Next up on our sneak preview of the building block sessions for the Enabling cloud computing with WebSphere campaign is the Dynamic Infrastructure Services block. One portion of that block is a discussion about some of the technical capabilities of WebSphere Virtual Enterprise given by Nitin Gaur. Nitin is a Consulting IT Specialist within WebSphere, and an all-around WebSphere guru. I caught up with him to ask a few questions about his upcoming podcast.
Me: When people think cloud computing, one of the core concepts is 'on demand'. They want just enough resource at just the right time. In that sense, can you tell me a little about the On-Demand Router (ODR) in WebSphere Virtual Enterprise (WVE)? What is it and what core functions does it provide?
Nitin: So, first allow me to take a step back. In my view, cloud computing is a new consumption and delivery model nudged by consumer demand and continual growth in internet services. I classify any Cloud computing platform exhibits the following 6 key characteristics:
Standards based delivery
Usage based equitable chargeback
I thus, deliberately use the term platform in the context of a cloud computing environment that facilitates flexibility, robustness and agility, as a systemic approach in providing a stage to hosting applications without the concern for availability or provisioning of underlying resources. Since hardware and software virtualization do offer significant cost and resource management advantages, it is not rare to see virtualized platforms as core building blocks of any cloud platform. Such virtualization technologies provide an elastic infrastructure service. In this respect, WVE provides application server virtualization, which enables an elastic business-policy-driven application infrastructure.
Now back to the On-Demand Router. The ODR is the autonomic engine that drives the activity enabling the elastic infrastructure discussed above. The ODR operates in a highly dynamic WVE environment, so it is imperative for the ODR to be aware of any changes in the environment such as newly deployed applications, the addition of new application servers, and any planned or unplanned server outages. It achieves this awareness by continuously interacting with WVE's fluid and dynamic feedback mechanism.
Me: Autonomic capabilities seem to be a core part of WebSphere Virtual Enterprise. To that end, can you tell us a little about the autonomic capabilities provided by dynamic clusters in WVE?
Nitin: Dynamic application placement is a defining capability of WVE that directly contributes to WVE's ability to provide a dynamic, virtualized, and goal-oriented environment for workload management and continuous availability. The dynamic application management capability maximizes the efficient use of hardware resources by allocating resources appropriately per application based on fluctuating demands in the enterprise infrastructure. It determines which servers to stop and start in a dynamic server cluster in order to meet current demand for applications, and it does this in the context of a set of administrator-defined policies that uphold the enterprise’s service level agreements (SLAs) for its application infrastructure. The dynamic application placement framework must balance resource availability against health policies, service policies, and the importance levels assigned to applications.
Dynamic server clusters are key to WVE’s ability to dynamically adjust the application environment according to server load, and they provide the basis for a virtualized server runtime environment. The big difference between a dynamic cluster in WVE and a static cluster in WebSphere Application Server is that dynamic clusters grow and shrink as needed to meet current demand by starting and stopping members of the cluster. Although dynamic clusters and static clusters can co-exist in a cell, dynamic application placement can only work with dynamic clusters. To prevent unchecked growth, each dynamic cluster has a mechanism that you use to define a boundary for that cluster’s growth. The boundary is both quantitative (based on criteria that define the minimum and maximum number of application servers that can run in the cluster simultaneously) and locational (based on criteria that confine the growth of the dynamic cluster to a defined set of nodes).
Me: I know you have been around the country, and for that matter globe, helping our users to adopt and implement WebSphere Virtual Enterprise. Tell us about one of your favorite customer stories.
Nitin: So I would cite an example of one of the leaders in the entertainment Industry (and my favorite customer), let's call them Company X (since I cannot cite the name). The core of the company's application infrastructure system is the Sales App Infrastructure (SAI) consisting of more than 10 enterprise applications. To keep up with demand, Company X was required to procure more hardware and software to support the core systems. This strategy resulted in a large infrastructure footprint with low hardware utilization. The increase in hardware footprint became difficult to manage and required additional resources. The large footprint of the company's deployment put them in reaction mode rather than a posture of proactive monitoring. Some application servers rendered themselves unavailable and required the team to restart them every 24 hours. From a cost standpoint, it costs the company the same amount of money to request a virtual platform as it would to purchase a new physical server. This led to significantly under utilized hardware throughout the enterprise. WVE was brought in to Company X to help better manage their WebSphere Application Server footprint. Dynamic clusters, application health policies, and application editioning features helped the company to better utilize hardware, reduce hardware expenditures, increase visibility into their applications, and improve availability of their applications.
In addition to helping with the existing environment, WVE helped Company X to roll out a new project with applications that required continuous availability to worldwide users. The team made use of policy-based workload management to ensure performance and availability levels of these new applications met their business needs. In addition, the company was able to reduce the amount of WebSphere Application Server licenses and physical servers required for this new deployment. In sum, WebSphere Virtual Enterprise saves the company significant time, money, and management effort.
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!
Since the IMPACT conference, there has been quite a bit of buzz around the new features, capabilities, and enhancements coming in WebSphere CloudBurst 2.0. In addition to the updates for the appliance, there are some updates to the IBM Hypervisor Edition virtual images as well. In particular, there is one new offering that I want to make sure is getting more than a mere 15 minutes of fame.
What is this new offering that deserves some time in the spotlight? Well, it is the Intelligent Management Pack for the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition. Still not sure what this is? Simply put, it is an optional add-on to the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition that enables WebSphere Virtual Enterprise capabilities in the environments dispensed by WebSphere CloudBurst.
If you are not familiar with WebSphere Virtual Enterprise, this still may not mean much yet. Essentially, the use of the Intelligent Management Pack means you create environments that contain capabilities to dynamically manage your application runtime environment. This includes, but is not limited to, the following capabilities:
Dynamic clustering: Create WebSphere Application Server clusters whose membership changes autonomically in order to meet the needs of your applications. You create service level agreements to define the needs for your applications.
Application health monitoring: Monitor the health of your applications by assigning health policies. These policies designate the condition to monitor for (i.e. memory leaks), and they dictate what action to take in case the condition occurs (i.e. restart the server).
Application editioning: Manage multiple versions of your applications and roll out new versions of your applications without incurring downtime. This is essential if you consistently deliver updates to your applications deployed in production environments.
On-Demand routing: Build WebSphere CloudBurst patterns that include On-Demand Router parts. On-Demand Routers are a key component of WebSphere Virtual Enterprise environments and act as an enabler of some of the functionality discussed above.
If you are a user of WebSphere Virtual Enterprise, or otherwise knowledgeable with the product, the Intelligent Management Pack should be pretty familiar to you. When you deploy a pattern built from WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition with the Intelligent Management Pack, you end up with a WebSphere Virtual Enterprise cell. When you log into the administration console, you will see the WebSphere Virtual Enterprise console. You can use any of the features in the normal WebSphere Virtual Enterprise product in the environment created by WebSphere CloudBurst.
Be on the lookout for more information concerning the Intelligent Management Pack. I know there is an article in the works, and we will also be working on some short demos for our YouTube channel. In the meantime, please reach out to me here or on Twitter (@damrhein) with any questions or comments.
Among the major features of the new virtual application pattern in IBM Workload Deployer is the notion of elasticity. That is, as your application needs more resources, it gets them. When your application can meet its SLAs with fewer resources, the environment shrinks. With this kind of pattern, you enable elasticity by specifying a policy and defining the scaling trigger (i.e. CPU usage, application response times, database response times, etc.). What may have been a bit lost in some of these new announcements regarding IBM Workload Deployer is the fact that you can now leverage this core feature of cloud, elasticity, in your virtual system patterns.
If you have read this blog in the past, you probably already know that the Intelligent Management Pack is an option for virtual system patterns built using WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition. When you enable the Intelligent Management Pack option, you are essentially building and deploying WebSphere Virtual Enterprise (WVE) environments. For those of you not familiar with WVE, the best way to describe it is that it provides you with application and application infrastructure virtualization capabilities. Of its many capabilities, one most germane to our discussion today is the ability for users to attach SLAs to applications and then have WVE automatically prioritize requests and manage resources in order to meet those SLAs. Inherent in this capability is the ability to dynamically start and stop application server processes (JVMs) as required. In other words, WVE provides JVM elasticity.
The fact that WVE provides JVM elasticity is nothing new. Further, IBM Workload Deployer started providing virtual machine (VM) elasticity in previous versions (when it was WebSphere CloudBurst). With this feature, you could add or remove VMs to an already deployed virtual system using dynamic virtual machine operations provided by the appliance. The catch was that the VM elasticity was a manual action and you could not link this elasticity to the same SLAs tied to your applications. Well, thanks to a new feature in WebSphere Virtual Enterprise and easy integration provided by the Intelligent Management Pack, this is no longer the case.
Starting in IBM Workload Deployer 3.0, you can take advantage of a new WVE feature called Elasticity Mode when using the Intelligent Management Pack. Elasticity mode is not unique to IBM Workload Deployer, but a concept new to the base WVE product. It allows one to define actions for how WVE should grow and shrink the set of nodes used by application server resources. Like the basic JVM elasticity capability in WVE, these node elasticity actions trigger based on SLAs tied to your applications. Consider the case that you are using elasticity mode and your application is not currently meetings its SLA. If WVE does not think it can start any more application server instances on the current set of nodes, it will grow the set of nodes per your elasticity configuration. Conversely, if WVE detects that it can meet SLAs with fewer nodes, it will shrink the resources per your elasticity configuration.
In IBM Workload Deployer, using elasticity mode becomes even easier. All you need to do is use the Intelligent Management Pack and enable the elasticity mode option in your virtual system patterns. When you do this, you get automatic integration between IBM Workload Deployer and the deployed WVE environment. What does that mean? It means that if WVE detects it needs more nodes, it will automatically call back into IBM Workload Deployer and request that the appliance provision a new VM that will serve as a node for application server processes. It also means that if WVE detects it could meet SLAs with fewer resources, it will call into IBM Workload Deployer and ask it to remove a node. All of this happens without any user scripting. All you have to do is enable this option in your patterns and configure SLAs appropriate for your applications.
To me, this exciting new feature brings out the best of elasticity capabilities in both IBM Workload Deployer and WebSphere Virtual Enterprise. The result is a single management plane that gives you both VM and JVM elasticity for your cloud-based application environments. Best of all, elasticity actions map directly to SLAs for your applications. After all, when it comes to cloud, it's the application that really matters!
One of the most powerful features of WebSphere CloudBurst is the ability to take one of the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition virtual images that are shipped with the appliance and extend it to a produce a custom virtual image. This allows users to begin creating customized environments from the bottom up, starting with the operating system. To put it in better context, let's take a look at a couple of scenarios where this feature comes in quite handy.
First off, a very common need for our customers is the ability to continually monitor their application environments. For instance, you may install Tivoli monitoring agents on all of your machines hosting WebSphere Application Server processes and configure those agents to report back to a management server. This is a great case for image extension in WebSphere CloudBurst.
In this scenario, you would start by extending an existing WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition image. WebSphere CloudBurst creates a running virtual machine based off of the selected image, and you log into that virtual machine and install the Tivoli monitoring agents. Once the installation is done, you capture the virtual image back into the WebSphere CloudBurst catalog and use the new image to build a custom pattern. The last step is to include a script package on this custom pattern that, upon deployment, will configure the installed monitoring agents to report back to your desired management server.
Another use case is likely to be of interest to you if you are using WebSphere Virtual Enterprise (or something similar), and you could benefit from the same ease of provisioning for those environments that WebSphere CloudBurst brings to WebSphere Application Server environments. You can use the same customization combination above (image extension and custom scripts) to enable WebSphere CloudBurst to essentially dispense WebSphere Virtual Enterprise cells.
Again, this scenario starts off by extending a WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition virtual image. Once the virtual machine for the extension is created by WebSphere CloudBurst, you log in and install the WebSphere Virtual Enterprise product. After the installation is done, you capture the image and store it in the catalog. Next, you build a custom pattern based off of this image and include script packages that, upon deployment, augment the various parts in the pattern from WebSphere Application Server profiles to WebSphere Virtual Enterprise profiles. (You may wonder why you wouldn't just create the WebSphere Virtual Enterprise profiles during the image extension process. This is because during image extension, you cannot make changes to the virtual disk that contains the WebSphere Application Server profiles. Any changes made to the profiles will be wiped out during the capture process.)
There are countless more scenarios for creating custom virtual images in WebSphere CloudBurst. To name a few, you may want to install JDBC drivers that are common to almost all of your application environments, install required anti-virus software, or just make operating system configuration changes. All of these things can be accomplished through the image extension and capture process. Look for an article coming out soon that will discuss and explain, in much greater detail than I provided here, the process of installing and configuring Tivoli monitoring agents in environments dispensed by WebSphere CloudBurst. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, drop us a line here or check out our forum.
We've been talking a lot about IBM Workload Deployer V3 and we will continue to highlight different aspects of the capabilities it provides in the coming weeks. As we've already mentioned - IBM® Workload Deployer V3 is not just another release of the IBM WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. While it builds on WebSphere CloudBurst's success, and supports and improves upon all of its original capabilities, Workload Deployer provides new application-centric computing capabilities for your private cloud, and brings you higher utilization, improved ease of use, and more rapid application deployment.
Ask any enterprise about its overall IT architecture or strategy, and it won’t be long before you’re taking a look at its middleware infrastructure and the services that are hosted there. This infrastructure is often key to an enterprise’s IT capabilities because many services hosted there are outward-facing, revenue generating applications. This infrastructure needs to be able to support applications to provide efficient performance despite demand, and ideally this need is carefully balanced against inefficient resource use. However, that balance is much easier said than done. In reality, it’s often the practice to statically configure environments for the peak demands of the system thus ensuring responsive services, but ultimately leading to resource and economic wastes during off-peak times. WebSphere Virtual Enterprise seeks to address this need for balance by extending the cloud computing concepts of virtualization and virtualization management to middleware and middleware applications.
You may be wondering how WebSphere Virtual Enterprise provides such balance. That brings us to a very important concept of WebSphere Virtual Enterprise. Dynamic provisioning of middleware and applications is directly linked to application performance. Application performance goals are stated to the system via application service policies. These goals are expressed in terms of both application responsiveness and the importance of achieving such responsiveness in relation to other applications deployed within the system. This allows for a quantitative description of what ‘good’ performance is, and it also allows users to separate business-critical applications from those that are a bit more secondary to the business. By linking provisioning directly to application performance, enterprises can be assured that resources are being allocated based on the needs of users of the system.
It’s nice to have the ability to state application service policies, but the policy is nothing if the system doesn’t have the ability to act on it. That’s where dynamic clusters and on demand routers (ODRs) enter the picture. Dynamic clusters provide the capability to expand and contract the number of middleware servers and associated applications that are available to serve requests. If the system notices service policies are being violated, more instances of servers hosting the application associated with the service policy can be started on the dynamic cluster. Conversely, if WebSphere Virtual Enterprise detects that service policies can be met with fewer resources, instances of servers can be stopped and resources reclaimed. It’s also important to point out that dynamic clusters can contain both IBM and non-IBM middleware components allowing the capabilities of WebSphere Virtual Enterprise to extend to many different technologies.
ODRs are the entry point into a WebSphere Virtual Enterprise environment and help to shape the request traffic entering the system. ODRs provide all the features of an HTTP 1.0/1.1 compliant proxy, and incorporate additional on demand features such as request prioritization, request queuing, request routing, and more. Intelligent request routing is achieved by balancing the current system load with the service policies of the application being requested to ensure members are targeted in a way that allows the system to meet the service goals. ODRs provide the necessary gate-keeping duties to most effectively utilize components of a WebSphere Virtual Enterprise environment.
The four short paragraphs above only begin to scratch the surface of WebSphere Virtual Enterprise. Its ability to provide dynamically-scaled, autonomic middleware and middleware applications can give companies a leg up over its competition by ensuring responsive services balanced against efficient resource use. In effect, WebSphere Virtual Enterprise helps companies implement a smarter middleware infrastructure. Click here to read more about WebSphere Virtual Enterprise, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter. If you have any questions about WebSphere Virtual Enterprise or cloud computing, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.