From a constrained viewpoint, the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance serves as a virtualization management solution for WebSphere application environments. In that light, I cannot tell you how many times customers ask me to delineate WebSphere CloudBurst from the other virtualization management solutions that are either out on the market or currently used in their business. I love to hear this request for two reasons:
1) It signals that many enterprises already practice or are thinking about virtualization in the application environment space.
2) I have a good answer!
To understand the main delineation between WebSphere CloudBurst and other virtualization management solutions, it is probably helpful to understand what the appliance does! Put simply and shortly, the appliance enables you to create, deploy, and manage virtualized WebSphere application environments. In particular, the deployment phase of that lifecycle equips users with the capability to turn a selected application environment (represented by a WebSphere CloudBurst pattern) into a collection of one or more virtual machines using special virtual images shipped on the appliance.
Once users hear this, they usually ask, “Why do I need WebSphere CloudBurst to do this? Couldn’t I achieve the same results using my own virtual image and management solution?” The same type of question applies to almost any kind of vendor solution. Of course you could potentially achieve something close to the same result on your own. I mean, not long ago most organizations were essentially writing their own ESB applications. This means then that asking why/if you need WebSphere CloudBurst is the wrong question. Instead, you should ask, “Why would I want WebSphere CloudBurst?”
The answer to that is decreased time to value and cost of ownership for your virtualized WebSphere environments. Consider that you are going down the road of creating virtual images for your WebSphere application environments, and you plan to provision those images from a general-purpose management solution. This means that you will have to provide quite a bit of scripting that tells the management solution how to interact with the software inside the virtual machines because to the management system, the virtual machine is a black box.
With WebSphere CloudBurst the virtual machine is anything but a black box. The appliance comes with the knowledge necessary to administrate and interact with the WebSphere software running inside the virtual machine. If you are familiar with WebSphere software, this means the appliance can do things like update hostnames for application nodes (important when reusing virtual images), federate nodes into cells, create application server clusters, tune the JVM for performance optimization, apply fixes, apply upgrades, and more all without the user needing to supply one line of custom scripting!
The fact that WebSphere CloudBurst comes with this out-of-the-box capability means you can avoid the significant investment in creating and testing these types of scripts in the first place. In addition, your cost of ownership with respect to this virtualized approach to WebSphere environments is significantly lower because IBM provides the support for these automated administration actions. You do not have to dedicate resource to supporting and updating administration scripts over time.
In addition to this out-of-the-box WebSphere intelligence, I cannot stress the value of WebSphere CloudBurst patterns enough. Patterns are the unit of deployment in WebSphere CloudBurst and they represent your complete application environment. This includes the topology of the environments (the kinds of nodes and the relationship between them) as well as your custom configuration (applications, application resources, tuning, etc.). This patterns approach allows you to codify your infrastructure, save it, and deploy it repeatedly with consistent results.
Patterns also provide a very effective abstraction from the underlying infrastructure. Regardless of the infrastructure to which you will deploy your pattern, you build and edit it the exact same way. This means, for instance, that you do not have to be an expert on the IBM pSeries platform in order to deploy a WebSphere environment there. Simply build your pattern, select the underlying image that will serve your pattern (which implies the platform), and point at the target infrastructure. WebSphere CloudBurst and its virtual images encapsulate platform specific knowledge that will transform your pattern into a running, integrated, and optimized virtualized WebSphere environment.
If you are a WebSphere user and you have not yet heard about the appliance, check out this brief introductory article. If that article does not answer your questions, you can reach me on Twitter @damrhein.