Trying to pick apart a particular IT solution to figure out if it is right for you and your business can be a daunting task. Trying to do that for solutions in emerging spaces, like cloud computing, can seem even more difficult to the point of looking almost impossible. Case in point, at most of my WebSphere CloudBurst sessions someone (usually multiple people) always asks how they can determine if this particular product is right for them. It’s a good and fair question, and one that I usually answer by asking a few questions of my own.
To best understand if WebSphere CloudBurst is potentially a fit for you and your organization, it’s best if you ask yourself some of the questions below:
1) Do you feel as if you spend too much time and resource installing the software that makes up your application infrastructure stack?
Let’s face it, if your goal is to develop and deliver applications to end users, chances are you want to spend as little time as possible installing and configuring the software that makes up your application infrastructure. It’s likely you would rather invest more time and resource toward the research and development of applications.
The Hypervisor Edition virtual images that are used by WebSphere CloudBurst contain a pre-installed, pre-configured application infrastructure stack. The images include an operating system, web server tier, application middleware tier, and any other customizations you choose to include. Your valuable time and resource can be diverted away from tedious installations and back toward your applications.
2) Do you spend a lot of time and resource configuring your middleware application environments?
WebSphere CloudBurst makes it very easy to quickly build meaningful WebSphere application environments. You simply drag and drop components on a canvas to build your application infrastructure topology in the form of patterns. The appliance understands and automatically configures the relationship between the components in your pattern (i.e. it knows how to cluster application server nodes, configure web servers, etc.), so you don’t have to spend your time doing these tasks. The appliance also automatically tunes the application environment during deployment to ensure that you start off on a solid performance footing.
In addition to what the appliance provides, you can include and save your own customizations in these reusable patterns. This means you can configure it once, save it in a pattern, and subsequently utilize that application environment as many times as necessary.
3) Are you plagued by bugs introduced due to inconsistent configuration as you promote your application environments from one context (development, test, staging, production, etc.) to the next?
If you are currently in or have ever spent time in an application development organization, you are probably acutely aware of the pains associated with the promotion of applications. Each time an application and its associated infrastructure is moved from one environment to the next, the possibility of a bug-causing change, ever so slight it may be, is real. These error-producing changes, especially those to configuration, can be extremely hard to track down and end up slowing down the project and ultimately costing you serious money.
Using the patterns-based approach in WebSphere CloudBurst drastically reduces the possibility of what is typically referred to as configuration drift for your application and application infrastructure as it moves along the promotion chain. The reason for this is that the configuration for your application and its infrastructure is preserved on the appliance in the form of a WebSphere CloudBurst pattern that can be locked down. These patterns can be deployed as many times and to as many different settings as necessary, and each time you are sure to get the same result. This isn’t to say there is no flexibility with the patterns-based approach. The patterns can be parameterized to allow for deploy-time configuration for those things that may be different in each setting (i.e. database names, hostnames for external connections, etc.).
4) Is the lead time for setting up your middleware application environments inhibiting your capacity to be agile and responsive to changing requirements?
This one is quite simple and objective. Do you measure the amount of time it takes to get your application environments up and running in terms of days or weeks?
If so, WebSphere CloudBurst can improve upon that and turn your measurement of this lead time into minutes. Using the appliance, you can go from nothing to a fully running, clustered WebSphere Application Server cell in under 20 minutes. Similarly, you can have a fully installed and configured WebSphere Portal environment running in less than 15 minutes. Need a running DB2 environment? Try 3 minutes! No matter the environment you are provisioning with WebSphere CloudBurst, you can expect deployment times that enable agility and flexibility for your business.
5) Would you benefit from being able to schedule and automate the application of fixes and upgrades to your middleware application environments?
Do you dread the thought of applying fixes, upgrades, or other maintenance to your application environments? Perhaps it is a manually driven process that takes too long and is conducted at odd hours to avoid disruptive service outages. WebSphere CloudBurst allows you to apply both fixes and upgrades, and in addition you can use built-in scheduling to automate these actions. Each time the appliance applies a fix or upgrade, it begins the process by taking a snapshot of your entire environment. This provides a last-known good state that you can rollback to at any point with the click of a button.
These aren’t the only issues to consider if you are thinking about the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance solution, but they are at least a good starting point. If you answered yes to any or most of the questions above, you may want to take a look under the hood via a nice collection of technical articles and demonstrations. Also, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @WebSphereClouds.