Welcome!

IBM Cloud Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Stefan Bernbo

Related Topics: IBM Cloud

IBM Cloud: Article

WebSphere Migration

Calming the configuration beast

In the coming months, hundreds of corporations will migrate thousands of applications from the WebSphere 4.x platform to WebSphere 5.0. The reasons for doing so are both many and compelling, not the least of which is that support for the WebSphere 4.x platform will cease to exist in a matter of months.

However, beyond that practical reason, WebSphere 5.0 provides a giant leap in flexibility, functionality, scalability, and expandability with its new distributed architecture. This makes it well worth their while for most companies to upgrade. However, upgrading from 4.x to 5.0 has its difficulties. None is more daunting than the challenge of porting application configurations from the WebSphere 4.x to the distributed WebSphere 5.0 architecture.

For every application deployed on the WebSphere platform, IT personnel must carefully enter dozens of pieces of configuration information to ensure that the application works properly. They also must engage in similar configuration activities across all "dependent" components in the application architecture, such as database servers, load balancers, and firewalls. One slip of the finger can cause a bad configuration, which results in poor application performance or, worse yet, application service outages.

WebSphere 5.0's new distributed architecture means that its configuration requirements are completely different from those of previous versions of the platform. Therefore, if one were to take a WebSphere 4.x application and deploy it on WebSphere 5.0, the application simply would not work. IT personnel have to reconfigure the application so that it works properly on the new platform. However, this can be a daunting task because a simple configuration file in WebSphere 4.0 must be broken apart, extended, and distributed across 30 separate configuration files in WebSphere 5.0.

IBM has published an excellent book entitled Migrating to Websphere v5.0 - an End-to-End Migration Guide. While this provides step-by-step instructions on how to migrate configurations, IBM does not provide any tools for automating this process. As a result, IT departments are forced to do the migrations manually, one application at a time, and must hire additional staff simply to handle the increased complexity in configuration management.

The manual configuration process is the reason why it typically takes roughly half a day to set up a single application server. For a large company that may need to implement hundreds or even thousands of instances of WebSphere, this process represents an enormous productivity drag. Additionally, because each configuration requires keen attention to detail across a multistep process, it is highly error-prone, leading to deployment delays and application downtime.

Part of the problem is that the WebSphere administrative console is built to support a "one-at-a-time" manual process, not a "one-to-many" automated one, in which entire nodes, cells, or hives can be configured and managed collectively. And, there is no reusability of configurations. With every application deployment, IT personnel must "reinvent the wheel" and start from scratch with configurations.

This leads to inconsistent configurations, even among application servers that are supposed to be configured identically. Furthermore, there is no shared knowledgebase for these configurations, because each machine is configured "in a vacuum" by a specific individual. If he or she leaves the department, other staffers have to determine why that person configured the machine in a particular way.

Many companies today are overcoming this problem by adopting new automated infrastructure configuration management solutions. These products have become available to the market throughout the last year, creating a layer of abstraction between IT staff and infrastructure, so they no longer have to understand the specific configuration requirements of each infrastructure component.

These solutions provide a configuration management database so IT departments can create a centralized "library" of configurations that can be examined and reused when appropriate. This reusability can reduce the time of deployment for a new application server from half a day to less than half an hour, radically improving the overall productivity of the IT department. It also eliminates manual configuration errors, enabling "service-oriented IT," in which applications can be flawlessly configured, deployed, and modified on a moment's notice, to keep pace with constantly changing business requirements.

The following sections go into greater detail as to how this type of solution can not only ease the migration to WebSphere 5.0, but also provide an ongoing, consolidated solution for managing configurations across the entire application life-cycle. For the purposes of illustration, we will use a real-life example of a WebSphere migration at a large publisher, which uses an automated configuration management solution.

2004: A Migration Odyssey
A few months ago, the IT department in one of the world's foremost publishers of business information was faced with two substantial challenges. First, the department needed to move all of its production configuration data from a relational database to XML. Second, the company needed to migrate from WebSphere 4.x to WebSphere 5.0, which meant creating and managing all new application configurations for the 1,500 application servers deployed across the company's test, certification, production, and disaster recovery environments.

Both of these challenges required a similar technical solution: a consolidated way in which to create, manage, and deploy application infrastructure configurations. With no commercial solutions geared specifically toward managing these configurations across a large-scale, distributed environment, the department had developed homegrown tools and scripts for managing WebSphere 4.x configurations. However, because WebSphere 5.0 had a completely different management interface and configuration management model, those tools and scripts were obsolete.

Because it was not practical to create new tools to manage WebSphere 5.0, it became clear that the only way to meet these technology challenges was to use an age-old solution: brute force. The company's IT department would simply have to undertake an incredibly time-consuming and laborious process of manually creating and managing configurations for all 1,500 application deployments on the WebSphere platform.

But just when it appeared that thousands of valuable IT hours would be consumed by manual labor, one of the company's IT executives was introduced to a configuration management solution that automates the creation, management, and maintenance of IT infrastructure configurations. This solution enables enterprises to automatically build, manage, and maintain complex infrastructure configurations throughout the entire application life-cycle, across distributed and off-shore locations. By adopting this solution, the IT department would be able to eliminate the manual processes involved with configuration creation and management, and instead automate them through a single, scalable enterprise solution.

Curing Configuration Chaos
Using manual techniques, the company estimated that for every WebSphere-based application migration from 4.x to 5.0, someone on the IT staff would have to create and manage more than 20 identical configurations across the company's test, certification, production, and disaster recovery environments. To put this into perspective, let's examine the cost savings of employing an automated configuration management solution vs. using manual techniques (see Table 1).

Table 1 illustrates the incredible amount of waste involved with manual configuration, and it does not even touch upon the thousands of opportunities for human error every time a configuration is manually implemented on the WebSphere 5.0 platform. By automating the management of these configurations, the labor savings alone justified the investment in the infrastructure configuration management solution. When factoring in the additional benefits of eliminating the inevitable human errors that arise with manual configuration management, the investment in the solution became a "no brainer."

The company estimated that it would have required roughly two years of work to build a tool that could automate configuration management for the WebSphere 5.0 platform. By moving to a commercial solution, it was able to adopt the solution within a matter of weeks and slash migration time by up to 75% per application.

Ongoing Benefits
The benefits of automated configuration management were felt immediately in the form of radically reduced migration time and the elimination of manual configuration-based errors. The solution also enabled "one-to-many" configuration management, so configurations can now be updated and managed across all application elements from a single console.

This has enabled the IT department to keep all of its configurations consistent across systems. This had always been the department's goal, but when using manual, one-at-a-time configuration processes, it was impossible to accomplish, and, in reality, no two supposedly identical application servers were ever configured exactly alike.

Likewise, the solution automates the management of dependent configurations, such as those of Web servers and database servers. This enables the IT department to implement the configuration changes automatically - every time they need to make a configuration change on the WebSphere platform. Historically, this has been one of the most common areas of configuration errors, not only because it requires configuration changes across a number of different application elements, but also because those elements are usually managed by different people within the IT organization.

Diagnosis and repair of configuration problems has also been simplified. In the past, whenever there was a configuration-related problem with an application, the IT department had to manually compare the bad configuration parameters with a known good configuration to find the problem. It could take hours to find the bad configuration using this technique. This was more than just a productivity problem, however. It actually jeopardized the company's ability to generate revenue, as millions of end users rely on its applications for vital information and purchase millions of dollars of archived content every day. Every minute of application downtime represented lost revenue.

With its new automated infrastructure configuration management solution, the IT department can identify and repair configuration inconsistencies automatically, within a matter of seconds, ensuring that it never has revenue interruptions due to application outages.

Automated configuration management has also simplified the migration of configuration data from relational to XML. All of this data can be stored and managed in the central repository and pushed out to application components as needed.

Before adopting configuration management software, any change in an application required people to go into multiple systems to input manual changes. This led to frequent errors and inconsistencies, often resulting in application malfunctions that required further manual labor to identify the configuration problem. With the configuration data stored as XML in a single repository, the department simply has to change a configuration once, test it against the repository for conflicts, and then push it out to all appropriate infrastructure components. This eliminates configuration-related application downtime and saves an enormous amount of time as well.

Migration, not Migraines
By eliminating the manual configuration productivity drain, the IT department is well on its way to migrating all of its applications to WebSphere 5.0. However, the benefits of the solution will not end once the migration is complete. Any time a configuration needs to be touched - whether it's for deployment, retirement, or simple modification - the threat of configuration chaos looms. Additionally, automated configuration management has radically simplified the company's offshore development operations. In the past, these operations would use their own set of configurations for developing and testing applications; then, the IT department would have to reconcile those configurations with its own infrastructure - again, by hand - before the applications could be deployed.

The automated infrastructure configuration management solution enables all developers - both in-house and offshore - to work off the same, centralized repository of configurations. This allows the company to clone entire application environments to ensure total consistency across all stages of the application life-cycle and across geographic and organizational boundaries. By building sets of configuration files that specify the complete settings of all elements of the application infrastructure, and then storing these configuration sets centrally, the solution enabled the IT department to synchronize the development, testing, staging, and production environments across the U.S. and abroad.

Conclusion
In providing a single, consistent way to manage configurations across the entire application life-cycle - through development, testing, certification, and deployment - the IT department estimates that the automated infrastructure configuration management solution has slashed application migration time by nearly 60%. So, it has paid for itself in a matter of weeks. More importantly, it has substantially improved the return on investment in the WebSphere 5.0 platform, because workers can deploy more applications in a shorter period of time. They can reduce the amount of time and effort required to manage those applications. Outsourced development operations are much more tightly integrated with internal operations. And, most importantly, configuration-related downtime has virtually disappeared.

More Stories By Raman Sud

Raman Sud is the vice president of engineering for mValent, developer of mValent Integrity. Sud has 20 years of experience delivering mission-critical software for enterprises and telecommunication service providers leveraging distributed development and building integrated teams in the US and India.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Archi...
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settl...
Organizations planning enterprise data center consolidation and modernization projects are faced with a challenging, costly reality. Requirements to deploy modern, cloud-native applications simultaneously with traditional client/server applications are almost impossible to achieve with hardware-centric enterprise infrastructure. Compute and network infrastructure are fast moving down a software-defined path, but storage has been a laggard. Until now.
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that the upcoming DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO New York event will feature 10 companies from Poland to participate at the "Poland Digital Transformation Pavilion" on November 12-13, 2018.
Digital Transformation is much more than a buzzword. The radical shift to digital mechanisms for almost every process is evident across all industries and verticals. This is often especially true in financial services, where the legacy environment is many times unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands of the consumer. The constant pressure to provide complete, omnichannel delivery of customer-facing solutions to meet both regulatory and customer demands is putting enormous pressure on...
The best way to leverage your CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at CloudEXPO. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audienc...
JETRO showcased Japan Digital Transformation Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo® at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) is a non-profit organization that provides business support services to companies expanding to Japan. With the support of JETRO's dedicated staff, clients can incorporate their business; receive visa, immigration, and HR support; find dedicated office space; identify local government subsidies; get...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that All in Mobile, a mobile app development company from Poland, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. All In Mobile is a mobile app development company from Poland. Since 2014, they maintain passion for developing mobile applications for enterprises and startups worldwide.
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place November 12-13 in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd international CloudEXPO | first international DXWorldEXPO and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world.
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICC-USA, a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. ICC is a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances to meet a wide range of ...
More and more brands have jumped on the IoT bandwagon. We have an excess of wearables – activity trackers, smartwatches, smart glasses and sneakers, and more that track seemingly endless datapoints. However, most consumers have no idea what “IoT” means. Creating more wearables that track data shouldn't be the aim of brands; delivering meaningful, tangible relevance to their users should be. We're in a period in which the IoT pendulum is still swinging. Initially, it swung toward "smart for smart...
Headquartered in Plainsboro, NJ, Synametrics Technologies has provided IT professionals and computer systems developers since 1997. Based on the success of their initial product offerings (WinSQL and DeltaCopy), the company continues to create and hone innovative products that help its customers get more from their computer applications, databases and infrastructure. To date, over one million users around the world have chosen Synametrics solutions to help power their accelerated business or per...
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
In an era of historic innovation fueled by unprecedented access to data and technology, the low cost and risk of entering new markets has leveled the playing field for business. Today, any ambitious innovator can easily introduce a new application or product that can reinvent business models and transform the client experience. In their Day 2 Keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Mercer Rowe, IBM Vice President of Strategic Alliances, and Raejeanne Skillern, Intel Vice President of Data Center Group and ...
Founded in 2000, Chetu Inc. is a global provider of customized software development solutions and IT staff augmentation services for software technology providers. By providing clients with unparalleled niche technology expertise and industry experience, Chetu has become the premiere long-term, back-end software development partner for start-ups, SMBs, and Fortune 500 companies. Chetu is headquartered in Plantation, Florida, with thirteen offices throughout the U.S. and abroad.
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science," is responsible for setting the strategy and defining the Big Data service offerings and capabilities for EMC Global Services Big Data Practice. As the CTO for the Big Data Practice, he is responsible for working with organizations to help them identify where and how to start their big data journeys. He's written several white papers, is an avid blogge...