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.
I spent most of my time growing up doing two things, going to school and playing sports. I made many fond memories -- mostly from the latter :) -- and learned more than a few lessons over that time. Of all of those lessons, there was one in particular that stuck out in both the classroom and on the baseball diamond: Sometimes you have to get back to the basics.
In that vein, I think it is time to revisit the basics of WebSphere CloudBurst. In revisiting the basics, I am not talking about the technical basics of the appliance. Rather, I am talking about revisiting exactly why WebSphere CloudBurst exists in the first place. In other words, let's take a look at the problem domains WebSphere CloudBurst addresses, and let's discuss a little bit about how the appliance does so.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a sample I was working on that would allow one to apply a layer of governance to their WebSphere CloudBurst patterns. Earlier this morning, I posted the sample to the WebSphere CloudBurst Samples Gallery under the 'Sample CLI Scripts for WebSphere CloudBurst' section. The name of the new sample is 'Check WebSphere CloudBurst patterns', and you can download it here.
As hinted in my earlier post, the new sample is a simple way to check your patterns against assertions you supply in a properties file. It allows you to check that patterns contain the correct parts and scripts, and it allows you to verify that they were built from valid images. The assertion format is pretty basic, but it should be flexible enough to allow you to check patterns against a wide array of requirements. The sample archive includes a readme file that explains exactly how to use the script, and it contains a sample assertions file to give you an idea of the input syntax.
I hope this helps to address some of the requirements of many WebSphere CloudBurst users that told me they were in need of a way to apply governance to their patterns. If you have any questions about the sample, please let me know. Alternatively, if you have another idea or a problem you would like to see addressed by a sample in our gallery, please let me know.
In the course of my job, I am lucky to be able to work with both enterprise users and business partners who are adopting and using the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. When it comes to the business partner camp, one of my absolute favorites is the Haddon Hill Group. The Haddon Hill Group is an IBM Premier Business Partner, and they have been an early adopter and vocal advocate of the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. They have extensive knowledge of the use of the appliance in enterprise accounts, and quite frankly, they are doing some really cool things with WebSphere CloudBurst.
Given the above, I was glad to see summarized results from their various implementations made available recently on the IBM site. The summary is fairly concise, so I encourage you to take a look at the results Haddon Hill Group is getting with WebSphere CloudBurst.
I am not going to rehash the contents of the results here, but there are a couple of things I want to call out. First off, Haddon Hill Group says that WebSphere CloudBurst can provide companies with a '100 times faster time to market' delivery experience. In a practical sense, this means reducing the amount of time to deliver WebSphere environments from 40-60 days on average to just hours. That is an eye-opening data point!
The other thing I want call out here is a quote from Phil Schaadt, President and CTO, Haddon Hill Group. I have had the pleasure of working with Phil and team, and I have heard him echo these same sentiments many times:
"The important thing about the IBM WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance is that it will dispense a WebSphere Application Server image onto your WebSphere Application Server environment or private cloud along with other products within the WebSphere stack, and that application server will be ready in a few minutes. You can do it in a clustered environment, and you can even roll out IBM WebSphere Process Server and get it right in a fully clustered environment with a database connection, in about 90 minutes. You can also easily manage all the configurations of IBM WebSphere Process Server that you need. All the steps that took up so much time and effort on the part of IT staff have been removed. The savings for companies with large WebSphere implementations can be in the millions."
It is always great to see clients putting our technology to use to produce tangible business value. Again, I encourage you to take a look at these reports. As always, I am eager to hear what you think, so leave me a comment or reach out to me on Twitter @damrhein.
Over time, many of our users learn to effectively leverage WebSphere CloudBurst user roles and fine-grained access controls to map activities and responsibilities in the appliance to the appropriate people and teams within their organization. Using these controls, they are able to define actions that a user or group can take, and they can define the set of resources on which they can take those actions. It is efficient, flexible, and an absolute necessity in many enterprise scenarios.
In some cases though, I talk with users that want a little more control, or probably better put, governance over the actions a user can take within a given role. Most often, this need arises when the discussion of pattern authoring comes up. If you want a user in WebSphere CloudBurst to be able to create patterns, you simply give them the Create new patterns permission. Once you give them that permission, the user can create patterns using both virtual image parts and script packages in the catalog. For many of the users I talk with, this approach suits their needs.
However, in some scenarios administrators want a little more insight and control over how the pattern authors build their patterns. Specifically, they want to ensure that patterns contain only approved virtual image parts and script packages. While you can certainly use the fine-grained access controls of the appliance to expose only the 'approved' virtual image parts and script packages, that alone may not be enough. After all, the definition of what is 'approved' may be different when building a pattern for testing purposes versus one built for production purposes. If the same pattern author builds both of those patterns, fine-grained access controls do not help as much. So, what can you do?
Have I ever told you how much I love the WebSphere CloudBurst CLI? It's powerful, easy to use, and a great automation enabler. It is also the perfect tool for our problem above. If you are looking to enforce certain constraints on WebSphere CloudBurst patterns, I strongly recommend using the CLI as a governance tool.
To provide a concrete example of what I mean, let's take a look at a generic pattern checking script I am working on now (I hope to have this in the samples gallery soon). Consider the case that I want to check that all of my test patterns for a specific application environment contain 1 deployment manager and between 1 and 3 custom nodes. In addition, I want to make sure that the parts for these nodes come from an approved virtual image, and I want to verify that the deployment manager contains the correct application installation script package. With the script I am currently writing, you would start by encapsulating this information in a properties file.
PatternAssertion_1=Customer Processing Test Environments
PatternAssertion_1_Requirements=Deployment manager:1:415:Install customer process app;Custom nodes:1-3:415
In the above, the PatternAssertion_1 key provides a name for the pattern verification assertion. The PatternAssertion_1_Requirements key provides the requirements for the pattern. The above requirements indicate that for a pattern to meet the assertion, it must contain 1 deployment manager part from the virtual image with reference number 415. In addition, the deployment manager must contain a script named Install customer process app. A valid pattern must also contain 1 to 3 custom node parts, also based on the virtual image with reference number 415. When done defining my requirements in the properties file, I simply invoke a script and pass in the file. As a result, I get information about which patterns satisfy or do not satisfy the assertions. For example:
The Customer Process Application pattern satisfied the requirements of the Customer Processing Test Environments assertion.
OR The Customer Process Application pattern did not satisfy the requirements of the Customer Processing Test Environments assertion
due to the following reason: The pattern is required to have a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 3 Custom node part(s), but it had 4.
As I said, I hope to have this sample script posted to the samples gallery soon. I am going through some final revisions and enhancements that I hope make it better and more generally applicable. In the meantime, I wanted to point out that pattern governance is indeed doable, and in fact not very hard to achieve with the CLI. I will be sure to post an update when the sample script is ready. In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions or comments.
I spend most of my time talking with our users about the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. While I believe the appliance is somewhat of a hybrid among the Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service layers of the cloud, it is definitely closer to IaaS than PaaS. Users recognize that, and they can identify the capabilities of WebSphere CloudBurst that correlate with IaaS cloud functionality.
That said, I often get questions regarding IBM and work in the PaaS arena. These include questions like, 'Is IBM planning to do anything with PaaS?', 'What is your take on PaaS?', 'What kind of applications do you plan on targeting with your PaaS offering?', and more.
Well, rest assured that IBM is definitely embracing the PaaS movement. Instead of trying to answer these questions in this post though, I want to make you aware of a recent InfoQ interview with IBM WebSphere CTO, Jerry Cuomo. In the interview, Jerry answers the questions above and much more. Jerry talks about IBM's plans for PaaS, what such a platform might look like, and how he sees IBM competing against some of the cloud players in this space.
The interview runs about a half hour, but there is a very nice table of contents that allows you to navigate to specific question/answer segments with Jerry. If you are interested in PaaS, and specifically in IBM's intention in this space, I encourage you to take a look at the interview. Let me know what you think!
When it comes to administration of WebSphere environments, I (and many others) am a big fan of scripting. In my view, any administrative action you carry out with frequency > 1 is ideally suited for a script. The downside to not using scripts (longer configuration times, inconsistent configurations, isolated expertise) is simply too steep in most cases. I also realize that simply saying that you should script is not enough. For some, the learning curve can be a bit daunting. Quite frequently, I talk about our samples gallery or provide posts with embedded scripts in the hopes that I can help flatten out this curve a bit.
While these samples can certainly help to speed up your scripting efforts for certain use cases, they are more or less helpful for solving tactical challenges when scripting. If you and your company are embarking down a strategic path that includes beefing up your administrative scripting capability, I would strongly suggest you look at a resource a few of my colleagues pointed me at recently.
The resource I am talking about is the wsadminlib.py package referenced here. This python script file is a collection of hundreds of methods that carry out common WebSphere Application Server administrative tasks. The authors carefully constructed these methods with clear method and parameter names. The result is a script resource that can become the foundation for your custom-crafted administrative scripts.
I recently downloaded the wsadminlib.py script and began constructing WebSphere CloudBurst script packages to utilize it. To say I am impressed would be an understatement. This file makes so many tasks so incredibly simple. Take for instance the creation of an SIBus. That's just a simple call like the following:
wsadminlib.createSIBus(clusterName, nodeName, serverName, SIBusName, scope, secure)
How about associating a shared library with an application or application module? Another one-line call:
wsadminlib.associateSharedLibrary (libName, appName, warName)
Or what about setting a custom property in the webcontainer? You guessed it. One-line:
wsadminlib.setWebContainerCustomProperty(nodeName, serverName, propName, propValue
This is just an extremely small sample of what the wsadminlib.py includes. As I mentioned earlier, there are hundreds of other methods that carry out various tasks including: installing applications, creating core groups, creating virtual hosts, installing BLAs, creating JMS queues, and much more. If you are looking to beef up your WebSphere Application Server scripting efforts, or if you are just starting, I strongly encourage you to look into and make use of this valuable resource!
One of my favorite things to do is create content that you, our users, can directly use to adopt and implement our products. Luckily for me, my job allows me to spend a considerable time doing just that for our WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. In the course of this kind of work, I use multiple different mediums to hand over what I hope is helpful content to you. This includes blogs, articles, demos, and the WebSphere CloudBurst Samples Gallery.
While I like creating content for all of these forums, if I had to pick a favorite, I'm going to go with the samples gallery every time. The reason for this is simple. Users can download and directly use the content in the samples gallery. The samples gallery plays host to script packages, CLI scripts, and other tools that are ready to use with WebSphere CloudBurst (of course, one can also extend these or simply use them as reference). Further, the samples in the gallery are mostly direct responses to suggestions or requests I get from users regarding this type of content, thus increasing its usefulness and relevance.
A good example of the kinds of assets in the gallery is the latest script package I put out there. Recently, I was talking to a user and asked, 'What do you do every single time you establish a WebSphere Application Server environment?' He outlined a few different tasks, one of those being the creation of virtual hosts in the server's configuration. The creation of virtual hosts piqued my interest because many users do that, and the configuration logic itself is fairly consistent regardless of the administrator doing the task. Therefore, I set about creating a sample script package that you can use to create virtual host configuration in WebSphere Application Server.
The script package does two things. It creates virtual host entries, and it configures host aliases for these entries. The script allows the user to supply the data for the entries and aliases they want to create via a properties file. The properties file is pretty basic and allows for the configuration of multiple host aliases for each virtual host entry. Here is an example properties file:
The script package parses the data from a properties file like the one above, and it creates the appropriate WebSphere Application Server configuration. If you are using WebSphere CloudBurst and this kind of configuration task is common for your deployments, you may want to download this free sample. I also want to point out that there are quite a few more samples that are completely free for you to download in the gallery. Check them out and let me know what you would like to see in the samples gallery!
Looking for a reminder of the difference a year can make? If so, just take a look at the last year or so for the WebSphere CloudBurst product. Since about this time last year, we have seen the release of versions 1.1, 1.1.1, 2.0, and 18.104.22.168, each one bringing their own set of major enhancements and features. Owing to this aggressive pace, it is sometimes easy to miss out on the latest capabilities of the product. For that reason, I wanted to give a brief rundown of some (definitely not all) of the major additions to WebSphere CloudBurst over the past year.
PowerVM and z/VM support: WebSphere CloudBurst 1.1 introduced support for PowerVM (based on Power5 and Power6 systems), and version 1.1.1 introduced support for z/VM. This means that a single WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance can provision to VMware, PowerVM, and z/VM virtualization platforms.
Power7 support: WebSphere CloudBurst 22.214.171.124 introduced support for Power7 systems, thus allowing users to take advantage of the significant enhancements provided by Power7 via WebSphere CloudBurst deployments.
Expansion of the IBM Hypervisor Edition portfolio: The portfolio of images that you can deploy using WebSphere CloudBurst now includes WebSphere Application Server, WebSphere Process Server, WebSphere Portal Server, WebSphere Business Monitor, WebSphere Message Broker, and DB2. In addition to adding new images, we also expanded the platform and operating system support for existing images. For example, you can take advantage of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux OS for WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition, and you can deploy WebSphere Process Server Hypervisor Edition to z/VM infrastructure.
Addition of the Intelligent Management Pack: The Intelligent Management Pack is an optional feature of the WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition that allows you to take advantage of autonomic, policy-driven runtime management capabilities in your deployed environments. This includes the ability to create proactive health policies for your environments, assign SLAs to your applications, manage the update of applications, and more.
License management capabilities: In WebSphere CloudBurst version 2.0 and later, you can make use of license monitoring and management functionality. This allows you to get both point-in-time and historical views of software PVU usage within your cloud, and it allows you to setup policies concerning the usage of PVUs for WebSphere CloudBurst deployments.
Environment profiles: WebSphere CloudBurst provides quite a bit of out-of-the-box deployment automation in terms of selecting hypervisors, assigning IP addresses, and more. However, sometimes you need more control over exactly how this happens. WebSphere CloudBurst 126.96.36.199 introduced environment profiles that you can use to exercise more control over how deployment happens in WebSphere CloudBurst.
In my view, this is quite an impressive list of features delivered within a year's time. I should also reiterate that this is by no means a complete list, but just a selection of some of the major enhancements during this time. If you have any questions about the above additions, or if you have any questions on other features, please let me know.
Usually when I am discussing WebSphere CloudBurst with clients, the subject of tracking usage comes up. While 'tracking usage' is pretty broad and could apply to any number of things, we often come back to two major concepts. First, users want to be able to track compute resource usage in the WebSphere CloudBurst cloud, as this helps in cloud capacity planning. Second, users want to be able to track usage by individual WebSphere CloudBurst users in order to facilitate chargeback. In both cases, WebSphere CloudBurst provides reports that help you.
When it comes to tracking compute resource usage in your WebSphere CloudBurst cloud, the appliance provides a set of pre-defined reports on the Cloud --> Machine Activity page.
As you can see from the snapshot above, WebSphere CloudBurst provides usage reports for both memory and CPU attributed to either individual hypervisors or virtual machines. In addition, the appliance tracks storage usage by device and IP usage in your cloud. For each report type, you can specify a desired date range and let WebSphere CloudBurst produce a graph showing usage over that time. The below picture shows the report for memory usage by hypervisor over a one month period.
Tracking compute resource usage is certainly important, but if your interests are mostly about using WebSphere CloudBurst to facilitate chargeback, you likely want to know about our user reports. You can find these reports on the Cloud --> User Activity page of the appliance. On this page, you will find a table that lists each user and their usage of virtual machines, CPUs, memory, and storage over a period of time that you specify. Further, you can download a comma separated value file that contains this data for further parsing or processing on your part. The image below shows an example of the user activity table.
In addition to the user usage data provided above, many WebSphere CloudBurst users find that they want to track the amount of time users had running virtual systems deployed through WebSphere CloudBurst. While the appliance does not provide a direct report with this information, you can use this free sample to calculate virtual system duration times. This free tool uses data available in the WebSphere CloudBurst audit log (data you can process to produce any custom report you need), and it calculates virtual system duration time as well as virtual system time attributed to each user. You use the WebSphere CloudBurst CLI to invoke this tool, providing it with your start and end dates for the calculation (you can find further invocation instructions inside the ZIP file containing the tool). The image below shows example output for both the virtual system duration and user virtual system time reports.
'Tracking usage' means many different things to different people and use cases. I hope the above information regarding usage tracking in WebSphere CloudBurst gives you a good idea of what you get out of the box, as well as what you can do by using the audit log (in a similar fashion to the free tool mentioned above). If you have any questions, requests, or feedback, please let me know.