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 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!
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!
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!
When IBM Workload Deployer V3.0 was introduced last year, one of the "hidden" values that it delivered was a base image used for virtual application patterns. I say "hidden" because this image, while delivered primarily for use in virtual application patterns, could also be leveraged for virtual system patterns. By now you may be scratching your head and wondering just what I'm talking about. Let me explain...
To begin with, it is helpful to understand a little bit about how virtual applications are deployed and how that differs from virtual system patterns. As you may already know, virtual system patterns are built from IBM Hypervisor Edition images to launch the virtual machines for your deployment. The IBM Hypervisor Edition images include the Operating System and middleware components together in the image. Therefore, building a virtual system pattern basically starts with a fairly complete image and activates the parts in that image necessary to fulfill the particular role this virtual machine will pay in a virtual system pattern. Virtual application patterns take a somewhat different approach. The starting point for a virtual application pattern is the base image which only includes the base Operating System. Workload Deployer launches a virtual machine with just this base image and then the appliance manages installation, configuration, and integration of software and applications to complete the role this virtual machine must fulfill for this virtual application pattern. At a high level you could consider virtual system patterns a template approach and virtual application patterns more of a build it as you need it approach.
So just what is the "hidden" value of these base images provided for virtual application patterns and how can that be used for virtual system patterns? The hidden value is that the base images used for virtual application patterns are delivered with IBM Workload Deployer in the image catalog and can be used for building virtual system patterns. If you already have an appliance you can take a look ... you will see the base images there under Catalog > Virtual Images right along side more familiar images like the IBM Hypervisor Edition images for WebSphere Application Server. For x86 systems this image is appropriately named "IBM Workload Deployer Image for x86 Systems". These images each include a base part called "Core OS" that can be included in a virtual system pattern.
So now you may be saying to yourself - well that's all great news but what is new about this? The new thing is that in IBM Workload Deployer V3.1 a significant new feature was added - the ability to deploy virtual application images to PowerVM environments using AIX. To enable that feature a base image was created for AIX, the "IBM OS Image for AIX Systems." As with the x86 image, this new image is now also available for your use in the image catalog. You can now employ that default AIX image for your own needs in virtual systems patterns - creating a very nice extension mechanism for PowerVM and AIX users.
This new base image contains the IBM AIX 6100-05 operating system and the Core OS part that you can include in virtual system patterns. As with the x86 base image delivered earlier, there are no restrictions on how you use or customize this image. To make it suitable for your purposes you can employ the IBM Workload Deployer extend and capture capability to install additional software content into the image. You can also enhance this image using the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool (ICCT) that is now included with IBM Workload Deployer v3.1. When you include this part in a virtual system pattern you can also associate any configuration scripts that you may need, just as you would with any other part. Just as with the x86 part - this provides substantial value and a significant convenience for AIX users.
I hope this clues you in on the "hidden" benefits of a substantial new feature included in IBM Workload Deployer V3.1. We have often been asked to provide base OS images to build upon as starting from scratch is sometimes difficult when you need to create your own custom image. Now, with IBM Workload Deployer v3.1, you have your choice of two default images in addition to the many IBM Hypervisor Edition images delivered as well as a robust set of new features in IBM Workload Deployer V3.1!
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 ...
As many of you well know, virtual images are the foundation of virtual system patterns in IBM Workload Deployer. Whether you are using IBM Hypervisor Edition images or custom-built images produced by the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool, every virtual system pattern has at least one virtual image as part of its foundation. So, if virtual images are the foundation of virtual system patterns, what is the foundation of these virtual images?
While you could probably make a good argument for a number of different things being the foundation of the virtual image (operating system, other installed software, etc.), I like to think that, at least in the context of IBM Workload Deployer, the activation engine inside the virtual image is the true foundation. Inside this activation engine, you will find a collection of scripts and services that are capable of configuring the virtual machine for use. Not only does this engine perform basic system-level actions like configuring the machine's hostname, IP address, time, and network interfaces, but it also configures the software on the inside of the virtual machine. For instance, the activation engine in the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition image is capable of fixing up profile information, federating nodes, creating application server clusters, and more. Best of all, in the case of IBM Hypervisor Edition images, you (the user) get all of this right out of the box. There is no logic to perform or administrative tasks to undertake in order for you to benefit from the activation engine. It is simply there!
So, at this point you may ask yourself 'If all of this is included right out of the box, why do I need to care?' That is a fair question, but ultimately I feel it is always important to understand the foundational elements of any technology. In this respect, I do not feel like the activation engine in the IBM Hypervisor Edition images is any different. Lately, I have been telling my users to take at least a little time to understand what the activation engine is and even more importantly, what it is doing for you during deployment. Specifically, I always suggest taking a little time to look at the scripts in the activation engine -- most often found in the /opt/IBM/AE/AS directory of a virtual machine deployed by IBM Workload Deployer.
What can be gained by taking the time to peruse through these scripts? I think most importantly, you will learn what the engine does for you and what you cannot do if you expect the image to deploy correctly. For instance, if you look in some of those activation engine scripts, you will see that it uses the sudo command in several places. While I know many of you may be tempted to remove the sudo command during extend and capture, if you do so it will break the activation engine. I have seen this happen multiple times, and trust me, if you did not know the activation engine used that command it is not necessarily an easy problem to debug. This is a case where the value of at least superficially understanding the activation engine is clear.
Want another example? Okay, consider that you want to run WebSphere Application Server as a user called wasadmin. At pattern deployment time, it is easy enough to supply wasadmin in the appropriate field of the part configuration data and click OK. IBM Workload Deployer deploys the system and voila, WebSphere Application Server is magically running as wasadmin. Everything is fine so far, but let's take this a step further and say that you previously performed an extend and capture, and you installed software components in the image that should be owned by your wasadmin user. It is technically possible to define users during extend and capture and then install software content via that user, but if you also want to specify that user as the WebSphere Application Server administrative user at deployment time, you will run into an issue. This is because the activation engine runs the usermod command during deployment to change the existing and default virtuser into the user that you specify -- in this case wasadmin. If the usermod command attempts to change virtuser to wasadmin but wasadmin already exists as a user on the operating system, the command will not complete properly, and it is very likely you will see further errors downstream. A simpler way to do this is to create the user during extend and capture, install any components via that user, and then delete the user before capturing. You can attach a deploy-time script that fixes up the appropriate settings for wasadmin (like user ID and group ID), and it will run after the activation engine successfully does a usermod and changes virtuser to wasadmin.Problem averted!
In reading some of the above, I fully realize that it may be a little confusing at first. That said, I assure you that there is not much to it at all once you have a basic understanding of the activation engine. With a basic understanding of the activation engine in tow, you will know what you do not need to do (e.g. create profiles, federate nodes, etc.), what you cannot do (e.g. remove the sudo command), and what you can do with a little bit of reconciliation work (e.g. define your WebSphere Application Server administrative user during image extension). I encourage you to take a little time with your next deployment and give the activation engine a once over. You will undoubtedly have a better understanding of the deployment process, and you will ultimately be in a position to most effectively leverage virtual system patterns in IBM Workload Deployer.
In the previous post Dustin shared a great video demonstrating the value of the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool that is now delivered with IBM Workload Deployer V3.1. This is certainly one of the key new features of IBM Workload Deployer V3.1. However, there are also a number of other compelling enhancements and features that we would like communicate.
I created the attached video to highlight some of these features included in new Workload Deployer release. The video uses the web console to highlight some of the features and capabilities, giving a brief introduction for each one. Without going into a lot of depth, I think it gives a nice overview. This may be especially helpful if you already have Workload Deployer v3.0 and want to see the value you will get when you upgrade to Workload Deployer v3.1. Check it out.
We believe that these new features make IBM Workload Deployer V3.1 an even better solution for your private cloud needs. Please let us know what you think.
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!
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.
More and more, I am getting a question about how to bring existing WebSphere environments into IBM Workload Deployer. While "bringing in an environment" can mean any number of things, let's take it to mean that a user wants to import their existing WebSphere cells, applications, and configuration into IBM Workload Deployer as a pattern they can subsequently deploy. While there may not be a big red easy button in the appliance that lets you point to an existing environment and import it, there are a couple of techniques that one can employ. I have covered both techniques before, but since I'm getting the question with increasing frequency, I felt like it was time for recap.
The first option is to use a combination of IBM Workload Deployer and Rational Automation Framework for WebSphere. This is a use case I have spoken about numerous times at conferences and in blog posts and articles. In fact, you can read a little about it here. In this sense, RAFW provides excellent capabilities to point at an existing cell, and import everything about it. This includes WebSphere configuration, applications, shared libraries, and more. Once imported as a RAFW project, you can use the IBM Workload Deployer integration script package provided by RAFW to replay that configuration on top of deployments created by the appliance.
The second option is something I talk about a little less frequently. This option revolves around the use of a sample script (provided for free in our samples gallery) that you can run against existing WebSphere cells. The invocation of this script produces IBM Workload Deployer script packages that you can use in patterns to apply the configuration of the target cell to your new cloud-based deployments. Under the covers the utility script and resultant script packages use backupConfig and restoreConfig respectively. They do ensure the update of the cell, node, and host names during the restoreConfig execution (which happens automatically during pattern deployment). Beyond that, the use of the script is subject to the same limitations and rules in place for the use of the backupConfig and restoreConfig commands. You can read more about this capability, watch it in action, and download it for free.
I hope this is all useful information for those of you looking for ways to import existing environments into IBM Workload Deployer as patterns. If you have any questions, please let me know!