Platform as a Service – Built-in DevOps

I like to keep myself in tune with what is going on in world with all things DevOps, so I frequent a few places (the LinkedIn DevOps group, DevOps.com, etc.).  There are lots of good discussions and topics out there.  These types of fast moving sites are a must to keep up with the world.  From a technical standpoint the topics usually center around the various tools and techniques involved in automation.   There is no arguing the fact that many shops out there that are embracing DevOps start at the low technical level and work their way up.  I call this Startup DevOps (I doubt I can take credit for this term).  Most startups have very smart people and very little bureaucracy to cut through.  Get the job done faster and everyone is happy.   Using tools like Chef, Puppet, Vagrant, Glu, Jenkins, GIT, RunDeck, Fabric, Capistrano, CFEngine, yada yada yada you can get the job done.  You can craft a very significant and powerful set of automation at very little cost (open source) and provide the fast moving infrastructure to handle the fast moving pace of startups.

Being from IBM, I tend to look at things a bit differently.  Most of the customers I deal with are at the other end of the spectrum.  With IT departments having staffs in the many thousands, there is bureaucracy at every turn.  Large enterprises like this tend to spend money with IBM (and others like us) to transfer risk.  Spend umpteen million with IBM and you have to only look in one direction to point the finger.  So IBM tends to create products that cater to these types of clients.  I use the term Enterprise DevOps for this situation (again, can’t take credit for the term).

IBM is spending billions (yes with a B) on solutions that cater to these types of customers.  Cloud solutions is where the bulk of the effort is focused these days.  IBM offers quite a bit of choice here.  If you want private cloud, IBM has Pure Application Systems and SmartCloud Orchestrator that provide the Infrastructure as a Server (IaaS) capabilities.  Managing Servers, Storage, and Network in an incredibly flexible way is what this is all about.  IBM also has a public cloud offering in Soft Layer.  Let IBM manage your infrastructure and you don’t need a data center anymore.  Nice.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is the next big thing.  IBM is now introducing the ability to assemble a platform dynamically and provide all of the plumbing in connecting those platform pieces in an automated way.  We have even connected our DevOps in the Cloud solution (JazzHub) with the IBM PaaS solution (BlueMix) in a way that offers a true cloud-based development environment that will automatically deploy to your PaaS infrastructure all without lifting a finger.  By the way, take a look at this short YouTube video to get a quick overview of the landscape.

Let’s take a bit closer look at BlueMix and JazzHub and see what I mean.  First, BlueMix allows you to create an infrastructure by assembling services.  You can start with some boilerplate templates that have already wired together infrastructure and services.  For example, the Java + DB Web Starter gives you a WAS Liberty Profile server and a DB2 database, all installed and ready to go.  This boilerplate gives you a sample application that runs as soon as  you server starts.  You get a zip of the source code (we will visit this again later).

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Or you can build up your own infrastructure.  First, choose from a list of runtimes.

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And then add services to you infrastructure.

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In my case after a few clicks and less than a minute later I had a server with WAS Liberty and DB2 deployed and running the sample application.  I didn’t need a sysadmin to build me a server.  I didn’t need a DB administrator to install DB2 and create a database for me.  I didn’t need accounts created or ports opened.  All done seamlessly under the covers.  Point and click infrastructure assembly.  DevOps to the max.

But we need to develop our application (or enhance the boilerplate app), so we need a development environment. IBM offers JazzHub, a cloud-based development infrastructure.  JazzHub allows you to create a project that provides change management and source config management already setup and ready to go.

First, pick you source code management solution, Jazz or GIT.

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Next, add some additional services, like auto-deploy to a BlueMix infrastructure.

And we have a project all set to go.  I can invite others to join my project and we can develop in the cloud as a team.  Here I have loaded the sample application source code into my JazzHub project.  I can modify the code right here if I want and push that code into my GIT master branch.

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Or better yet, I can use Eclipse to develop my application using an IDE.  I have connected to my GIT repository and pulled the code down into my workspace.  I can use the GIT plugin to commit changes I have made to the GIT repository.

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And to tidy things up nicely, by turning on auto-deploy in my JazzHub project, every new push to my GIT repository by my team causes an immediate deployment to my BlueMix infrastructure.

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Holy continuous delivery.  There is an awful lot of things going on under the covers here.  But like I said above, you are offloading risk to you PaaS solution.  The interesting thing is that the price is relatively not that big.  With subscription type pricing you get this solution relatively cheap.  (Note: I am not in sales so don’t ask me for a pricing quote).   Customers now have a choice in pursuing their DevOps goals.  You can build from within by hiring smart people that have experience in the myriad of ever-changing open source DevOps tools, automate as much of the infrastructure creation and platform connectivity on your own, and hope that your smart people don’t get hit by a bus.  Or you can subscribe to a PaaS solution like this one (or others out there) and to steal a Greyhound slogan, “leave the driving to us.”

I made this sound very simple and we know that there are lots of factors involved in determining the direction you go.  Some industries have a hard time with anything located outside of their walls due to regulatory issues or simply a fear of lack of control.  Some of the PaaS solutions will have on-premises options to allow you to bring the solution into your data center but your users won’t know the difference.  We all know that simple projects like this are not always the case.  The complex project portfolio of a large IT organization may require complex infrastructure that a PaaS solution cannot support.  But we are getting closer and closer to PaaS being a reality and I find it hard to believe that this isn’t a viable solution for a good portion of any typical IT application portfolio.

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UrbanCode Deploy and WebSphere – an Ever Growing Relationship

My experience with WebSphere Application Server started when IBM acquired Rational Software some 11(?) years ago.  WebSphere Studio Application Developer fell under the Rational umbrella and I was one that tried to tackle its capabilities.  And for the longest time dealing with WebSphere Application Server meant no more than “right-mouse-click -> Run on Server.”

I will admit that I am not a WAS admin.  It is a career unto itself and those that are good at it are worth keeping.  But over the years Rational continued to challenge me in the WebSphere arena with the release of Rational Automation Framework for WebSphere (RAFW).  RAFW codified 100s of common WebSphere “gestures” that could be rolled together into hard working jobs that did much of the heavy lifting in managing and maintaining WebSphere Application Servers.  It also had the ability to auto-discover WebSphere configurations and push those configurations to other servers that even may be running different versions of WAS.

Then along comes UrbanCode Deploy and we now have a deployment engine that could sure use some if not all of the capabilities of RAFW.  We are now beginning to see some being rolled into UrbanCode Deploy.  This post is the first in a series examining the Middleware Configuration for WebSphere Application Server (MCWAS) plugin for UrbanCode Deploy.

To begin, there are actually two plugins that come into play.  The MCWAS plugin has commands that are all about capturing, comparing, and using WebSphere configurations.  Some of the RAFW capabilities are captured in the MCWAS plugin (but not all. Stay tuned to future UCD releases for improvements).  A pdf file also exists in the plugin zip file that has details about how to accomplish what we are doing in this post.  The Application Deployment for WebSphere plugin contains 64 commands (as of version 71) that do the bulk of the work in updating and tweaking WebSphere configuration items.  The number is not even close to what RAFW supported, but it is getting there. By the way, you can always get up-to-date plugins from IBM here.  Both of these plugins need to be installed into your UCD server.

Next, let’s examine my test environment.  First, I have a UCD server and agent running on my laptop.  And like I said before, I am not a WAS admin, so I simply have WAS 8.5 running on my laptop with the Plants By WebSphere sample application installed and running.  I can follow directions so I got that app up and running pretty quickly.  Our use case is that I want to capture the configuration of that WAS instance and re-use it to deploy to another server.  We will use the MCWAS capabilities in UCD to do that.

1.  First we need to do some setup in UCD.  We need to setup our agent so that it can auto-discover WebSphere.  If WebSphere is installed in its default location, we don’t have to do anything.  If not, then we need to make sure UCD knows how to find WebSphere.  We add a wsadmin.path property to the agent with its value the path to the wsadmin.bat (or wsadmin.sh) file.  Also, we need a MCWAS component that will be used to hold the configuration.  I created a new component and based it on the Middleware Configuration for WebSphere template.  This component is the center of the deployment process.

2.  Next we create our resources.  You are free to create your own resource tree to represent whatever environment you have, but mine is simple.

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3.  Next we add the agent to the resource.  If we wait for a few seconds and refresh, we see that we our agent has auto-discovered WebSphere and we get an additional resource below that agent that represents our WebSphere cell.  Magic!!!  We didn’t have to do anything to tell UCD, it just went out and found it for us.  Cool.

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4.  The cell resource also has a bunch of role properties defined.  We need to fill those in to help UCD auto-discover what is underneath that cell.  If we look at the properties of the WebSphereCell resource, we see this list.  Actually in my case all I need to fill in is the WebSphere profile path.  This tells the UCD which profile I am interested in (there is a way to auto-discover multiple cells but we will keep it simple here).  We can leave the rest blank, especially the cell name.  We will have auto-discovery get that for us.

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5.  Back to the resource tree, I can now tell UCD to auto-configure the cell.  In the Actions menu of the cell resource, select Auto Configure.

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6.  A dialog pops up asking us to specify the auto-configure steps.  We don’t have any steps configured yet, so click on the “No auto configure steps for resource” link (yes it is a link.  UCD needs a bit of user interface improvement here).

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7.  A new dialog is presented that let’s us pick an auto-configure step.  Lo and behold there is currently only 1 choice.  Select WebSphere Topology Discovery and click OK.

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8.  Back to the Auto Configure dialog, we now have 1 step defined.  Click Save.

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9.  If we wait a few seconds (in my case it was about 15.  I am sure in more complicated environments it might be a minute or so) and refresh our resources, more magic happens!!!  UCD has now interrogated our WAS cell and found the node name and server name below it.  You can also go back into the cell properties and see that the cell name property has been filled in.

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This structure should represent your true WAS configuration.  For those of you out there that are real WAS admins and have some real servers running with real configurations, try this and see if UCD gets it right.

Our next post in this series will now take advantage of what we have auto-discovered and use it in a deployment.  Stay tuned.