Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Vincent Brasseur, Roger Strukhoff

Related Topics: AJAX & REA, Websphere, Cloud Expo

AJAX & REA: Blog Post

Cloud Computing and Virtual Images

A look at several different cloud computing solutions will reveal a technological enabler present in almost each one

Cloud Expo on Ulitzer

A look at several different cloud computing solutions will reveal a technological enabler present in almost each one. The enabler I'm talking about is the use of virtual images. I cannot think of many, if any, cloud computing solutions that provide software elements (i.e. more than just servers, storage, memory, etc.) that do not use virtual images in some form or fashion.

Of course, one of the reasons virtual images form the backbone of many cloud solutions is obvious. Virtual images provide the benefits of server virtualization. We can activate many virtual images on the same physical machine, thus allowing us to achieve multi-tenancy (multiple operating systems and software stacks installed on the same physical machine). Besides driving higher hardware utilization rates, it also provides us the capability to run heterogeneous software environments on the same piece of hardware. This both enables and encourages the creation of a shared pool of compute resources which is a key characteristic of cloud computing environments.

Server virtualization may be the first thing that comes to mind when we think about virtual images, but at least in the context of cloud computing, I do not believe this is the most important benefit. If we are looking at cloud computing as a means to quickly and consistently provision software environments, then I think virtual images provide us a capability and benefit more valuable than server virtualization. In this respect, virtual images provide us a medium through which we can templatize the configuration of our software environments.

Consider the case of a fairly basic application serving environment. In this environment, you are likely to install an operating system, application server, and probably some type of load balancing solution. Each of these typically requires a different piece of software, different installation procedures, and finally integration with the other components. Installing these into a typical environment, without the use of virtual images, means that you either have scripts that account for each different piece of software and finally integration of the different components, or it means that a person manually installs and integrates the pieces each time you need an environment. Either process can be time-consuming and costly to maintain over time.

Enter the use of virtual images. With a virtual image, you can install and integrate all three components ONE time, and then capture the resultant environment as a virtual image. At this point, when an application environment is needed, the virtual image can simply be activated on top of a hypervisor platform. The application environment is typically available in a much more timely fashion than if manually installed or integrated because the installation and configuration have already been captured in the virtual image.

From what I described above, you may have caught on to what would seem like a drawback of using virtual images to templatize software environments. Specifically, it may seem that you need a distinct virtual image for every unique configuration of your application environment. If this were the case, management of your virtual image library would soon become a nightmare and the resulting cost (in both resource and time) would likely outweigh the original benefits. However, thanks to a relatively new standards-based approach to virtual images, this is not necessarily a problem.

The standard I'm talking about is the Open Virtualization Format (OVF) standard which has been published by the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF). According to the OVF standard, it "describes an open, secure, portable, efficient and extensible format for the packaging and distribution of software to be run in virtual machines." In particular to our discussion here, there is a part of the standard that describes the use of an ovf-env.xml file within the virtual image.

This file is essentially a key-value style XML file that describes desired aspects of the environment. Keys and values can be supplied during image activation, and configurations scripts that run during virtual image activation can read information from the file and react appropriately. Thus, instead of supplying N different virtual images for N different software environments, you can supply 1 virtual image and utilize the ovf-env.xml file in conjunction with configuration scripts within the image to produce N different environments. The use of this mechanism with virtual images delivers the capability to templatize software environments without sacrificing flexibility or encouraging unsustainable virtual image proliferation.

In WebSphere, we utilize the model outlined in the OVF standard when packaging our WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition virtual images. This allows our WebSphere CloudBurst product to provision these images and create many different types of WebSphere Application Server environments from a single virtual image (read this article for more information). I expect the use of this standard and the mechanisms it provides will become pretty prevalent in the near future. Now if we could just get to the point where virtual disk formats are standardized, but that's an entirely different topic.

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.

@CloudExpo Stories
"For the past 4 years we have been working mainly to export. For the last 3 or 4 years the main market was Russia. In the past year we have been working to expand our footprint in Europe and the United States," explained Andris Gailitis, CEO of DEAC, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
High-performing enterprise Software Quality Assurance (SQA) teams validate systems that are ready for use - getting most actively involved as components integrate and form complete systems. These teams catch and report on defects, making sure the customer gets the best software possible. SQA teams have leveraged automation and virtualization to execute more thorough testing in less time - bringing Dev and Ops together, ensuring production readiness. Does the emergence of DevOps mean the end of E...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using ...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series dat...
"Verizon offers public cloud, virtual private cloud as well as private cloud on-premises - many different alternatives. Verizon's deep knowledge in applications and the fact that we are responsible for applications that make call outs to other systems. Those systems and those resources may not be in Verizon Cloud, we understand at the end of the day it's going to be federated," explained Anne Plese, Senior Consultant, Cloud Product Marketing at Verizon Enterprise, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. Acco...
The term culture has had a polarizing effect among DevOps supporters. Some propose that culture change is critical for success with DevOps, but are remiss to define culture. Some talk about a DevOps culture but then reference activities that could lead to culture change and there are those that talk about culture change as a set of behaviors that need to be adopted by those in IT. There is no question that businesses successful in adopting a DevOps mindset have seen departmental culture change, ...
"Cloud consumption is something we envision at Solgenia. That is trying to let the cloud spread to the user as a consumption, as utility computing. We want to allow the people to just pay for what they use, not a subscription model," explained Ermanno Bonifazi, CEO & Founder of Solgenia, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps,...
SYS-CON Media announced that Centrify, a provider of unified identity management across cloud, mobile and data center environments that delivers single sign-on (SSO) for users and a simplified identity infrastructure for IT, has launched an ad campaign on Cloud Computing Journal. The ads focus on security: how an organization can successfully control privilege for all of the organization’s identities to mitigate identity-related risk without slowing down the business, and how Centrify provides ...
SAP is delivering break-through innovation combined with fantastic user experience powered by the market-leading in-memory technology, SAP HANA. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP, discussed how SAP and partners provide cloud and hybrid cloud solutions as well as real-time Big Data offerings that help companies of all sizes and industries run better. SAP launched an application challenge to award the most innovative SAP HANA and SAP HANA...
"SAP had made a big transition into the cloud as we believe it has significant value for our customers, drives innovation and is easy to consume. When you look at the SAP portfolio, SAP HANA is the underlying platform and it powers all of our platforms and all of our analytics," explained Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce at SAP, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"We help companies that are using a lot of Software as a Service. We help companies manage and gain visibility into what people are using inside the company and decide to secure them or use standards to lock down or to embrace the adoption of SaaS inside the company," explained Scott Kriz, Co-founder and CEO of Bitium, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Ar...
SAP is delivering break-through innovation combined with fantastic user experience powered by the market-leading in-memory technology, SAP HANA. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP, discussed how SAP and partners provide cloud and hybrid cloud solutions as well as real-time Big Data offerings that help companies of all sizes and industries run better. SAP launched an application challenge to award the most innovative SAP HANA and SAP HANA...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from ha...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, p...