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What's in a Cloud Appliance?

A closer look at the IBM WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance

The recently announced IBM WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance is poised to make a big splash in the cloud computing market. Its ability to create, deploy, and administer private WebSphere cloud environments gives customers the ability to create and manage a services oriented cloud. To provide a more in-depth look at what the appliance delivers, I’d like to take a short look at the creation, deployment, and administration capabilities to understand what each one means to the user.

To get started, in order to leverage WebSphere environments in a private cloud, you need to construct WebSphere configurations optimized for such a virtual environment. Using WebSphere CloudBurst you can do just that. WebSphere CloudBurst ships a virtual image packaging of the WebSphere Application Server called WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition. From this new virtual image offering, complete WebSphere Application Server topologies can be constructed to create what WebSphere CloudBurst terms a pattern. These patterns are representations of fully functional WebSphere Application Server environments. For example, using WebSphere components in the WebSphere Application Sever Hypervisor Edition, you can create a cluster environment that includes a WebSphere Deployment Manager, two customs nodes, and the IBM HTTP Server.

In order to create these patterns, WebSphere CloudBurst provides a drag-and-drop interface that allows users to select WebSphere components from the new virtual image and drop them onto a canvas that visually represents the WebSphere configuration. In addition to adding WebSphere components, users can also drag and drop script packages onto the components within a pattern. These script packages allow users to provide scripts and other artifacts that further customize the WebSphere Application Server environment once it has been deployed in the cloud. These script packages can do just about anything, from tuning WebSphere security settings to installing applications in the newly created environment.


Building the virtualized WebSphere Application Server environment, or pattern, is only part of the process. Once the pattern is built, it is ready to be deployed to the cloud. WebSphere CloudBurst operates on a ‘bring your own cloud’ model, so the cloud resources are defined to the appliance. These cloud resources consist of a set of supported hypervisors and a list of IP addresses available to the cloud. Once these resources are defined, WebSphere CloudBurst has all the information it needs for deployment. On deployment of a pattern, WebSphere CloudBurst determines the state of the available resources, and places the pattern across the available hypervisors accordingly. It places the WebSphere instance to ensure efficient use of resource, high performance, and high availability. In addition to placing the pattern instance onto the hypervisors, WebSphere CloudBurst selects and assigns an IP address to each WebSphere component in the configuration. Both the placement and IP address assignment are done with no user input or intervention. The result of the pattern deployment is a fully instantiated WebSphere environment that can be accessed and used like any other such environment. It is important to note that the WebSphere environments do not run on the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance, and in fact the appliance plays no role in the runtime of the environments.

While it is true that the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance is not involved in the runtime of the patterns that it deploys, it does provide users the capability to monitor and administer these environments. From the WebSphere CloudBurst console, each of the WebSphere virtual systems can be viewed to understand network configuration, memory consumption, and CPU usage. Usage of cloud resources (i.e. memory, CPU, IPs) is also tracked at a user or user group level allowing WebSphere CloudBurst to support chargeback across an enterprise. In addition to these monitoring capabilities, maintenance features are part of the appliance’s administration story. WebSphere CloudBurst provides users with a central administration point for applying maintenance, such as iFixes and service packs, to the WebSphere virtual systems it created. These fixes can be applied within the WebSphere CloudBurst console with only a few mouse clicks providing an unprecedented ease of maintenance application.

The above is only a glimpse at the capabilities of the new IBM WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance. There are more features and capabilities for users in each of the three sections (creation, deployment, administration) discussed above. For more information about the offering and to see a short demonstration of the product, visit ibm.com/cloudburst. If you have any questions or comments, we would love to hear from you at wscloud@us.ibm.com.

More Stories By Dustin Amrhein

Dustin Amrhein joined IBM as a member of the development team for WebSphere Application Server. While in that position, he worked on the development of Web services infrastructure and Web services programming models. In his current role, Dustin is a technical specialist for cloud, mobile, and data grid technology in IBM's WebSphere portfolio. He blogs at http://dustinamrhein.ulitzer.com. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/damrhein.