The reason I suggest the application proxy approach is twofold. First, it affords you the ability of having custom interactions with the REST API. For instance, you may insert logic into the server-side proxy code that returns only a subset of the JSON data contained in the response from the appliance. Alternatively, in an effort to reduce the chattiness on your client-side, you may join JSON data from multiple different REST requests to the appliance to fulfill a single client request. You may even decide to represent the data in an all together different format than JSON. All of these options and many more are available to you if you implement an application-based proxy to the REST API.
The second reason I suggest the application approach is that it is easier, and seemingly safer, to not deal with user passwords on the client-side. If you setup your application proxy, you can configure it to retrieve the appropriate password from a secure location (like an encoded file) based on information passed along in the request. This means the password information is only present in the request (in encoded form of course) from the application proxy to the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance.
The good news about the application-based proxy approach is that it is simple to put in place. I composed one using the open source Apache Wink project. The Apache Wink project is an open source implementation of the JAX-RS specification (and then some), and it enables you to develop POJOs that are in turn exposed in a RESTful manner. In my case, I had a single resource POJO:
The Apache Wink runtime routes any HTTP GET request whose path is like /resources/* to the getResources method in the WCAResource class. This method passes along information taken from the query string (the host name of the target WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance and the requesting WebSphere CloudBurst username), as well as the HTTP path information and sends it on to the getResource method declared as follows:
The getResource method above uses the WebSphere CloudBurst host name and the request path to construct the URL for the corresponding WebSphere CloudBurst REST API call. Next, it constructs an Apache Wink Resource object and sends the REST request along to the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. How do we authenticate this request? We use the WebSphere CloudBurst username (sent as a query string parameter) to retrieve the appropriate encoded password information. Once we have that, we construct the necessary header for basic authorization over SSL.
The application-based proxy shown here is simply a pass-through. It does not manipulate the data returned from the WebSphere CloudBurst REST API, nor does it map a single client-side call to multiple REST requests. However, it would be simple enough to extend it to do any of those things. If you have any questions about the code here, please let me know. I'd be happy to share more of the code, or talk about how and where to extend it.
The WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition virtual image is made up of four different virtual disks. One of those disks contains pre-created and pre-configured WebSphere Application Server profiles. When the image is activated (either through WebSphere CloudBurst or in a standalone fashion), all of the profiles not being used are deleted leaving only the intended WebSphere profile type.
Since the profiles are pre-created, this implies that certain information must be updated after the image is activated to reflect things that change with each node that is created. Among other things, the cell name, node name, and host name of the WAS profile configuration are usually updated during the image activation process. Nearly every time I talk to WAS administrators about WebSphere CloudBurst and WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition they are intrigued by this particular configuration update and almost always ask "How do you do it?" (Dustin's note: Since the command to rename the cell is not officially documented, I have removed it from this post. I'm sorry, but it is for your own good!)
Most of the time this question pops up because users are attempting to, with a more narrow focus than WAS Hypervisor Edition, freeze-dry certain WAS configurations in their organization. However, no matter how they do that (virtual images, zipped up configuration files, etc.), they too need to update things like the cell, node, and host names when attempting to reuse the configuration. Many have gone down the route of trying to identify all of the different XML files they need to change in order to update this information, but this is untenable and in fact unnecessary.
If you need to update the node or host name, forget manually updating XML files. Instead, use these three wsadmin commands:
The commands can be run from a standalone node or from a deployment manager node. They are pretty straight forward, and if you need more information about them just take a look in the WebSphere Application Server Information Center. I hope this is helpful information, and stay away from those XML files!
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.
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.
To continue with the series of blog posts regarding WebSphere CloudBurst FAQs, I want to take a look at one aspect of the deployment process.
When you leverage WebSphere CloudBurst to push patterns (complete WebSphere Application Server configurations) into a private cloud, the appliance provides an advanced placement algorithm to determine exactly where the resulting WebSphere virtual systems will reside. It attempts to match the needs of the pattern to the correct set of hypervisors that have been defined. WebSphere CloudBurst considers things like storage, CPU, memory, and high availability characteristics when placing the pattern, and this is all done by the appliance without you having to intervene at all.
This is certainly nice in that it absolves you from having to make such placement decisions. Having said this though, you may be thinking of a question that comes up quite often:
If WebSphere CloudBurst controls the placement of the pattern, how can I make sure that certain deployments end up on certain servers (hypervisors)?
Considering what I just told you above, it may not seem that it's possible to control what machines end up hosting your virtual system since the appliance takes care of that placement for you. However, the organized use of WebSphere CloudBurst cloud groups allows you to take advantage of the intelligent placement provided by the appliance while retaining a level of control over which machines end up hosting particular deployments.
In WebSphere CloudBurst all patterns are deployed to cloud groups. Cloud groups are a collection of hypervisors that have been defined within the appliance. The basic deployment mapping is depicted in the image below:
As seen above, you can create a cloud group for any purpose (dev, test, QA, production, etc.), including any hypervisors that you desire as long as a given hypervisor only belongs to a single cloud group. When you are ready to deploy a pattern, you simply select the cloud group you want to deploy to:
By selecting a cloud group for deployment, you are implicitly selecting the physical machines that will host your deployment. The cloud group could consist of anywhere from one to N hypervisors, so you are afforded the ability to restrict the location of your virtual systems as necessary.
I hope this helped explain a little bit about cloud groups in WebSphere CloudBurst. If you're looking for more information about WebSphere CloudBurst cloud groups, I'd also suggest you watch this video on our YouTube channel.
The more and more we visit with customers about our new WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance, the more we see a common thread of questions emerge around the offering. In an attempt to address some of these questions in a more accessible medium, I figured I'd start a series of blogs that relays some of these questions and of course the answers. Today I want to start with what is perhaps the most frequently asked question about WebSphere CloudBurst.
One thing I've noticed while talking to customers is that virtualization and virtualization management tools are widely used today. When we talk to customers already using these tools, they immediately understand the benefits WebSphere CloudBurst delivers in the form of virtualizing WebSphere Application Server environments and bringing a set of lifecycle capabilities to this virtualization. However, almost invariably they ask why they would use WebSphere CloudBurst over their existing tools, for instance VMware's vSphere offering.
There's a two-word answer to this question: WebSphere intelligence. What exactly does that mean? WebSphere CloudBurst was built with WebSphere in mind, and it knows how to configure, tune, and maintain WebSphere Application Server environments without the need for custom scripting.
For instance, when a user is building a WebSphere CloudBurst pattern (if you are wondering what a pattern is, or just want to learn the basics of WebSphere CloudBurst, take a look at this article) the relationships among the various WebSphere Application Server parts are automatically configured. This means that custom nodes are automatically federated into the Deployment Manager cell, web servers are automatically configured to route to application server nodes (and the web server's config file is setup to be automatically propagated), and much more. In addition to establishing these relationships, WebSphere CloudBurst also applies best practice tuning to the WebSphere environment. This tuning of course is just a suggestion and can be easily changed by users.
In addition to configuring and tuning a topology, WebSphere CloudBurst allows users to apply both fixes and service level upgrades to running virtual systems. Through the console, users can select virtual systems and apply either a fix or upgrade directly to the system. All the while, WebSphere CloudBurst automatically backs up the state of the system before the change is applied, and users can easily roll back to the previous system state if undesired behavior is encountered after the change.
I'm not disputing that all of these actions could be potentially accomplished using some "black-box" virtualization management tool, but the burden of supplying WebSphere intelligence is placed directly on the user. In order to configure, tune, or maintain virtualized WebSphere Application Server environments, users would accompany their virtual machine definitions with a heavy dose of scripting. These scripts only add to the pile of IT assets that need to be owned, updated, and maintained over time, and they only serve to distract users from the end-game of getting their applications up and running.
It's important to note too that WebSphere CloudBurst was only just released, so I would expect that the WebSphere intelligence it provides will only grow and get better over time. If you want to learn more about WebSphere CloudBurst, or if you think your company would be interested in a briefing and demo please get in touch. You can reach me at email@example.com. We would love to explain both the business value and technical capabilities of the appliance.
Customers are always impressed when they learn about the simplicity, resiliency, and rapid time to value they can received from virtual applications. However, they are usually a little mystified at how virtual applications really work. After all - they have become quite accustomed to doing things the "traditional way" where they control every aspect of their applications manually. Virtual Applications represent an entirely new way of thinking. Sure, the benefits are enormous but can you really trust them? How is it doing all of this anyway?
What seems like "magic" is really a sophisticated and coordinated set of activities driven and coordinated by IBM Workload Deployer while leveraging the expertise built into the pattern type. Yes, you can trust it because experts have worked to build the system and created to it react and respond much faster than you can. When moving away from manual processes to automated processes it is always nice to get a sense of what is really happening. I think it is just human nature. We can't really place our trust in something until we have first hand experience or understand what it is really doing ... I guess it is the critic inside each one of us. Even after you've experienced the value it is still reassuring to see and understand the "how".
It is the "how does it do that?" type of question that I attempted to answer for virtual applications in a blog post I wrote on the Expert Integrated Systems blog recently. It attempts to pull the curtain aside and describe what is actually happening to support a virtual application pattern. As with my previous post - this was written for IBM PureApplication Systems but the concepts are 100% applicable to IBM Workload Deployer. I think you will find it interesting ... Continue reading ...
Applications - just like humans, animals, plants, and many other things - have a life cycle. They are conceived, given birth, grow, do foolish things in youth, hopefully improve over time, have problems that need to be fixed, don't always age well .... and eventually they will die and release their assets to the next generation. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it?
One of the many benefits of virtual application patterns in IBM Workload Deployer and related IBM offerings is support for the complete life cycle of the application. You can manage the complete life cycle of virtual applications from a single interface that is fully integrated and well thought out - not just a series of links from one product UI to a different product UI. This eliminates the complexity of having to work with different interfaces, paradigms, metaphors, controls, labels, names, authorization, and so on - that is often the norm in many customer environments today. I think the benefits of this integration are obvious - eliminating confusion, configuration, miscommunication, interpretation, and mapping errors. Providing a truly complete solution also facilitates a common knowledge base and encourages cooperation and collaboration among teams. You can share patterns, providing consistent governance for a solution, guarantee consistency in deployments, and build upon the expertise provided by others. Having an integrated solution for design, development, deployment, configuration changes, monitoring, and problem determination ensures that time is not wasted and valuable information is not lost.
If you have been wanting to get some first hand experience with patterns of expertise in preparation for IBM PureApplication System or IBM Workload Deployer but you don't yet have a system of your very own to use ... then you will want to check out this post/video and then download the Virtual Pattern Toolkit for Developers! It's absolutely free and will get you up and running with a virtualized system in a short while. Check it out!
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!
It does not seem like it has been a year, but here we are again. It is time for IBM Impact 2012, and like each year, this one promises to be a little better than its predecessors. As I type this post, I am 36,000 feet above either Texas or New Mexico on my way to the neon desert for a completely packed week. I can't wait to arrive!
An obvious summary of IBM Impact would be to say that it is a technology conference. That does not quite do it justice though. The event is packed full with stories of business transformation, emerging business paradigms and the technologies that support them, new product announcements and much more. That said, in my mind IBM Impact is first and foremost a premier technical education conference. The week is stuffed with technical session after technical session on a wide range of topics.
With that in mind, I thought I would share a few of the sessions I have highlighted on my calendar. To be honest, I had a hard time setting up my calendar for the week. In some cases I ended up booking three sessions in one time slot. There are simply too many good sessions to choose from, so this list is nowhere near exhaustive, and it is certainly not my full calendar!
1219 Overview of the IBM Mobile Foundation :: Monday 10:45 AM - 12:00 PM :: Palazzo N - Venetian
Summary: This session will provide an overview of the new IBM Mobile Foundation: a new middleware offering from IBM that will enable customers to build and deliver innovative mobile applications, centrally govern and manage their mobile infrastructure, and integrate with existing enterprise data and services. Attendees will leave with an understanding of what the platform is and how it can help them effectively and efficiency take advantage of mobile for their enterprise.
2138 Elastic Caching - Foundational Technology for Your Solutions and Offerings :: Monday 2:00 PM - 3:15 PM :: Palazzo J - Venetian
Summary: This session will provide an overview of elastic caching, explain IBM's offerings and technology and will share a set of usage scenarios that will demonstrate why this technology is so hot -- and why it can dramatically benefit our partners' offerings, solutions and ROI.
1371 Introducing IBM WebSphere Application Server v8.Next - Enhanced ND: A Huge Step Forward! :: Tuesday 10:45 AM - 12:00 PM :: Palazzo I - Venetian
Summary: Setting the bar higher for app server resiliency and robustness, IBM WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment v8.Next sets itself even further apart from the industry. Now included with WAS ND is virtualization, improved availability and health monitoring, Java batch processing and more. This session covers the details.
2484 Cloud, Virtualization and Application Pattern Trends and Directions :: Tuesday 1:30 PM - 2:45 PM :: Palazzo E - Venetian
Summary: Cloud and virtualization is being pared with a new best practices-based approach to application development, deployment and automation of custom and independent software vendor applications across a range of deployment environments. Whether you're targeting existing hardware and software stacks, new private cloud infrastructure or public cloud resources, or all three, a pattern-based approach to applications can deliver unmatched portability and time to market. Cloud computing is helping to deliver a level of automation and self service needed in todays dynamic business landscape. Learn how these technologies are unfolding, and what your company can do to get started today to drive speed, efficiency and lower total cost of ownership across your IT investments.
1520 Building Custom Content for Expert Integrated Systems :: Wednesday 10:45 AM - 12:00 PM :: Palazzo G - Venetian
Summary: This session will cover all the different ways that new functionality can be developed for use with IBM Workload Deployer and IBM PureApplication System. This will include the ICON Image Construction tool, Capture and Extend, and also the IWD PDK.
1563 Positioning Expert Integrated Systems with Its Competitors :: Wednesday 3:15 PM - 4:30 PM :: Palazzo F - Venetian
Summary: (Plug Alert! -- I will be co-presenting this session) IBM PureApplication System provides a virtualized platform of cost effective, next generation hardware with an optimized capabilities that automates workload lifecycle management, from deployment to quiescence. How is it different from other solutions that promise the same benefits? Join us as we examine the unique capabilities of IBM PureApplication System. Learn about the value of IBM PureApplication System for your business, and why it is truly heads and shoulders above the competition! Explore in detail why IBM PureApplication System can better deliver on these capabilities than other alternatives such as Oracle's Exalogic. Comparisons will be based on quantitative metrics using results from actual experiences with both products.
2150 Building a Private Cloud Using IBM Technology and Fit-for-Purpose Methodology :: Wednesday 4:45 PM - 6:00 PM :: Marcello 4401A - Venetian
Summary: In this session, we will examine a practical approach for organizations to optimize their computing environment by using IBM WebSphere technology. We explore the use of IBM's fit for purpose methodology for optimal workload placement, how the use of IBM's Workload Deployer, IBM Datapower, the IBM Rational Automation Framework for WebSphere and WebSphere Virtual Enterprise can be used in the development of a private cloud that maximizes your total computing environment.
2390 WAS vs. WebLogic, JBoss and Tomcat: An IBM Perspective :: Thursday 8:45 AM - 10:00 AM :: Lido 3105 - Venetian
Summary: Are you considering an Oracle WebLogic or an open source application server like Tomcat or JBoss? In this session we will discuss key factors to consider when making a decision on which application server to use, such as cost of licenses and support, performance, availability and usability lab tests, administrative and development tools, and real world customer experiences. We will discuss factors that contribute to TCO such as development and operating costs, and application performance and reliability. We will discuss how new capabilities of WAS v8.Next enhance its competitive position. Session will be presented by Roman Kharkovski, who has been a technical lead on the WW WebSphere Competitive Team since 1999 and Stuart Smith, who is lead consultant with Web Age Solutions and worked with all major application servers and Java since 1998.
Summary: eXtremeMemory allows you to store objects in native memory instead of on the Java heap. By moving objects off the Java heap, you can avoid garbage collection pauses, leading to more consistent performance and predictable response times.
These are just a few of the interesting sessions I have highlighted on my calendar. I am going to sit in on many more, and I will be writing a summary of the event soon enough. For those of you heading to IBM Impact, safe travels and I hope to see you there!
The answer is yes, I did a related but different blog post with a similar title a few weeks back. At that time I was primarily highlighting a webinar that I co-presented with Keith Smith regarding the various virtualization solutions and features that are available in IBM Workload Deployer in virtual application patterns and virtual system patterns leveraging the Intelligent Management Pack (IMP). If you didn't get a chance to attend that webcast live then I encourage you to check out the replay (especially Keith's portion with details on IMP - a really helpful overview).
This new blog post expands on the theme of that original blog post but takes a broader vision of where IBM has been with our private cloud offerings in WCA and IWD up to and including the recently announced IBM PureApplication System - and how this history demonstrates our leadership in supporting applications in the cloud.
It's here at long last! IBM PureSystems was announced today and in particular the IBM PureApplication System family member. IBM PureApplication System includes many of the capabilities that you have been hearing about and using in IBM Workload Deployer. While this solution includes and builds upon the capabilities of Workload Deployer, there's also a lot more functionality that is built into a completely integrated and optimized solution that not only manages your private cloud but runs it in the most optimized fashion. It really is a complete private cloud solution that is highly optimized to provide the best possible integration of software and hardware made simple for your cloud needs.
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!
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.
Everybody likes having choices. This is true whether you are talking about lunch or deploying to a private cloud. When IBM Workload Deployer v3.0 was first introduced it included a pattern type for our Database-as-a-Service offering. The DBaaS PatternType v1 provided substantial value in an easy to use form factor to get a database up and running quickly and then provided the necessary tools to manage that environment. Pretty impressive for a first release! But the story doesn't end there. IBM Workload Deployer v3.1 brings an updated version of this pattern type that builds upon this foundation and adds even more capabilities and more choices.
Some of you may not be familiar with the Workload Deployer Database-as-a-Service offering so let me give you a brief introduction. Database-as-a-Service patterns allow you to define and deploy database applications into your private cloud environment with speed and consistency. These offerings also provide integrated management and monitoring capabilities. The Database-as-a-Service capability can be used in conjunction with a web application pattern (Patterns -> Virtual Applications, IBM Web Application Pattern) by including a database component in a pattern connected the web application components to use it. In this case the web application and database are deployed and managed as a unified solution with a common life-cycle as shown in the pattern below.
Database patterns can also be created and deployed as standalone entities (Patterns -> Database Patterns) that have their own life-cycle, independent of the virtual web application(s) that use the database. What's more, you can leverage these stand-alone databases from applications both inside and outside your private cloud.
Whether you use a stand-alone database pattern or one that is part of a web application pattern, the attributes and capabilities of the database are consistent.
So what is new in this release? For starters, the DBaaS PatternType has been renamed and the capabilities expanded. For Workload Deployer v3.1 the pattern is delivered as the IBM Database Patterns v1.1 and includes several elements to provide predefined configurations: the IBM Transaction Database Pattern and the IBM Data Mart Pattern.
Before we take a closer look at the new features I just want to alert you to one thing. Before you can leverage any of these new features you first need to accept the licenses and configure the plugins for the database pattern types. So look at the link and follow the directions if you would like to along and you aren't seeing the same options in your IBM Workload Deployer V3.1 system.
Using the screen shot above as a reference, let's take a look at what you can specify when creating a database pattern. You start with a name for the pattern and an optional pattern description. You also specify the maximum user data space size and an optional schema file. These are pretty basic and were all available with in the previous release. Another really nice feature that has also been available since the first release is the ability to specify a compatibility mode for DB2 and Oracle (a nice feature if you are looking to move content from existing databases).
Some of the new enhancements appear in the middle of the view; the purpose and source. The purpose specifies if this database is to be used for production or non-production (test and development). Your selection will optimize license management for deployed instances of this pattern.
The source field lets you specify a database configuration to be used to provision this database. You can choose from two different provisioning approaches; applying a workload standard or cloning from a database image. When choosing apply a workload standard you select between two predefined, optimized database configurations. These configurations will run a set of scripts to tune the operating system and instance configuration for the database. The departmental transactional standard is optimized for online transaction processing applications while the data mart standard is optimized for data mining purposes and is therefore more suitable for reporting applications. If those aren't exactly what you want but you have an existing database you can use the clone from a database image approach by selecting an existing database image backup as a model for the new database pattern. When using the clone method metadata from the backup is retrieved and a DB2 restore command is used to set the same configuration for the new database instance. Reference the cloning from a database image topic in the IBM Database Patterns information center for more details.
Once the pattern has been created you can deploy the pattern to a target cloud group or an environment profile (another new feature for database deployments in IBM Workload Deployer V3.1).
I hope you can see the value that has been added with the source configuration choices and the ability to clone an existing configuration. They are certainly substantial new features of the Database-as-a-Service solution in Workload Deployer V3.1. However, there are a number of other significant enhancements that I would just like to mention as well. In other posts we've discussed the new ability to deploy virtual applications to run on AIX with a PowerVM hypervisor. As you might expect this same ability is also available to deploy database patterns to run on AIX systems leveraging PowerVM. Management capabilities have also been significantly enhanced with the ability to configure automated database backups using the IBM Tivoli Storage Manager. These features and many other aspect of the Database-as-a-Service model are detailed in the IBM Database Patterns information center and the IBM Workload Deployer information center. My goal here has not been to replicate our product documentation - it is rather my goal to provide a few highlights and provide pointers to help you get started. I hope it has been useful.
You can be sure that we will continue enhancing and improving our Database-as-a-Service offering in IBM Workload Deployer. Please provide your feedback so that we can make it even better.
In the previous post I spoke about how a Virtual Application feature introduced in Workload Deployer v3.1 actually had benefits for Virtual System patterns as well. In that case I was talking about the ability to deploy Virtual Applications running on AIX to PowerVM hypervisors and how this had hidden benefits for Virtual Systems as well. This is a great example of how an enhancement to Virtual Applications can sometimes benefit Virtual Systems. However, this is not the only instance where the two pattern types intersect.
Several other new or enhanced features that are primarily for Virtual Applications are also being extended to benefit and improve Virtual Systems ... and vice-versa. One such area of improvement involves Shared Service in v3.1. These services were introduced in v3.0 specifically for the benefit of Virtual Applications. However, several enhancements have extended these capabilities to Virtual Systems and likewise, some functionality that was previously only available to Virtual Systems has been extended to Virtual Applications in the form of Shared Services.
As you may already know, Shared Services were first introduced in v3.0 and are just what the name implies; services that are deployed by a cloud administrator and used by multiple virtual application deployments. Let's start by taking a look at the shared services available under Cloud -> Shared Services in v3.1. You will notice that there are now more shared services listed than there were in v3.0.
In addition to the familiar Caching Service and ELB Proxy Service (formerly Proxy Service) there are now additional entries for an External Caching Service and an External Application Monitoring Service. For simplicity let's just start from the top and go down the list, discussing the function of each service, what is new/improved for v3.1 with regard to virtual applications, and when applicable how this service can be used by virtual systems.
The Caching Service was introduced in v3.0. Its primary purpose is to cache HTTP session data using a highly scalable and fast in-memory cache. This is the same core technology that is included in our WebSphere eXtreme Scale and DataPower XC10 Caching appliance. To make use of this service all you need to do is deploy an instance of the Caching Service with the configuration parameters of your choice into a cloud group where you want to leverage that service. As you create virtual application patterns you simply select the Enable session caching check-box when you add a scaling policy. When this pattern is deployed it will be automatically configured to leverage the Caching Service for session persistence. It's as simple as that.
Several new features were introduced in v3.1 for the Caching Service. First, the Caching Service can now be launched with parameters to define the behavior for automatic scaling to meet the ever changing demands of your applications. Once set, Workload Deployer will manage this service to ensure sufficient capacity based upon your requirements, adding or removing containers. Second, and this is significant for Virtual System patterns, the caching service has been enhanced to add new operations to support listing, creating, and deleting various types of object grids. You can then use the WebSphere eXtreme Scale ObjectGrid APIs to persist and manage content in the grid from your application code from Virtual System deployments. This saves you the trouble of creating and configuring your own caching service for these purposes outside of the cloud and permits sharing of the service you have already configured - a nice savings.
Caching Service (External)
The External Caching Service is one of the new additions for v3.1. Let's say that you already have configured a caching solution for your enterprise using the DataPower XC10 appliance or a collective of appliances. It would be nice if you could leverage this same solution instead of launching yet another caching solution within your private cloud. Leveraging your existing solution would consolidate your caching needs and preserve the cloud resources for other purposes. With this new external caching service you can do just that. It provides you the ability to leverage an external caching solution for both your Virtual Application session persistence needs as well as your Virtual System and even non-cloud caching needs. Just point an instance of this external caching service at your DataPower XC10 caching solution and all of the HTTP session persistence needed by your virtual applications in the same cloud group will make use of the external caching service. You can also point multiple instances of the external caching service in multiple cloud groups to share the same XC10 appliance or collective.
Monitoring Application (External)
With the External Monitoring Application service you can deploy an External Application Monitoring service reference within a cloud group to point at a Tivoli Enterprise Monitoring Server installation outside of the cloud. The TEMS server must be at version 6.2.2 Fix Pack 5 or later. Once created, the Unix or Linux OS monitoring agents and the Workload monitoring agent that is provided for virtual application workloads will be automatically connected to the defined instance of the Tivoli server using the supplied primary and fail-over Tivoli Enterprise Management server, protocol, and port. This is especially useful if you want to consolidate all of your monitoring to a common console. As with the External Caching Solution, this enhancement also extends the integration capabilities of Virtual Application Patterns beyond the scope of your private cloud and allows you to consolidate and leverage investments you have already made.
ELB Proxy Service
The Proxy Service was first introduced in v3.0 and renamed to the ELB Proxy Service in v3.1 for clarity. As the name implies, its primary purpose is to provide routing and load balancing to multiple deployed web applications. As with the caching service, you deploy this service based upon your requirements for load and availability within a cloud group. When defining virtual application patterns to leverage this service you simply add a routing policy and define your virtual host name. When the virtual application pattern instance is deployed to the cloud group the necessary configuration will performed to add the virtual host name and configure your application environment to use the ELB Proxy Service. New in v3.1 is the capability to scale the ELB Proxy Service itself to meet the changing demands of your application mix.
One other item that I should point out (and to which I've already alluded) is that you can now deploy multiple instances of each of the shared services - one per cloud group. Shared services can also now be deployed using environment profiles. This was not previously the case in v3.0 where each service was a singleton for the appliance. Allowing multiple instances of shared services gives you the flexibility to configure the sharing of your services as necessary for your particular environment.
I hope this post has provided a useful overview of the value of shared services and the new capabilities introduced in v3.1. I also hope that you can see how these services make it easier to implement your solutions for both virtual applications and virtual systems within a private cloud environment and shed a little light on how we are continuing to improve IBM Workload Deployer. As always, these improvements are driven by the feedback we receive from you so please let us know what you think!
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!