IBM Workload Deployer: Snap Fingers, Get Application Infrastructures
Wes Simonds 120000EFD6 firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  turnkey infrastructure iwd wes soa business ibm oriented agility burst service private architecture hypervisor cloud simonds transformation deployer workload growth application
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Private clouds bring turnkey IT closer to reality. Back in my IT days, it often seemed to me that the executives running the show were trying to apply business concepts to IT in a way that didn't work particularly well.
These guys didn't actually say so, but what they were thinking was this: ‘Wouldn't it be nice if IT just did whatever I needed it to do, instantly and automatically? (Or what if I could control the software and systems myself, without going through IT?’)
Proverbs about wishes, horses, beggars and riding came to mind.
Now, these execs were, as a general rule, very business-centric folks who literally didn't know Perl from assembly language. So, in the diplomatic interest of preserving my job, I didn't try to explain why Turnkey IT struck me as a fantasy. Instead, I told them what was possible, let them choose from the options, and did what I could to make that choice happen.
But I also thought that eventually, given ongoing developments and refinements, they might get their wish -- or something very close to it.
These days, that wish seems closer to reality than ever. Thanks to deeply-automated, super-virtualized, policy-driven architectures -- clouds -- it seems to me that IT has achieved a new and impressive level of what I might call ‘turnkeyness.’ Today's clouds have automatic, business-defined policies orchestrating what services do, both in their own contexts and in combination. And those services automatically get resources like processing power, storage, memory and network bandwidth allocated to them dynamically, in proportion to the actual business need as it fluctuates hour by hour.
Furthermore, with the increasing popularity of private clouds, we have all of this taking place in an exclusive way. Now an organization can get all the embedded intelligence, flexibility and scalability of a cloud with none of the classic public cloud worries (e.g., a shared architecture that somebody else manages and owns, and any number of completely different companies can use in unpredictable ways).
Unload the burden of app infrastructure management
That said, there is still the realm of business applications to consider. Private clouds are already fairly popular as a platform of basic IT services like service desks or asset status monitoring, but how well do they work for critical business services driven by complex, internally developed applications?
In this context, there are new variables to consider -- specifically, the complete stack of middleware required to make the application viable.
It's one thing to automate virtual server creation and provisioning per se, based on a library of images. It's quite a different thing to automate whole application environments -- the complete software-defined worlds in which applications, and the services they drive, actually live and breathe.
So when I heard about the new IBM Workload Deployer appliance (IWD), which is designed to do exactly that for private clouds, I thought ‘Here we go -- about as close to Turnkey IT as it's possible to get today. The business guys I used to work with would have fallen instantly and overwhelmingly in love with this thing.’
Backing that interpretation up is a recent conversation I had with Don Boulia, IBM Director of Private Cloud and Application Infrastructure. This chat focused on how much more efficient and powerful application infrastructure management can become in a private cloud driven by IWD.
‘The cloud enables us to greatly simplify the process of deploying, running and managing application environments,’ he said. ‘Fundamentally, we are using virtualization, standardization and automation within a cloud context to dramatically reduce the time required to deploy and manage application environments.’
How, in a pragmatic sense, does this work? Basically, IWD allows organizations to start with pre-built and configured patterns of middleware or applications. A pattern includes a product or application’s binaries and configuration information, and can include an underlying operating system and deployment topology information. The private cloud then utilizes these patterns to create entire application environments on demand in the cloud as many times, for as many business purposes, as the business requires.
Each environment is completely consistent; this means that quality is automatically baked into the application (and the services that draw upon it) in areas ranging from resource allocation to security to abstract best practices drawn from frameworks like ITIL. It also means that instead of IT shouldering the burden of application infrastructure management, the cloud itself is -- a very turnkey-ish arrangement indeed.
As it turns out, the level of automation goes even further than that, because IBM has done a lot of the work for you in terms of creating those patterns for common middleware products and application topologies, such as web applications or database as a service. That's because IWD can draw on predefined IBM Hypervisor Edition patterns that already incorporate key application infrastructure technologies such as IBM WebSphere® Application Server, IBM WebSphere Process Server, IBM WebSphere Portal and the enterprise-class database offering, IBM DB2®.
If that sounds like magic -- snap your fingers, and witness as your apps automatically start creating business value in your private cloud -- it really is almost that simple. Administrators can literally upload apps to the cloud in a standard format such as a WAR file, upload a database schema if necessary, specify policies to be applied to the application and click Deploy. IWD then does all the work of implementation. See for yourself how easy it is.
And if that sounds like more automation than you want, you can dial it back. This is due to the fact that IWD also supports custom patterns, from scratch, or by editing a pre-built pattern, and scripts, empowering IT to roll their own application infrastructures for any special cases that may come up. Once the custom images and scripts are defined, IWD's application infrastructure magic will apply to them just as well.
Drag-and-drop business services, courtesy of the cloud
Well, that's service management at such an intuitive level, the technology has -- from a management standpoint -- all but disappeared. All that's left (almost) is the business capability the organization is trying to achieve.
So we have almost come full circle, back to the turnkey IT concept from the beginning of this blog entry: ‘Wouldn't it be nice if IT just did whatever I needed it to do, instantly and automatically?’
Boulia sees things in much the same way. ‘We have introduced a policy-based approach to running and managing application environments in the cloud,’ he said. ‘Rather than focusing on middleware topologies, customers can specify how the application should behave. This includes policies in areas such as application scaling and high availability. The underlying system takes care of the topology details and manages the environment based on the desired policies.’
The implications for business agility are obvious: a much faster response to changing conditions, however dynamically those conditions may change, without much new risk incurred as a result.
Even security -- a classic executive worry when it comes to clouds -- is addressed in a variety of ways. In addition to its own security controls, which support granular access to give the right people the right privileges, IWD also integrates with LDAP directories -- leveraging external, pre-existing security definitions, SOA-style, in a new way.
The bottom line, according to Boulia, is this: ‘IWD is just a great way to take out all the variability and complexity in rolling out app environments for a more agile, cost-effective response -- a flexible app infrastructure that lets you use private clouds to their full potential.’
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Guest blogger Wes Simonds worked in IT for seven years before becoming a technology writer on topics including virtualization, cloud computing and service management. He lives in sunny Austin, Texas and believes Mexican food should always be served with queso.