IBM Impact 2012 was just last week with a theme of "Change the Game" ... and I'm still reveling in all of the excitement and energy that goes into conferences such as this. I was fortunate to get a last minute spot to attend the conference and help out at the Solution Center where I had the chance to speak to a lot of customers and other IBMers interested in cloud computing. Among the many things that stood out - there is certainly a lot of interest in cloud computing and patterns of expertise - it also seems that folks are ready to get some first hand experience with these patterns. There's plenty of opportunity for that!
IBM Workload Deployer was specifically featured in the Solutions Center and referenced in many sessions. However, this paled in comparison to the visibility that IWD received as being one of the key components in IBM PureApplication System which was clearly the star of the show (it also helped that we had several real systems on hand to draw the crowds and drool over the raw power present in these systems). Of course IBM PureApplication System wasn't the only shinny new object. There was also a large emphasis on Mobile and BigData .... but it seemed to me that the biggest buzz was around IBM PureApplication System and in particular the "patterns of expertise" capabilities which come directly from our very own IBM Workload Deployer.
I hope you had a chance to attend the conference (perhaps I may have even spoken with you at the solutions center). However, even if you couldn't make it to the conference - there is still a wealth of information available to you. Many of the sessions were recorded so you can still watch the general sessions, detailed interviews from the social playground, highlights of the unconference, and main tent sessions. I'm sure that you will also hear a lot of news in the coming weeks as the impact of what was announced and demonstrated makes it's way through the social channels. If you had a conference pass you can also download many of the presentation materials. Also, don't forget to consider attending one of the IBM Impact2012 comes to you events to be held in various locations in the coming months.
Several announcements that came out during the conference are of particular interest to our community.. First, the IBM Virtual Pattern Kit for Developers was announced. This includes an image that you can download and then leverage to gain experience building patterns. I will warn you that the download is not for a slow bandwidth connection - one of the three images is 16GB (mine is still downloading). However, once you finally get the image you can launch a VM running a version of the IWD technology and leverage your own ESX install to work with a private cloud for development purposes.
Another announcement and opportunity to gain experience working with patterns (that doesn't involve any downloads) is a 90-day free trial of these same pattern capabilities in our public cloud offering - IBM SmartCloud Application Services. This is a great offer and a really quick way to get some hands on experience with both the value of pattern based deployments and our public cloud offering.
I would encourage you to take advantage of these offers. Both are great ways to get some first-hand experience with patterns if you don't happen to have your very own IBM Workload Deployer. As they say "seeing is believing" and it really drills it home the first time you deploy a system and have it up and running within minutes. Another way to get some experience on an actual IBM Workload Deployer appliance is to contact your IBM client representative for a Proof of Technology (POT) or Proof of Concept (POC) ... and don't forget to get a free business value assessment so you can convince your boss how much money you can save the company!
Customers are always impressed when they learn about the simplicity, resiliency, and rapid time to value they can received from virtual applications. However, they are usually a little mystified at how virtual applications really work. After all - they have become quite accustomed to doing things the "traditional way" where they control every aspect of their applications manually. Virtual Applications represent an entirely new way of thinking. Sure, the benefits are enormous but can you really trust them? How is it doing all of this anyway?
What seems like "magic" is really a sophisticated and coordinated set of activities driven and coordinated by IBM Workload Deployer while leveraging the expertise built into the pattern type. Yes, you can trust it because experts have worked to build the system and created to it react and respond much faster than you can. When moving away from manual processes to automated processes it is always nice to get a sense of what is really happening. I think it is just human nature. We can't really place our trust in something until we have first hand experience or understand what it is really doing ... I guess it is the critic inside each one of us. Even after you've experienced the value it is still reassuring to see and understand the "how".
It is the "how does it do that?" type of question that I attempted to answer for virtual applications in a blog post I wrote on the Expert Integrated Systems blog recently. It attempts to pull the curtain aside and describe what is actually happening to support a virtual application pattern. As with my previous post - this was written for IBM PureApplication Systems but the concepts are 100% applicable to IBM Workload Deployer. I think you will find it interesting ... Continue reading ...
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.
In a recent post I spoke about my experience at Impact 2012 and several announcements that were made during the conference. Among the announcements were opportunities to get free experience building patterns and custom pattern types for use in IBM Workload Deployer, IBM PureApplication System and IBM SmartCloud Application Workload Services. This included two offers: a 90-day free trial of IBM SmartCloud Application Workload Services and a new Virtual Pattern Kit for Developers - both available here. These are both terrific offers. The IBM SmartCloud offer gives you experience with patterns in the real public cloud environment for a limited period of time. The Virtual Pattern Kit for Developers provides a virtual image of IBM Workload Deployer that can be used in your own environment for development purposes to build and validate patterns.
In this post I'd like to focus on the Pattern Development Kit for Developers. This is an excellent way to get some first hand experience working with patterns. It provides a way for you to have your own virtual image of IBM Workload Deployer and associated tooling so that you can begin to work with patterns, create custom images, and create entirely new pattern types. It includes the web application and database pattern types as part of the image. It also includes the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool, the Plugin Development Kit, and the Command Line tool - all of the tools that you need to create your own images, patterns, and custom pattern types. You can then validate these patterns and images in your private cloud environment before exporting them for deployment in IBM Workload Deployer, IBM PureApplication System, or IBM SmartCloud Application Workload Services.
I've created a video that demonstrates how easy it is to install and configure the Virtual Pattern Kit for Developers to get help get you started with this new offering. I hope you find this helpful.
In my last post I gave you my impressions of Impact 2012 .... including my assessment that IBM PureApplication System was the star of the show. I also pointed out how PureAS leverages the capabilities of IBM Workload Deployer and provided references to several areas where you can get more information on IBM PureApplication System and some hands-on experience with patterns.
The purpose of this post is to point you to another post - an insightful comparison of IBM PureApplication System and IBM Workload Deployer offered by Dustin Amrhein in the A view from the clouds: Cloud computing for developers blog. This is a quick read from Dustin - giving his report from Impact as well as a nice overview of the similarities and differences between IBM PureApplication System and IBM Workload Deployer to assist you if you are considering either offering. ... read Dustin's post ...
When many people think of cloud computing they immediately think of virtualization and virtual machines in particular. This is completely natural and not at all surprising. After all, one of the core underlying technologies necessary for cloud computing is virtualization. However, it is important not to confuse one element of cloud computing with the entire thing - and this can sometimes happen. Many people have begun to leverage virtual machines in their on premise environment and sometimes begin to call this their private cloud. While virtualization is a substantial step forward and help gets you started down the necessary path of standardization and automation that is essential in a cloud - it is not in and of itself "a cloud".
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has published its definition of cloud computing. This is a very complete and yet concise definition that includes not only the essential characteristics of a cloud solution but also the service models (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) and deployment models (public, private, hybrid, community). It is a great way to get a perspective on cloud and can be useful when considering the solutions of various vendors.
Let me summarize the essential elements of cloud from this definition here:
broad network access
So, this is interesting. Not only is this much more than just virtualization - but virtualization isn't even mentioned in the list explicitly. Not to worry - virtualization is of course important and is included under the resource pooling topic. I would assert that virtualization is also necessary to facilitate the type of on-demand, self-service, elastically scaling resources that are leveraged in a cloud. What is crystal clear from this definition is that there is a lot more to a cloud solution than just virtual images and some hypervisor infrastructure upon which to run them. Somebody must provide the necessary on-demand/self-service capabilities, the network access to these services, the management of the resource pools, enabling true elasticity for running systems, measuring services and so forth. IBM Workload Deployer provides just such capabilities for the on-premise cloud allowing you to efficiently deploy patterns built for virtual systems and virtual applications with deep knowledge of the middleware that is being provisioned to optimize these solutions. Furthermore, Workload Deployer provides the complete lifecycle management from pattern creation, to deployment and provisioning, applying maintenance, resource and license management in the on-premise cloud, elastic scalability, and eventually returning resources to the on-premise cloud to be reused. Workload Deployer is a complete solution for not only server virtualization but of course for cloud computing.
However, virtualization doesn't have to stop with just virtual machines. It is a general principle that can be applied to more than just servers. At its core, virtualization is really about providing a level of abstraction between some real resources and the consumers of those resources. This is a natural fit when we think of server virtualization and virtual machines. However, there are also substantial benefits to be gained by adopting a similar abstraction between the middleware and the applications themselves - sometimes referred to as application virtualization.
By application virtualization I mean providing the capabilities to abstract the application from the underlying infrastructure such that it can be elastic, participate in health management policies, and provide agility across the pool of application infrastructure resources. This type of application virtualization is built into our Virtual Application pattern (hence the name) in Workload Deployer and surfaced in solutions via policies (such as scaling and routing), and high availability functions built into the Web Application pattern type. For Virtual Applications these features are fully integrated and optimized functions as are all elements of Virtual Applications. However, similar features have also been available for WebSphere Application Deployments in Virtual System patterns with a special extension.
WebSphere Virtual Enterprise provides application virtualization for traditional WebSphere ND solutions and this same feature is delivered for Virtual System pattern deployments of WebSphere Application Server by use of the Intelligent Management Pack. Leveraging the capabilities of Workload Deployer with Virtual Systems lets you gain the benefits of server virtualization and to reduce hardware, provide rapid and consistent deployment of entire systems, dynamically adjust resource consumption, and much more. Leveraging the capabilities of the Intelligent Management Pack provides the ability to manage service level agreements with elastic scaling and health management, lower operational costs, and provide for improved application management. These two solutions together provide a powerful combination to improve the management and resiliency of your enterprise applications.
If you would like to learn more about application virtualization using the Intelligent Management Pack in conjunction with Virtual System Patterns in IWD then please join Keith Smith and myself tomorrow for a webcast on this very topic. Keith is the lead architect on our WebSphere Virtual Enterprise and Intelligent Management Pack products and brings a wealth of experience in this space. So don't miss this opportunity - register here.
We've been talking a lot recently about Virtual Application Patterns and enhancements to this deployment model in IBM Workload Deployer v3.1. This is appropriate because virtual applications are a substantial evolution for application deployment in a private cloud. Virtual Application Patterns deliver on the promise of Platform-as-a-Service - letting you focus on the application while Workload Deployer builds the necessary platform to deploy and manage your application.
However, Virtual System Patterns are still alive and well ... and quite frankly, this is where many people begin to explore the functionality provided in Workload Deployer. For many, it is a logical first step to start recreating familiar physical environments in the private cloud and then leverage these environments to develop and test their applications. It is also a great way to build out new applications using familiar concepts, leveraging existing scripts, and take full advantage of the agility, consistency, and increased resource utilization available in a Workload Deployer managed private cloud.
You may recall that virtual system patterns are sometimes called topology patterns because they are used to define a topology middleware configuration to meet application requirements. With a virtual system pattern you define exactly the type of middleware configuration that you need for your application environment and Workload Deployer provisions exactly that configuration when the pattern is deployed to your private cloud.
To use an automotive analogy, you might compare virtual systems to building your own hot-rod from a molded frame while virtual applications are more like purchasing a complete vehicle from a dealer. When you purchase a vehicle from a dealer you receive a fully functional automobile. Sure, you can choose the color and some options – but you don't necessarily know the details of all of the components that make your vehicle functional. Just add a driver (you) and off you go! This saves you substantial time and money while freeing you from the need to be an automotive engineer. As with the production vehicle, virtual applications are optimized for a specific purpose and are extremely effective when used for that purpose. All you need to do is add your application (the driver) and run-time requirements. Virtual system patterns are like the hot-rod approach. You start with a modeled frame of sorts (hypervisor edition images) – thereby saving time and effort so you don't have a start from scratch. However you still have the responsibility and flexibility to create a very unique custom vehicle. Doing so requires more expertise and a greater time investment when compared to a production vehicle (virtual application), but you get to decide all of the details. With virtual systems you specify the exact vehicle you need for your application. This provides substantial flexibility but requires a deep knowledge of the middleware and an investment of time building necessary scripts and other elements to support your application environment.
So as I mentioned, virtual system patterns are very popular. And if you have been following recent posts about the enhancements delivered in IBM Workload Deployer v3.1 you noticed that several of the features primarily focused on virtual applications have at the same time been extended to virtual system patterns - such as the shared caching service and the new base AIX image. So we certainly consider the virtual systems deployment model to be important. IBM Workload Deployer v3.1 delivered new hypervisor edition images and the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool was bundled with Workload Deployer - primarily used for creating custom images to leverage in virtual system patterns. The IBM Image Construction tool is a substantial advancement in the ability to create your own custom base images.
To help communicate that we haven't been neglecting virtual system deployment patterns, I created a new demo to highlight this deployment model. The demo begins by providing a quick overview of the components that go into a virtual system pattern. It then shows how to clone a pattern to customize it for your own purpose, deploy it, monitor licenses, and monitor resource usage in your private cloud. Finally, it shows a quick demonstration of installing an emergency fix to a deployed virtual system instance.
I'll be showing this and other demos at IBM Pulse 2012 next week. I hope to see you there!
Everybody likes having choices. This is true whether you are talking about lunch or deploying to a private cloud. When IBM Workload Deployer v3.0 was first introduced it included a pattern type for our Database-as-a-Service offering. The DBaaS PatternType v1 provided substantial value in an easy to use form factor to get a database up and running quickly and then provided the necessary tools to manage that environment. Pretty impressive for a first release! But the story doesn't end there. IBM Workload Deployer v3.1 brings an updated version of this pattern type that builds upon this foundation and adds even more capabilities and more choices.
Some of you may not be familiar with the Workload Deployer Database-as-a-Service offering so let me give you a brief introduction. Database-as-a-Service patterns allow you to define and deploy database applications into your private cloud environment with speed and consistency. These offerings also provide integrated management and monitoring capabilities. The Database-as-a-Service capability can be used in conjunction with a web application pattern (Patterns -> Virtual Applications, IBM Web Application Pattern) by including a database component in a pattern connected the web application components to use it. In this case the web application and database are deployed and managed as a unified solution with a common life-cycle as shown in the pattern below.
Database patterns can also be created and deployed as standalone entities (Patterns -> Database Patterns) that have their own life-cycle, independent of the virtual web application(s) that use the database. What's more, you can leverage these stand-alone databases from applications both inside and outside your private cloud.
Whether you use a stand-alone database pattern or one that is part of a web application pattern, the attributes and capabilities of the database are consistent.
So what is new in this release? For starters, the DBaaS PatternType has been renamed and the capabilities expanded. For Workload Deployer v3.1 the pattern is delivered as the IBM Database Patterns v1.1 and includes several elements to provide predefined configurations: the IBM Transaction Database Pattern and the IBM Data Mart Pattern.
Before we take a closer look at the new features I just want to alert you to one thing. Before you can leverage any of these new features you first need to accept the licenses and configure the plugins for the database pattern types. So look at the link and follow the directions if you would like to along and you aren't seeing the same options in your IBM Workload Deployer V3.1 system.
Using the screen shot above as a reference, let's take a look at what you can specify when creating a database pattern. You start with a name for the pattern and an optional pattern description. You also specify the maximum user data space size and an optional schema file. These are pretty basic and were all available with in the previous release. Another really nice feature that has also been available since the first release is the ability to specify a compatibility mode for DB2 and Oracle (a nice feature if you are looking to move content from existing databases).
Some of the new enhancements appear in the middle of the view; the purpose and source. The purpose specifies if this database is to be used for production or non-production (test and development). Your selection will optimize license management for deployed instances of this pattern.
The source field lets you specify a database configuration to be used to provision this database. You can choose from two different provisioning approaches; applying a workload standard or cloning from a database image. When choosing apply a workload standard you select between two predefined, optimized database configurations. These configurations will run a set of scripts to tune the operating system and instance configuration for the database. The departmental transactional standard is optimized for online transaction processing applications while the data mart standard is optimized for data mining purposes and is therefore more suitable for reporting applications. If those aren't exactly what you want but you have an existing database you can use the clone from a database image approach by selecting an existing database image backup as a model for the new database pattern. When using the clone method metadata from the backup is retrieved and a DB2 restore command is used to set the same configuration for the new database instance. Reference the cloning from a database image topic in the IBM Database Patterns information center for more details.
Once the pattern has been created you can deploy the pattern to a target cloud group or an environment profile (another new feature for database deployments in IBM Workload Deployer V3.1).
I hope you can see the value that has been added with the source configuration choices and the ability to clone an existing configuration. They are certainly substantial new features of the Database-as-a-Service solution in Workload Deployer V3.1. However, there are a number of other significant enhancements that I would just like to mention as well. In other posts we've discussed the new ability to deploy virtual applications to run on AIX with a PowerVM hypervisor. As you might expect this same ability is also available to deploy database patterns to run on AIX systems leveraging PowerVM. Management capabilities have also been significantly enhanced with the ability to configure automated database backups using the IBM Tivoli Storage Manager. These features and many other aspect of the Database-as-a-Service model are detailed in the IBM Database Patterns information center and the IBM Workload Deployer information center. My goal here has not been to replicate our product documentation - it is rather my goal to provide a few highlights and provide pointers to help you get started. I hope it has been useful.
You can be sure that we will continue enhancing and improving our Database-as-a-Service offering in IBM Workload Deployer. Please provide your feedback so that we can make it even better.
In the previous post I spoke about how a Virtual Application feature introduced in Workload Deployer v3.1 actually had benefits for Virtual System patterns as well. In that case I was talking about the ability to deploy Virtual Applications running on AIX to PowerVM hypervisors and how this had hidden benefits for Virtual Systems as well. This is a great example of how an enhancement to Virtual Applications can sometimes benefit Virtual Systems. However, this is not the only instance where the two pattern types intersect.
Several other new or enhanced features that are primarily for Virtual Applications are also being extended to benefit and improve Virtual Systems ... and vice-versa. One such area of improvement involves Shared Service in v3.1. These services were introduced in v3.0 specifically for the benefit of Virtual Applications. However, several enhancements have extended these capabilities to Virtual Systems and likewise, some functionality that was previously only available to Virtual Systems has been extended to Virtual Applications in the form of Shared Services.
As you may already know, Shared Services were first introduced in v3.0 and are just what the name implies; services that are deployed by a cloud administrator and used by multiple virtual application deployments. Let's start by taking a look at the shared services available under Cloud -> Shared Services in v3.1. You will notice that there are now more shared services listed than there were in v3.0.
In addition to the familiar Caching Service and ELB Proxy Service (formerly Proxy Service) there are now additional entries for an External Caching Service and an External Application Monitoring Service. For simplicity let's just start from the top and go down the list, discussing the function of each service, what is new/improved for v3.1 with regard to virtual applications, and when applicable how this service can be used by virtual systems.
The Caching Service was introduced in v3.0. Its primary purpose is to cache HTTP session data using a highly scalable and fast in-memory cache. This is the same core technology that is included in our WebSphere eXtreme Scale and DataPower XC10 Caching appliance. To make use of this service all you need to do is deploy an instance of the Caching Service with the configuration parameters of your choice into a cloud group where you want to leverage that service. As you create virtual application patterns you simply select the Enable session caching check-box when you add a scaling policy. When this pattern is deployed it will be automatically configured to leverage the Caching Service for session persistence. It's as simple as that.
Several new features were introduced in v3.1 for the Caching Service. First, the Caching Service can now be launched with parameters to define the behavior for automatic scaling to meet the ever changing demands of your applications. Once set, Workload Deployer will manage this service to ensure sufficient capacity based upon your requirements, adding or removing containers. Second, and this is significant for Virtual System patterns, the caching service has been enhanced to add new operations to support listing, creating, and deleting various types of object grids. You can then use the WebSphere eXtreme Scale ObjectGrid APIs to persist and manage content in the grid from your application code from Virtual System deployments. This saves you the trouble of creating and configuring your own caching service for these purposes outside of the cloud and permits sharing of the service you have already configured - a nice savings.
Caching Service (External)
The External Caching Service is one of the new additions for v3.1. Let's say that you already have configured a caching solution for your enterprise using the DataPower XC10 appliance or a collective of appliances. It would be nice if you could leverage this same solution instead of launching yet another caching solution within your private cloud. Leveraging your existing solution would consolidate your caching needs and preserve the cloud resources for other purposes. With this new external caching service you can do just that. It provides you the ability to leverage an external caching solution for both your Virtual Application session persistence needs as well as your Virtual System and even non-cloud caching needs. Just point an instance of this external caching service at your DataPower XC10 caching solution and all of the HTTP session persistence needed by your virtual applications in the same cloud group will make use of the external caching service. You can also point multiple instances of the external caching service in multiple cloud groups to share the same XC10 appliance or collective.
Monitoring Application (External)
With the External Monitoring Application service you can deploy an External Application Monitoring service reference within a cloud group to point at a Tivoli Enterprise Monitoring Server installation outside of the cloud. The TEMS server must be at version 6.2.2 Fix Pack 5 or later. Once created, the Unix or Linux OS monitoring agents and the Workload monitoring agent that is provided for virtual application workloads will be automatically connected to the defined instance of the Tivoli server using the supplied primary and fail-over Tivoli Enterprise Management server, protocol, and port. This is especially useful if you want to consolidate all of your monitoring to a common console. As with the External Caching Solution, this enhancement also extends the integration capabilities of Virtual Application Patterns beyond the scope of your private cloud and allows you to consolidate and leverage investments you have already made.
ELB Proxy Service
The Proxy Service was first introduced in v3.0 and renamed to the ELB Proxy Service in v3.1 for clarity. As the name implies, its primary purpose is to provide routing and load balancing to multiple deployed web applications. As with the caching service, you deploy this service based upon your requirements for load and availability within a cloud group. When defining virtual application patterns to leverage this service you simply add a routing policy and define your virtual host name. When the virtual application pattern instance is deployed to the cloud group the necessary configuration will performed to add the virtual host name and configure your application environment to use the ELB Proxy Service. New in v3.1 is the capability to scale the ELB Proxy Service itself to meet the changing demands of your application mix.
One other item that I should point out (and to which I've already alluded) is that you can now deploy multiple instances of each of the shared services - one per cloud group. Shared services can also now be deployed using environment profiles. This was not previously the case in v3.0 where each service was a singleton for the appliance. Allowing multiple instances of shared services gives you the flexibility to configure the sharing of your services as necessary for your particular environment.
I hope this post has provided a useful overview of the value of shared services and the new capabilities introduced in v3.1. I also hope that you can see how these services make it easier to implement your solutions for both virtual applications and virtual systems within a private cloud environment and shed a little light on how we are continuing to improve IBM Workload Deployer. As always, these improvements are driven by the feedback we receive from you so please let us know what you think!