systems of record (SOR).

The following figure highlights the features that are currently available. You can compare it to a similar chart of Liberty features in The WebSphere Contrarian: If liberty means freedom of choice, am I free to choose the Liberty profile? to see how many new features have been added in the past year. This chart also helps you to better understand the composable or fit-for-purpose architecture of Liberty.

Liberty features by product in second quarter                     2016
Liberty features by product in second quarter 2016

Liberty app accelerator

The Liberty app accelerator is a service that is hosted on IBM Bluemix®. It gives you a Maven-friendly directory structure and sample pom.xml files as a starting point to build, test, and deploy your application. The Liberty app accelerator is the first step for your chosen DevOps toolchain. It addresses the application development equivalent of writer's block by writing the initial portion of the application for you. By using the app accelerator feature, you can create microservices based on Java by using different technologies, such as Spring MVC and Spring Boot, REST, WebSockets, Servlet, Java Persistence, and Watson. You can then deploy the resulting project locally or on Bluemix.

Game On !

Game On ! is a microservices adventure application that you can use to create and extend a microservices application. In doing so, you can explore basic and advanced microservices concepts. Game On ! now includes support for Logmet, LogStash, and apiDiscovery.

Application portability with Docker containers

Docker containers bundle application binary files, middleware, the JDK, and operating system settings into a single artifact, providing deployment consistency and portability from development to test to production. IBM makes several WebSphere Liberty containers available on the Docker hub, including a Java EE 6 and Java EE 7 web profile and full Java EE 7, each building on a common Liberty kernel layer. You can then build a fully customized Java EE Docker container by starting with just the Liberty kernel and the specific list of features in a server.xml configuration.

You can also use Docker files that are available on GitHub to build custom images that run WebSphere Application Server with customized license entitlements. WebSphere Application Server Developer Tools V9 adds support so that you can code and test your applications locally or remotely in Docker while you develop in their Eclipse environment. You can choose to deploy these containers to the IBM Container Service, Docker Datacenter, and other container services. This way, you can move applications anywhere, in any way, decreasing development and deployment time and cost.

Management of Java applications and Node.js with the Liberty Collective Controller

In V8.5.5.0, WebSphere Application Server introduced the Liberty Collective Controller. Now, in WebSphere Application Server V9, you can manage more than just WebSphere Application Server Liberty servers. You can specify deploy rules to define specific commands for lifecycle management of Node.js servers and Liberty Docker containers. You activate the rules by inserting or including a deployRule configuration element into the server.xml file of the collective controller. By using this approach, you can deploy a Liberty Collective as shown in the following figure. Intelligent Management is also available in a Liberty ND collective, and as of second quarter 2016, autoscaling and health policies are available for Docker containers and Liberty cluster members.

Liberty Collective with Liberty servers, Docker containers,                     and Node.js
Liberty Collective with Liberty servers, Docker containers, and Node.js

Optimize costs for application infrastructure

With IBM WebSphere Application Server V9, you can seamlessly and efficiently provision applications as needed on different infrastructures, minimizing infrastructure costs and operational expenses.

Intelligent Management in WebSphere Application Server ND for workload optimization and placement

Clients are increasingly adopting Intelligent Management, which was introduced in traditional WebSphere Application Server ND in V8.5. By using Intelligent Management, you can achieve significant cost savings by employing dynamic clusters or autoscaling to increase and decrease the number of running servers based on workload. Rather than overprovisioning the number of servers in a cluster for the worst case, you can run a smaller minimum number of servers, for example one or two, across your server estate. Similarly, you can employ health policies to provide server resiliency only when needed, such as when an application has an issue or starting a replacement server versus overprovisioning server instances. By using these features, you can significantly reduce hardware and software costs, and because the Intelligent Management is autonomic, you can also reduce administration costs.

VMware portability

If you use VMware, with WebSphere Application Server V9, you can extend your existing workloads as is from your on-premises data center to the cloud, creating a virtual data center that spans data centers. This capability uses an architecture that was jointly designed by IBM and VMware to automatically provision preconfigured VMware vSphere, NSX, and Virtual SAN on the IBM Cloud. In this environment, you can deploy workloads into this hybrid cloud environment without modification because of common security and networking models that are based on VMware.

WebSphere Application Server on Bluemix, single-tenant offering

Some enterprises are heavily regulated and need application isolation from application resources that are controlled by other enterprises. For these enterprises, you can use the single-tenant Bluemix environment offering to deploy WebSphere Application Server on a virtual machine (VM) on private, bare metal hardware. As a result, single tenant then creates an isolated single-tenant environment that can optionally use a dedicated backend database connection to the corporate data center. The dedicated VMs and hardware also deliver more predictable throughput.

Deployment flexibility on additional cloud environments

In addition to the deployments to the IBM Cloud offerings, you can now choose from the following options to deploy WebSphere Application Server Liberty to alternative platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environments:

  • A Liberty Docker container to Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure
  • A Liberty application to OpenShift and Pivotal Cloud Foundry that runs locally (with subcapacity licensing through suitable configurations)
  • A Liberty application to OpenShift and Pivotal Cloud Foundry that runs in SoftLayer®, Amazon Web Services, or Microsoft® Azure (with subcapacity licensing through suitable configurations)

Ease of use enhancements for caching

The WebSphere eXtreme Scale V8.6.1 licensed program is packaged with WebSphere Application Server V9. It improves ease of use in managing elastic, scalable, in-memory data grids and caching scenarios to handle exponential growth of transactions for high-performance WebSphere Application Server computing environments. New in WebSphere eXtreme Scale 8.6.1 is WebSphere eXtreme Scale Liberty Deployment (XSLD). XSLD is based on Liberty and provides a graphical user interface and a REST API to:

  • Create and access grids
  • Monitor usage
  • Add or remove capacity
  • Manage grid
  • Manage and monitor a cache member group

As with WebSphere Application Server V8.5.5, entitlements for use of various WebSphere eXtreme Scale capabilities are based on the WebSphere Application Server edition license in use.

Connect existing applications and data

In IBM WebSphere Application Server V9, you can connect existing applications to cloud-based services. These services provide new access paths to your applications and improve application utilization, by using your existing application investment.

Connect to cloud services

By connecting to cloud services, you can integrate new capabilities, reuse existing applications, and lower costs. For example, you can extend your company's reach to its customers on mobile devices by adding a chat function for customers to interact with the call center. You can create the chat function by using the WebSphere Liberty WebRTC functionality. Then, you can easily integrate it with the Watson Language Translation service running on Bluemix by using the WebSphere Liberty Bluemix Utility. This way, you can discover and import a service configuration, download client libraries, and integrate services bindings into the Liberty server configuration. The result is that call center agents who speak one language can assist customers on mobile devices who speak another language. This scenario is illustrated in the following figure, which shows a WebSphere Application Server integration with Bluemix Watson Services for Cognitive Apps.

Extending existing systems with Bluemix services
Extending existing systems with Bluemix services

In addition to connecting to Watson, you can seamlessly connect your on-premises applications to other cloud services, such as Cloudant, dashDB, API Connect, and Log Analytics (beta). You can also take advantage of the latest technologies and extend the value of existing Java apps.

Essentials edition of API Connect

WebSphere provides an ideal environment for APIs that are based on Java services and exposed through an API management solution, such as API Connect. The API description is provided by a Swagger document that is associated with the endpoint and is easily developed and exposed by using capabilities that are built into WebSphere Application Server and the WebSphere Application Server Developer Tools for Eclipse (WDT).

The apiDiscovery-1.0 feature in Liberty makes APIs from all applications discoverable by using a single RESTful endpoint, /ibm/api/docs, for APIs that are described by using Swagger 2.0/Open API. It supports JSON and YAML (input and output) files, in addition to annotation scanning for @Path, @Api, and @SwaggerDefinition. When you access APIs, you can use the Essentials edition of API Connect. This edition is included with WebSphere Application Server, along with IBM Support and increased API call limits, providing access for entering the new API economy.

Fixpack numbering scheme for Liberty

Beginning with V9, Liberty and WebSphere Application Server traditional (full profile) will be updated on separate schedules. Liberty has employed continuous delivery over the past two years to add new capabilities and features on a more frequent basis, in response to customer requirements and market demands. However, because the first delivery of V9 for Liberty is the same as the next V8.5.5 fix pack, the numbering scheme for the Liberty fix packs will be based on the year and fixpack number in the format: year.release.modlevel.fixpack.

By including the year in the format, you can see how current your application is. Therefore, the first delivery of V9 for Liberty is the second fix pack of 2016 and is numbered 16.0.0.2. The following figure illustrates the Liberty continuous delivery model.

New Liberty fixpack numbering
New Liberty fixpack numbering

Conclusion

IBM WebSphere Application Server V9 has a tremendous focus on extending your infrastructure into the cloud. This article highlighted the new features in V9 that support the push to cloud. And, with continuous delivery for Liberty, you will have access to new features throughout the year. With all of these features in one release, isn't it time you explored the possibility of new architectures for your infrastructure?

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Alex Mulholland and Cindy High for their suggestions and comments.


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