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.
For those of you basically familiar with IBM Workload Deployer, you are likely aware that the appliance has many different capabilities. On the surface it is a cloud management device for middleware and middleware applications. Of course, there are quite a few details that are important to understanding the functionality provided, and I spend quite a bit of my time talking with various users and potential users about these details. One thing I have noticed that can become an obstacle in having effective communication regarding IBM Workload Deployer is the lack of a commonly understood language. I sometimes find that me and the user are simply using different terminology to describe the same thing. As you can imagine, this just serves to create confusion, and neither party gets the most out of the conversation.
In order to combat this communication gap, I thought I would put together a simple presentation that introduces and defines IBM Workload Deployer terminology. Check it out below (you can also download it here):
While the presentation does not dive deep into the terms it introduces, it does provide a basic definition and illustrative example of each. My hope is that this fosters an understanding of some of the basic concepts in IBM Workload Deployer, and ultimately pushes us towards a common vernacular. Please let me know what you think!
Typically we spend most of the real estate on this blog talking about cloud computing and specifically, IBM Workload Deployer. However, I am hoping that this week you permit me to take a bit of a detour to discuss a very important new announcement. Last week, IBM announced the early availability of the WebSphere Application Server v8.5 Alpha. In all fairness, your response may be 'You guys always have WAS Alphas. Why should I care about this one?' I have two words for you: Liberty Profile.
Based on my own experience in the IBM labs and my conversations with numerous enterprise developers out there, I think I understand many of the needs to create an efficient development environment. Developers need tools and runtimes that are lightweight, easy to install, simple to configure, and fast to recycle or otherwise update. Enhancements in our WebSphere Application Server v8.0 took many of these concerns head on with features such as directory-based install and drastically improved server startup times. The new v8.5 Alpha, and specifically the Liberty Profile, extend this developer focus even further.
The Liberty Profile is a lightweight, fast, and easy to use application runtime that you can download for free by visiting the WASdev community site. The design of the runtime is best described as fit-for-purpose and you configure it by selectively enabling and disabling features based on application need. For example, you may enable the servlet, JPA, and JSP features, or you may decide you only need to enable the servlet feature of the runtime. It is completely up to you! In addition to this innovative new runtime, the WebSphere Application Server v8.5 Alpha also includes free tools for Eclipse. These tools make it simple to create Liberty Profile server instances, start server instances, stop server instances, install applications, and remove applications. In fact, you can do all of this and even download and install the WebSphere Application Server v8.5 Alpha without ever leaving your Eclipse workspace! Check out the demonstration below to see an example of installing and using the new Alpha.
I really hope that you will participate in the new WebSphere Application Server v8.5 Alpha. The setup process that includes both tools and runtime will take just a few minutes of your time, and leaves but a small footprint on your machine (the Liberty Profile of the WAS v8.5 Alpha is only ~50 MB unzipped). In the meantime, you can find more information about the Alpha on the WASdev site or in the new Information Center. Finally, don't forget to join in on the conversation on the WASdev forum!
One of my favorite things to do with users or potential users of WebSphere CloudBurst is to help them understand how they can construct a custom environment using the appliance. Typically, we take one of their existing application environments and discuss the configuration steps that contribute to its makeup. From there, we map the required configuration actions to different customization capabilities in the appliance. It is one thing to talk about how you can customize every layer of your application stack with WebSphere CloudBurst, it is quite another to talk about it in the context of an existing environment. This exercise usually serves to greatly enhance a user's understanding of how to construct tailored environments with the appliance.
While I cannot take every one of you through this exercise in the context of one of your own application environments, I can propose a scenario that will help to illustrate the WebSphere CloudBurst customization process. Consider that I want to deploy a clustered WebSphere Application Server environment whose application server instances utilize WebSphere DataPower XC10 for HTTP session management. In order to deploy such an environment, I would need to do the following:
Install an OS and WAS
Install the WebSphere eXtreme Scale Client binaries - required for integration
Construct a clustered cell
Augment profiles with WebSphere eXtreme Scale profile templates
Configure the application server instances to use WebSphere DataPower XC10 for session management
So those are the steps, but how do they map to WebSphere CloudBurst? First, I know that the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition image used by WebSphere CloudBurst encapsulates the installation of the OS and WAS. I also know that WebSphere CloudBurst will automatically construct the clustered cell during the deployment process. That means I need to address the installation of client binaries, augmentation of profiles, and configuration of application server instances. In order to do this, I will use a combination of image extension and custom script packages.
To get started, I extend an existing WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition image and simply install the WebSphere eXtreme Scale Client binaries. I then capture that image and store it as my own unique image in the WebSphere CloudBurst catalog. Now, you may wonder why I did not capture the profile augmentation in the custom image. Remember, you cannot change profile configuration during the extend and capture process as WebSphere CloudBurst resets the profiles as part of capturing the custom image.
My custom image encapsulates the installation of the client binaries, so now I turn to custom script packages. I need two in this case. One script package will augment a profile (either deployment manager or custom node) with the WebSphere eXtreme Scale profile template. The second script package will configure application server instances to use WebSphere DataPower XC10 for HTTP session management. Once done with these script packages, I have all the assets I need to build my target environment.
Using my custom image, I build a pattern that contains the number and kind of WebSphere Application Server nodes that I want. I use the advanced options to define a WebSphere Application Server cluster ensuring its creation happens during deployment. Next, I drag and drop the profile augmentation script onto the deployment manager and custom node parts in my pattern. Finally, I drag and drop the WebSphere DataPower XC10 configuration script onto the deployment manager. The pattern is now ready to deploy!
For those of you that are visual learners like me, this demonstration provides a nice overview of exactly what I wrote about above. Check it out and let me know what you think.
If you follow this blog often, you know that from time to time I like to post frequently asked questions. Well, it's been a while since I have done that, and since then I have added some new questions to my list -- along with some regulars. Take a look below, and if I don't answer your question feel free to leave a comment!
Can IBM Workload Deployer deploy software that is not IBM software? Yes. You can use one of the included images as a springboard and customize them with your own software via extend and capture. Additionally, you can use the IBM Image Construction and Composition Tool (I'm getting ahead of myself here) to create your own custom images from the ground up and use those within IBM Workload Deployer.
Can I use VMotion for the systems I deploy with IBM Workload Deployer? Yes. IBM Workload Deployer has tolerated the use of VMotion since the WebSphere CloudBurst days (see the Additional Considerations section on this page for more information). IBM Workload Deployer v3 introduced the notion of virtual machine mobility initiated directly from the appliance. This capability takes advantage of VMotion in the case of VMware-based cloud environments.
Can IBM Workload Deployer deploy just a base operating system? Yes. IBM Workload Deployer v3 introduced a base operating system image that contains 64-bit Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Internally, IBM Workload Deployer uses this as the foundation on top of which virtual application patterns are deployed. You can use it to deploy virtual machines containing just the base OS, or you can customize it to deploy software of your choosing. (As an aside, IBM Workload Deployer v3.1 will include a base operating system image for AIX)
Can I automate the process of calling/using IBM Workload Deployer? Yes. IBM Workload Deployer is built to fit a specific need -- creating and managing a cloud of middleware and middleware-based workloads. In that light, it would be a shortcoming if IBM Workload Deployer did not to fit well into more holistic or enterprise-wide cloud management systems. The REST API and CLI allow you to automate the use of IBM Workload Deployer, thereby allowing it to be mashed up into other processes.
Can I group two appliances together for high availability? Yes. IBM Workload Deployer v3.1 introduces the ability to configure appliances in a master/slave setup. You can connect two appliances, allow them to share a floating IP address, and be confident that data is continuously replicated between the two. If one appliance fails, the other appliance picks up the floating IP ensuring continuous service.
Are images created using the Image Construction and Composition Tool supported for use within IBM Workload Deployer? Yes. Part of the new IBM Workload Deployer 3.1 announcement was a statement of support for using images created by the Image Construction and Composition Tool as a component of your virtual system patterns. This is a very important enhancement as it allows you to extend the set of content deployed by IBM Workload Deployer while being sure that you are operating within the boundaries of intended use.
Can I use IBM Workload Deployer to provision to public clouds? No... and yes. If you install an IBM Workload Deployer appliance in your datacenter, you cannot use it to deploy to a public cloud environment. However, you may have recently heard about the IBM SmartCloud Application Services portfolio. IBM has announced that the pattern-based provisioning that one gets with IBM Workload Deployer will also be available as part of this portfolio. This means that you will be able to build and deploy patterns using a service hosted on the IBM SmartCloud. Further, your deployed systems will run on the IBM SmartCloud. Check out this demo for more information.
** IBM Workload Deployer 3.1 firmware is available on 11/18.
I want to clear something up about WebSphere CloudBurst that can sometimes cause a bit of confusion. In nearly all of our content about the appliance, we talk about it in the context of building private clouds consisting of WebSphere application environments. Typically people think of private clouds as something only those within their organization can access and utilize. However, with WebSphere CloudBurst you are not limited to creating that kind of a private cloud.
Perhaps it is more fitting that we talk about WebSphere CloudBurst as a means to create on-premise clouds. After all, that's really what we mean. You create a shared pool of hardware and network resources owned by your organization, and then you define this cloud of resources to WebSphere CloudBurst. Once that cloud is defined, you can leverage WebSphere CloudBurst to dispense your WebSphere application environments into that cloud. The accessibility of your application environments running in that cloud is entirely up to you.
You may decide that the cloud is indeed private and that only those in your organization or a smaller subset of users can access the environments. On the other hand, you may decide that you want to allow consumers in the public domain to request WebSphere application environments and then have WebSphere CloudBurst provision those environments into a public cloud. I say public here because while the cloud's resources are on your premise, access to that cloud is not restricted to within the organizational firewall. Ultimately, the determining factor for whether or not your WebSphere CloudBurst cloud is public or private is the network configuration you provide. If the virtual machines are associated with network resources that are publicly accessible, then I would say you have a public cloud.
I hope this entry didn't serve to only add to the confusion. The bottom line is this: WebSphere CloudBurst allows you to create, deploy, and maintain virtualized WebSphere environments in an on-premise cloud. Whether that cloud is public or private is entirely up to the network configuration that you setup.
As a final preview of this week's building block sessions in the Enabling cloud computing with WebSphere campaign, I caught up with WebSphere DataPower architect Tim Smith. Tim is delivering a podcast that introduces and explains the new Application Optimization capabilities in the WebSphere DataPower line of products. Here is what Tim had to say:
Me: I speak with quite a few customers about the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance, and for once I'm happy to be the one asking this question. Why do we deliver WebSphere DataPower in the appliance form factor?
Tim: DataPower has become a dominant player in the DMZ and in the ESB. Much of the reason is that this is a purpose built hardware appliance. There are many things that our customers like about this appliance package. First, it has security as part of its DNA. The basis for securing connections, applies throughout the network whether it is in a DMZ or in an ESB. The physical box provides tamper resistant protection. Another reason is availability -- there are no spinning media, dual power supplies, and a focus on fail over support.
In both the DMZ and the ESB, there has been a proliferation of products. The main reason for the proliferation is that customers want to remove as many decisions from the general purpose server as possible, and let servers do what they do best, process application requests. The devices that have been proliferating make more decisions on the request. They do deep packet processing and routing. They also may transform the request into an entirely different request. So, there are an abundance of "pre-processing" decisions and operations made. With DataPower, many functions are integrated into the single hardware platform, giving you a smaller box count. No need to purchase and maintain several platforms, their OS and software versions, compatibility lists, etc. With a single hardware box that does so many things, we can greatly reduce the total cost of ownership for our users.
The DataPower appliance is a blend of Hardware and firmware that is well provisioned with hardware assists that help compile, parse, and assist in many of the intensive packet processing capabilities. To summarize, you get an extremely flexible and adaptable product that reduces total cost while increasing performance.
Me: A theme that comes up in cloud computing over and over is consolidation. Can you speak to the consolidation offered by WebSphere DataPower appliances with respect to the self-balancing capabilities?
Tim: Yes. My answer to the prior question was a long-winded way of describing DataPower's ability to consolidate many features into a single platform. Self-balancing is an example. As DataPower became more popular, larger installations required multiple DataPower appliances in a tier of platforms. A common architecture was to place a load balancer or IP sprayer in front of the tier to distribute the traffic evenly among the tier of DataPower appliances. An IP sprayer is an example of another platform that needs to be added to the environment. It is another box that must be purchased, managed, and maintained. Self-balancing is a feature that was added to DataPower to eliminate the need for an IP sprayer. The way it works is that one of the DataPower appliances in the tier owns the Virtual IP (VIP) Address. It receives all of the traffic, and then distributes it to each of the other DataPower appliances in the tier. If the DataPower appliance that owns the VIP address goes down, one of the others is elected and it takes over. The result is one less product required to support the same level of functionality.
Me: For much of the past, cloud computing mostly focused on virtualization and management of resources at the raw compute level (servers, storage, networking, etc.). While there is definitely ongoing focus here, we start to see it moving up the stack towards applications, and part of that effort includes more evolved application load distribution. With that in mind, how can WebSphere DataPower help users more effectively distribute requests to their applications?
Tim: If a front end appliance or gateway device can dynamically learn information about its environment, specifically the back end, it will be able to make better decisions on how and where to route the request. This is one of the tasks that the Application Optimization feature addresses. Information from the back end can of course be manually configured, but the real value in cloud computing is dynamically adapting when new server resources are brought on line or are taken off line. In the 3.8.0 release, we implemented something called Intelligent Load Distribution (ILD). Intelligent load distribution focuses on continually learning the topology of a back end, updating DataPower's load balancers with that information, and distributing the load based on the updates. In addition to the topology, ILD learns the weights associated with each server. These weights can continually and automatically change as traffic patterns change. The result is load balancing to the back end that sends the optimal amount of load to each server.
Another traffic distribution aspect incorporated into ILD is session affinity. When a server application needs to receive every request from a given client, session affinity is used to route the requests to the same server. In some sense, session affinity overrides the load balancing algorithm. The session affinity support works with any type of back end server, but with a WebSphere back end, all session affinity information is automatically configured.
Me: Continuing on the theme of application intelligence, what is this new Application Routing option in WebSphere DataPower?
Tim: ILD focused on learning the topology of the network and making better decisions based on an ever changing cloud topology. Application Routing does something similar by learning which applications are running on each server. Once a request is handed to DataPower's load balancer, the request is classified as to the application that it is targeted for. Then the request is load balanced amongst the servers that are running that application. The information to perform application routing is dynamically learned and changes as applications are added or removed.
WebSphere has invested substantially in managing the life cycle of an application. Changing from one edition of an application to the next sounds like an easy task, but it can be very difficult to perform this type of maintenance on a production environment. The DataPower appliance supports life cycle management by working with the WebSphere back end to provide group and atomic edition rollout. The rollout feature allows traffic to be gracefully diverted from servers that are being taken offline and reloaded with the new application edition. This rollout can be done while leaving the other applications on the server unaffected. This support makes edition rollout a very simple task for the system administrator.
Are you planning on attending IBM IMPACT? For all of you WebSphere users out there, I sure hope the answer to that is yes. Simply put, there is no better event to attend in order to learn about everything going on across the IBM WebSphere portfolio. There is already an exciting array of technical sessions lined up that will touch on topics such as analytics, big data, cloud computing, elastic data caching, enhanced automation, business process management, hybrid clouds, and much more. In addition to the sessions, you will also get plenty of chances to work directly with various WebSphere solutions in our labs. For my fellow hands-on learners, this is a great opportunity.
We have technical sessions and labs every year at IMPACT though, so you may be wondering besides the content, what's new?? Well, in that regard I'm excited to point out that this year's IBM IMPACT will host the first ever WebSphere Unconference! For those of you unfamiliar with the unconference format, the basic idea is that a group of folks with common interests (cloud computing, big data, etc.) get together and drive a series of conversations/sessions around these topics of interest. The unconference will include lightning talks (5 minutes to make a point!), guest appearances, as well as user-driven breakout sessions. These events are a great way to network with fellow WebSphere users, discuss cool technology, explore common challenges, and otherwise expand your areas of interest and knowledge.
The official website of the WebSphere Unconference recently launched in order to support this event. Besides giving you some details about the unconference, the website allows you to submit your own ideas for breakout sessions. All you need to do is sign up on the site, and you can start to put forth your own topic ideas. You can vote for the different sessions that interest you, and the top vote getters will earn a spot during the unconference.
I encourage you to go and have a look at the WebSphere Unconference website. It is easy to sign up and easy to use. If you are heading to IMPACT, please make time to at least drop by the unconference on Thursday. I promise you will benefit from engaging, attendee-led conversation and discussion. I hope to see you there!
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!
Users of cloud computing solutions today expect to be charged for exactly the amount of compute resource they use. No more, no less. This expectation is often at the forefront of our customers' minds when contemplating the creation of internal or private clouds. They want to be sure that any solution they use audits the activity and usage of their cloud and enables them to consume this information to implement their specific chargeback scheme.
Thought it's not a feature we always seem to talk about, WebSphere CloudBurst provides the necessary capabilities to properly allocate costs to users, teams, and organizations. To start with there are some handy usage reports that you can view directly from the WebSphere CloudBurst console. For instance, as seen below, a WebSphere CloudBurst administrator can see a break down of cloud resource usage for each user of the appliance.
While the capability illustrated above is nice, it is likely that if you are implementing an enterprise-scale chargeback scheme you want to automate the processing of the usage data, thus implying the need to programatically consume such data. WebSphere CloudBurst enables you to do just this by way of its audit log. The WebSphere CloudBurst audit log is a record of each and every action taken in the appliance, along with information about who took the action, when the action was taken, what object the action was taken on, and much more. You can instruct the appliance to generate this file for a specified date range, and the output is a comma separated value file that can then be consumed in a manner of your choosing.
As an example of some of the things you can do with this data, I recently wrote a Java program that parsed the audit file and for each virtual system determined who created it, who deleted it (if it had been removed), and the duration of its existence. This program was simple (more of a string parsing exercise than anything else), but nonetheless provided necessary function and output for billing schemes based on hours of usage. If you are interested in how this was done please let me know and I'd be happy to discuss details. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts you can reach me on Twitter via @WebSphereClouds.