The majority of my posts on this blog address using various features of WebSphere CloudBurst to build private cloud computing environments. Today though, I want to switch gears and instead of talking private cloud, let's talk public cloud. Specifically, let's take a look at the capabilities and services delivered via the IBM Smart Business Development and Test on the IBM Cloud (hereafter referred to as the IBM Cloud).
For some of you, the fact that IBM has a public cloud offering may be a little surprising. After all, if you listen to some uninformed critics you may hear that IBM only cares about private clouds for large enterprises. That is simply untrue. The IBM Cloud is an Infrastructure as a Service public cloud that delivers rapid access to services hosted on IBM infrastructure via a self-service web portal. The IBM Cloud offers multiple payment options, including usage-based billing and reserved capacity billing, and even features a cost estimator so you can confidently establish a monthly budget for your usage.
Regardless of whether you use a private or a public cloud, security should always be a chief concern. As such, IBM takes security very seriously in the IBM Public Cloud. The infrastructure that constitutes the cloud is subject to internal IBM security policies that include regular security scans and tight administrative governance. Your data and virtual machines stay in the data center to which you provisioned them, and physical security policies match those of internal IBM data centers. Additionally, you can optionally make use of the virtual private network option to isolate access to the virtual machines that you provision on the IBM Cloud. Rest assured that security in the IBM Cloud was a guiding design principle and not an afterthought.
With the basics out of the way, let's get on to the question I'm sure you have: What can I run on the IBM Cloud? To get you started, the IBM Cloud provides a nice list of public images in its catalog that are ready for you to provision. These images include WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere sMash, DB2, WebSphere Portal Server, IBM Cognos Business Intelligence, Tivoli Monitoring, Rational Build Forge, and many more. In addition to the public images provided by the IBM Cloud, you can build your own private images. Private images allow you to start with a base public image and then customize it by adjusting the configuration or installing new software. Once customized, you can store these private images on the IBM Cloud and provision them whenever needed. Whether you are using public or private images, you have a number of server configurations to choose from in order to host your environments.
While very brief, I hope this overview provides you with some of the more important details regarding the IBM Cloud. There are few, if any, service providers out there with the enterprise expertise of IBM, and I think you see that reflected in the IBM Cloud. If you are looking at public cloud options for your enterprise application environments, you should definitely take a closer look at the IBM Cloud.
Every time I've visited with customers about WebSphere CloudBurst, without fail someone requests that the appliance support products besides the WebSphere Application Server. We started to address these requests with WebSphere CloudBurst 1.1 when we announced the availability of a DB2 Enterprise 9.7 trial virtual image specifically packaged for use in the appliance. Very recently we continued to respond to customer requests by extending the list of supported products in WebSphere CloudBurst to include WebSphere Portal.
The WebSphere Portal Hypervisor Edition, initially offered as a Beta product, is a virtual image packaging of WebSphere Portal 6.1.5 ready for use in the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. The image includes a pre-installed, pre-configured instance of WebSphere Portal. Also contained within the image is an IBM HTTP Server instance configured to route to the WebSphere Portal instance and a DB2 instance installed and configured as the external database for WebSphere Portal. The WebSphere Portal instance also includes Web Content Management enablement along with several samples to help users get started right away.
The user experience when building and deploying WebSphere Portal patterns remains consistent with the existing experience for WebSphere Application Server and DB2 patterns. Another good note is that you can expect similar rapid deployment capability for WebSphere Portal patterns. I got a running virtual system, with all the parts I mentioned above installed and configured (meaning no after the fact integration scripting was necessary) in under 15 minutes.
To see more, check out my new demonstration of the WebSphere Portal Hypervisor Edition for the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. If you have a WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance you can download the WebSphere Portal Hypervisor Edition image and a usage guide from here.
A while back I had a four part FAQ series inspired by questions arising from customer visits discussing the first release of WebSphere CloudBurst. With the recent release of WebSphere CloudBurst 2.0, I think it is a good time to revisit an FAQ series with an entirely new set of questions.
For the first part of the series, I want to address a question we get all the time now: "What is the difference between WebSphere CloudBurst and WebSphere Virtual Enterprise?" This question was always fairly common, but now even more so because the new Intelligent Management Pack option for WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition allows you to deploy WebSphere Virtual Enterprise cells using WebSphere CloudBurst.
Fundamentally, the difference between the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance and WebSphere Virtual Enterprise is a complementary one. WebSphere CloudBurst provides a means to create your application environments, deploy them into a shared, cloud environment, and then manage them over time. In this respect, the appliance focuses on bringing cloud-like capabilities to the application infrastructure layer of your application environments. WebSphere CloudBurst does give you management capabilities for your running, virtualized application environments (i.e. applying maintenances and fixes), but for the most part those capabilities do not extend into the application runtime environment.
Now, you may ask why WebSphere CloudBurst does not extend its reach into the application runtime. The answer is simple: We already have a solution that does just that, WebSphere Virtual Enterprise. WebSphere Virtual Enterprise provides capabilities that allow you to dynamically and autonomically manage your application runtime. You can use WebSphere Virtual Enterprise to not only assign performance goals to your applications, but also to declare the importance of a given application meeting its goals relative to other applications in your organization. This enables the dynamic management of your applications and their resources such that your applications perform according to their goals and relative importance to your business. Simply put, you get an elastic runtime at the application layer of your application environments.
As I said, WebSphere CloudBurst and WebSphere Virtual Enterprise are complementary solutions. Both enable notions of cloud computing, but at different layers of your application environments. WebSphere CloudBurst hones in on the application infrastructure components, while WebSphere Virtual Enterprise zeros in on the applications running in those environments. The new Intelligent Management Pack for WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition means that WebSphere CloudBurst can now dispense WebSphere Virtual Enterprise environments into your on-premise cloud. That means you can take advantage of these complementary solutions from a single and simple management plane.
I hope this helps to clear things up. As always, questions and comments are welcome!
Virtual image parts play a huge role in WebSphere CloudBurst. When crafting your own customized patterns, you include anywhere from 1 to n parts from as many different virtual images as is necessary. These parts represent the different node types or personalities within a given Hypervisor Edition image, and form the basis of your pattern. When you deploy a pattern, such as the one pictured below, WebSphere CloudBurst creates a distinct virtual machine for each part.
This means that after deploying the above WebSphere Application Server pattern, you will have four virtual machines comprising your virtual system. This gives you a clean separation of concern by providing a unique container for each of your application environment nodes. This can attribute to performance optimization, increased availability, and much more. However, this approach is not suitable to all use cases. In some scenarios, especially when trying to control costs and increase consolidation, you may want to deploy a multi-node WebSphere Application Server environment within a single virtual machine. Based on what I showed you above, you might think our approach in WebSphere CloudBurst makes this impossible, but you would be overlooking an important component of patterns.
That component is of course the second building block of patterns... script packages. As you probably know, script packages allow you to supply just about any customization you want. In the case that you want a single virtual machine to host a number of WebSphere Application Server nodes, maybe even an entire cell, all you need to do is supply a script package that constructs the necessary nodes during deployment. In fact, you don't even have to write the script package. You can use the free sample in our samples gallery. As seen in the pattern below, you include this script package on a sole deployment manager part in a pattern.
The script script package provides parameters that define the node name, number of custom nodes, and number of web server nodes you want in your cell. During the deployment process, the script takes this information and constructs the cell you define. This includes creating the custom and web servers nodes and federating the custom nodes, thus completing the creation of your WebSphere Application Server cell. In this case, the script package provides deployment flexibility that is sometimes a necessity, and it is just another example of the many degrees of flexibility enabled by the script package design.
I should point out that a part in a pattern does not always map to a single node. For instance, in the case of WebSphere Process Server, there is a part that represents a complete, multi-node golden topology encapsulated within a single virtual machine. However, if you find yourself using images that do not contain these multi-node parts, rest easy knowing script packages provide you the flexibility you need.
It's really hard to complain about my work week right now. As I write this blog, I'm sitting in the Congress Center in Düsseldorf, Germany looking out over the Rhine River. As an aside, in Germany it is the Rhein River, and I have a historical connection to this body of water. My surname, Amrhein, translates (loosely) to 'on the Rhein'. It does not take an expert in genealogy to conclude that I have ancestors who at one time or another lived very close to this important German waterway.
Okay, putting the family tree aside for a minute, there is a good reason that I am in Düsseldorf this week. The city, and specifically the Congress Center, is playing host to the IBM European WebSphere Technical Conference. I am here presenting sessions that include a WebSphere CloudBurst overview, a WebSphere CloudBurst hands-on lab, and an up-close look at one of our internal team's use of the appliance. I have done each of these sessions once so far, and attendance was great, audience participation high, and feedback forthcoming. I am hearing and seeing the same thing in other sessions, which is of course, ideal for us presenters.
Now, to focus in on WebSphere CloudBurst for a bit, it seems that I am hearing a recurring question this week from the mostly European audience: "Why is WebSphere CloudBurst delivered as an appliance?" I am sure that I addressed this question in a previous blog post, but I believe it bears revisiting. There are various reasons I could give for the appliance form factor, but I like to distill all of that down into three major reasons: Consumability, Performance, and Security.
From a solution consumability perspective, nothing beats the appliance approach. WebSphere CloudBurst is an integrated hardware and software solution that delivers a specific set of function. You do not have to install software, procure and maintain storage for resources on the appliance (images, patterns, scripts, etc.), and maintain software components over time. You simply drop the appliance in to your data center, perform a one-time initialization, hook it up to the network, and you are ready to start leveraging WebSphere CloudBurst to build out your private cloud. While there is definitely work to setup the cloud infrastructure that WebSphere CloudBurst deploys environments to, we can completely eliminate a significant portion of solution implementation lead time by delivering everything you need in the appliance.
The performance benefits of an appliance approach are a natural result of building an integrated hardware and software stack. Design and development teams provide optimizations in both the hardware and software based on the fact that both the hardware and software have intimate knowledge of each other's design. In other words, this is not a 'least common denominator' tuning approach. Rather, the integrated design leads to enhanced performance for the specific set of functionality provided by WebSphere CloudBurst.
Finally, appliances enable us to deliver a very hardened, secure device. We provide private key encryption of every resource stored on the appliance. That private key is unique to each appliance and cannot be modified. In addition, the physical casing is tamper-resistant. If someone removes the casing, a 'Get Smart' style kill switch puts the appliance in a dormant state. You must send the appliance to IBM so we can reset it before further use, thus providing an additional layer of physical protection on top of the encryption. These security features, plus more, like a shield that prevents anyone from executing code on the appliance, come right out of the box and require no end-user configuration activity. In this way, you can simply focus on leveraging the user security and access controls provided by WebSphere CloudBurst.
If you had any questions on the rationale behind the appliance form factor of WebSphere CloudBurst, I hope this helps. I am off for now... back to the conference and the wonderful city of Düsseldorf.
Not long ago I created a demonstration that highlighted the new support for the PowerVM platform introduced in WebSphere CloudBurst 1.1. In that demonstration I showed how you can deploy to a PowerVM cloud by defining a new cloud group that interfaces with a VMControl instance to manage a pSeries cloud environment. However, in the demo I did not go into much detail about the components of a pSeries cloud used with WebSphere CloudBurst.
Since pictures help me out a lot, I thought I’d start the discussion with an image that depicts the components in the pSeries cloud environment and the workflow when using WebSphere CloudBurst to deploy systems to this environment.
The workflow begins when a user requests the deployment of a pattern and targets that deployment for a PowerVM cloud group. WebSphere CloudBurst first checks that the cloud group contains the compute resources necessary to deploy the pattern. After the resource checks are complete, WebSphere CloudBurst decides where to place each virtual machine that will be created from deployment using its intelligent placement algorithm. No matter the type of the cloud environment being utilized the appliance retains control over placement decisions, thus ensuring the virtual system has been deployed in a way that optimizes both performance and availability.
Once the placement decision has been made, WebSphere CloudBurst communicates with the VMControl instance, which in turn instructs the Hardware Management Console (HMC) to create LPARs on the targeted pSeries machines. These LPARs will host the virtual machines that represent the WebSphere Application Server nodes in your virtual system. After the LPARs have been created, WebSphere CloudBurst leverages VMControl to instruct the Network Installation Manager (NIM) to deploy virtual images to the necessary LPARs.
When the LPARs have been created and the virtual images have been deployed to those LPARs, the common process of virtual system creation can proceed. This process includes starting virtual machines, starting WebSphere Application Server components, and running any user-supplied scripts. The end result is a ready to use, virtualized WebSphere Application Server cell running on the PowerVM hypervisor platform.
I hope this provides a nice overview of the underlying environment when PowerVM hypervisors are used with WebSphere CloudBurst. As for those users who are not WebSphere CloudBurst cloud administrators, the information above is nice to know but not necessary. The user experience with respect to building, deploying, and managing your virtualized application environments with WebSphere CloudBurst is consistent regardless of the type of your cloud platform.
When I talk to users familiar with both WebSphere CloudBurst and the IBM Systems Director VMControl offering, there is sometimes a bit of confusion. It is not surprising. Both WebSphere CloudBurst and IBM Systems Director VMControl allow users to create and manage virtualized environments. That leads us to an oft-asked question: What is the difference between WebSphere CloudBurst and IBM Systems Director VMControl?
The simple answer is that the difference in the two offerings is the degree to which they are purpose-built. IBM Systems Director VMControl equips users with broadly applicable capabilities to create and manage environments consisting of virtual machines. These capabilities extend to PowerVM, z/VM, VMware, and Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor platforms. IBM Systems Director VMControl is not necessarily knowledgeable about the software running in the virtual machine, but it does allow the user to manage that asset effectively.
Compare and contrast that with the capabilities provided by WebSphere CloudBurst. The appliance also enables users to create and manage environments consisting of virtual machines. The difference is that WebSphere CloudBurst is purpose-built to provide you with the ability to create, deploy, and manage virtualized WebSphere environments quickly and easily.
What does that mean? Well, on one hand it means that WebSphere CloudBurst does not treat the virtual machines it creates like a black box. In fact, it knows quite a bit about the software running inside those machines, and provides users with out-of-the-box configuration and administration capabilities for said software. WebSphere CloudBurst knows how to interact with the software in the virtual machines to do things like federate WebSphere nodes into a cell, create application server clusters, configure environments for optimal performance, apply fixes and upgrades, and more. The best part is you do not need to supply any of your own scripts to do this. In short, the appliance ships with WebSphere intelligence.
Beyond this WebSphere intelligence, WebSphere CloudBurst enables users to create customized WebSphere environments (from the operating system up) and codify those customized environments in the form of patterns. These patterns, which represent your very own WebSphere application environments, enable you to deploy your applications rapidly, repeatedly and with extremely consistent results. In addition, the appliance allows you to define varying roles for users, each of those mapping to traditional data center responsibilities (i.e. customizing the operating system, building application infrastructure, carrying out middleware customizations, etc.). Again, WebSphere CloudBurst was purpose-built with WebSphere environments in mind.
It is not all about comparing and contrasting WebSphere CloudBurst and IBM Systems Director VMControl. In the case that you are using WebSphere CloudBurst to create and manage virtualized WebSphere environments on top of the PowerVM hypervisor platform, IBM Systems Director VMControl is actually a required component. In this scenario, the two offerings are complementary. WebSphere CloudBurst communicates with IBM Systems Director VMControl in order to create and configure the virtualized WebSphere environment requested by the user. This image below depicts how the two products work in conjunction in a PowerVM environment.
I hope this helps to shed light on how WebSphere CloudBurst compares to, contrasts with, and complements IBM Systems Director VMControl. Feel free to reach out to me on the blog or on Twitter (@damrhein) with any questions I did not answer here.
Application-centric cloud computing is the main thrust behind the new capabilities of IBM Workload Deployer v3.0. But what does that really mean? After all, application-centricity is really just a concept. Granted, it is an important concept, but it is fairly meaningless until it is put into action or implemented. IBM Workload Deployer does just that with its new Virtual Application Patterns (VAPs).
VAPs are the embodiment of the workload pattern approach I briefly discussed in an overview post a few weeks back. The idea with a VAP is to give the user an interface through which they can provide their application, specify dependencies, declare functional and non-functional requirements and then deploy. Of course application middleware is a part of the overall solution, but IBM Workload Deployer has the smarts to build, configure, and integrate the necessary infrastructure in order to support the user's application. This is completely hidden from the user, so they are liberated to focus on the application and its requirements.
If we scratch a bit further beneath the surface of a VAP, we see that these patterns contain three primary pieces. These primary pieces are components, links, and policies, and they are fundamental to understanding how virtual application patterns work. Let's start with the building blocks of VAPs, components. Put simply, components represent different resources and functionality profiles that make up your application environment. As an example, the IBM Workload Deployer Pattern for Web Applications is a VAP that contains components for an EAR file, WAR file, message queue, and any number of other components that are typical requirements for a web application. The components will certainly vary based on the workload type (i.e. the components included in a web application VAP would be different than those included in a batch application VAP), but they are the foundation of any VAP.
From the ground up, the next logical element we come to in the VAP is a link. A link is a way to declare a dependency or integration point between two components. As an example, consider a VAP with a WAR file component and a database component. You might draw a link between the WAR component and the database component to indicate that your web application uses or otherwise depends on the database. IBM Workload Deployer interprets this link, and takes it as a directive to configure the integration between the two components as a part of deployment. In this case, that may mean configuring a data source in the application's container. This is just a simple example, and an application may have any number of links between components.
Finally, we come to the policy element within the VAP. A policy is a way for a user to specify functional and non-functional requirements for their application environment. Users attach policies to the VAP, or to components in their VAP, and IBM Workload Deployer interprets and enforces those policies. In the context of a web application, one example of a policy could be a scaling policy. The scaling policy might indicate scaling requirements for the application that included minimum application instances, maximum application instances, and conditions that triggered scaling activities. IBM Workload Deployer would use the information in a scaling policy within a VAP to appropriately manage the deployed, running environment. Other examples of a scaling policy may include a JVM policy that provides configuration directives for the java virtual machines in your application environment or a logging policy that defines logging configuration options. In any case, the policy element allows VAP builders to influence the configuration and management of the application environment.
In the example VAP below you can see the use of components (Enterprise Application, Database, User Registry, Messaging Service), links (blue lines between components), and policies (Scaling Policy, JVM Policy):
In total, when I look at a VAP a particular word sticks out to me: declarative. VAPs really enable declarative, application-centric cloud computing. What do I mean? By declarative, I mean you are telling IBM Workload Deployer what you want, but not necessarily how you want it done. It is the job of IBM Workload Deployer to take care of the how. This shift in approach to application environments enables the potential for significant savings, and more importantly to me, lays the foundation for a more agile, flexible approach to deploying and managing application environments.
There will be more in the weeks and months to come on IBM Workload Deployer, so stay tuned. I also want to put a plug in for a new blog from Jason McGee. For those that do not know Jason, he is an IBM Distinguished Engineer, and the lead architect behind IBM Workload Deployer. Be sure to check out his blog for insights on this new offering, as well as for all things cloud.
When writing a new tool for the WebSphere CloudBurst samples gallery last week, I got the chance to use an API in the CLI that was new to me. Specifically, I got a chance to use the WebSphere CloudBurst CLI in order to retrieve an audit log from the appliance for a specified date period. In case this is new and interesting to you, I thought I would share what I found.
First off, let's take a look at the API I am talking about. It's pretty simple: cloudburst.audit.get(file, start, end). Here, start is the start date for the audit entries and (naturally) end is the end date for those entries. The file parameter simply denotes the location or file object you want to use to store the audit archive retrieved via the get method.
This is a simple enough API. The only wrinkle comes in dealing with calculating the start and end dates. According to the WebSphere CloudBurst Information Center, both the start and end times are 'specified as the number of seconds since midnight, January 1, 1970 UTC. Floating point values can be specified to indicate fractional seconds.' For my use case, I wanted to let a user or calling program pass the start and end times as arguments to the CLI script that retrieves the audit archive. Check out the relevant portion of my script below:
As you can see, the script takes in the start and end time in the MM/dd/yy HH:mm format (i.e. 05/20/10 15:30). It parses the value to produce a date, gets the long value of the date (which is in milliseconds according to the java.util.Date API), and divides that value by 1000. This is to account for the fact that the cloudburst.audit.get method expects you to express the start and end times in seconds. The script passes the converted dates along with the output file location to the get method. The result is a ZIP file that contains an appliance audit, license audit, and PVU audit file for the specified date range.
One of my favorite things about the WebSphere CloudBurst CLI is that it is Jython-based. This means I can leverage Java APIs from my CLI scripts, and that is huge for me because of my existing knowledge of the Java language. You certainly can substitute Python APIs for my use of Java APIs to handle the start and end date calculation. I hope this is helpful, and good luck with the WebSphere CloudBurst CLI!
Over the past several months industry focus on cloud computing seems to have only intensified. Within IBM and for the purposes of this blog, WebSphere, there have been several announcements and offerings that indicate our commitment and belief in the cloud computing approach.
To further highlight WebSphere's focus and offerings in the cloud computing realm, we are embarking on a "WebSphere in the Clouds" campaign during the months of September and October. Our intent is to virtually deliver information about our cloud strategy and offerings directly from the experts to you, our WebSphere users.
The event will be kicked off by WebSphere's Director of Product Management, Kareem Yusuf, on September 23rd from 9-10 EDT. Kareem will talk about cloud computing in the enterprise, and its unique relationship to SOA thoughts and principles. In addition, he'll give an overview of what WebSphere has been doing in the cloud computing space. This will be followed by sessions from technical experts that detail WebSphere offerings in both the public and private clouds, as well as sessions that discuss enablers of application and application infrastructure elasticity.
To find out more about the "WebSphere in the Clouds" campaign, you can check out the main announcement page. To sign up for the series of virtual events visit the registration page. We hope you will join us for the series of webcasts to learn all about WebSphere's work in the clouds.