Constructing clouds within IBM


While it is nice to consider the potential benefits of cloud computing for a particular organization, it is even better to see concrete results from a cloud implementation. I recently got the chance to do just that when I worked with one of our IBM test organizations to document their adoption, implementation, and return on investment from a private cloud project.

More specifically, I studied private cloud use by our WebSphere Application Server Test Organization. To give a little background on this team, they are responsible for continuous integration and regression testing for our WebSphere Application Server project. These tests are crucial to the development organization as they are the lynchpin to enabling agile development. As if that were not already a big enough challenge, they have to provide these services for eight different concurrent releases of the product on a daily basis. This results in the use of 2000+ machines, 400+ engineers (including development), and the running of over 2,000,000 tests each and every day.

Under increasing pressure to go faster and run more tests without the benefit of additional resource (people, money, etc.), the team introspected on their current processes and identified key areas where improvement would equate to increased efficiency. In particular, the team identified the following pain points in their lab:

– Under-utilized hardware: On average, the team found that their 2000+ machine lab experienced utilization rates between 6-12%.

– Inconsistent provisioning: The test organization already had a significant automation framework that enabled them to provision fully functional and customized test environments in only three hours. However, anywhere from 20-50% of provisioning actions resulted in environments not fit for use.

Manageability of infrastructure: The team provided testing environments and services for many small, agile teams. As the number of their customers grew, it became harder to effectively manage hardware and software resources for these teams.

The leadership in the test organization felt if they addressed these inefficiencies, they could continue to quickly deliver quality testing services in an impressive volume. Not long after identifying these problems, they decided to pursue a cloud computing approach to help them deliver testing environments for their various constituents.

In particular, the team turned to the WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance as a means to rapidly setup WebSphere Application Server test environments within their existing lab. For them, this solution delivered many key advantages and benefits:

Reuse of existing hardware assets: The organization did not purchase new hardware. Rather, they used the existing, under-utilized hardware and drove utilization rates from 6-12% up to an average of 60%.

Reuse of existing software/testing assets: The team did not write new test applications, test frameworks, configuration scripts, etc. They were able to reuse these assets as they were since WebSphere CloudBurst does not change the fundamental nature of the WebSphere Application Server.

Increase in provisioning consistency: WebSphere CloudBurst patterns gave the team a means to build and persist units that represented their fully configured WebSphere Application Server test environments. Any time they needed an environment, they simply deployed a pattern and they could be extremely confident that the resulting setup was fit for use. They decreased provisioning failures by 45%, with most remaining failures due to resource capacity issues.

Significant ROI with incremental adoption: In the initial pilot, the test organization dedicated around 6% of their lab for use with WebSphere CloudBurst. With just this minimal upfront resource investment, the team realized $500,000 in direct savings and another $2.1 million in efficiency gains bolstered by a significant increase in administrator efficiency.

There is more to the study of the WebSphere Application Server Test Organization and their private cloud for testing environments. There are also important lessons one can learn from their process of adoption and implementation of WebSphere CloudBurst. While some lessons are specific to WebSphere CloudBurst, many are generally applicable for anyone constructing a private cloud within their organization. If you happen to be at Cloud Expo West in November, I will be talking in detail about this test organization and their private cloud. I hope you have a chance to stop by!

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