Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan, Kevin Benedict

Related Topics: Machine Learning , IBM Cloud, @CloudExpo

Machine Learning : 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.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
The challenges of aggregating data from consumer-oriented devices, such as wearable technologies and smart thermostats, are fairly well-understood. However, there are a new set of challenges for IoT devices that generate megabytes or gigabytes of data per second. Certainly, the infrastructure will have to change, as those volumes of data will likely overwhelm the available bandwidth for aggregating the data into a central repository. Ochandarena discusses a whole new way to think about your next...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that Big Data Federation to Exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO, colocated with DevOpsSUMMIT and DXWorldEXPO, November 12-13, 2018 in New York City. Big Data Federation, Inc. develops and applies artificial intelligence to predict financial and economic events that matter. The company uncovers patterns and precise drivers of performance and outcomes with the aid of machine-learning algorithms, big data, and fundamental analysis. Their products are deployed...
All in Mobile is a place where we continually maximize their impact by fostering understanding, empathy, insights, creativity and joy. They believe that a truly useful and desirable mobile app doesn't need the brightest idea or the most advanced technology. A great product begins with understanding people. It's easy to think that customers will love your app, but can you justify it? They make sure your final app is something that users truly want and need. The only way to do this is by ...
CloudEXPO | DevOpsSUMMIT | DXWorldEXPO are the world's most influential, independent events where Cloud Computing was coined and where technology buyers and vendors meet to experience and discuss the big picture of Digital Transformation and all of the strategies, tactics, and tools they need to realize their goals. Sponsors of DXWorldEXPO | CloudEXPO benefit from unmatched branding, profile building and lead generation opportunities.
Digital Transformation and Disruption, Amazon Style - What You Can Learn. Chris Kocher is a co-founder of Grey Heron, a management and strategic marketing consulting firm. He has 25+ years in both strategic and hands-on operating experience helping executives and investors build revenues and shareholder value. He has consulted with over 130 companies on innovating with new business models, product strategies and monetization. Chris has held management positions at HP and Symantec in addition to ...
Cell networks have the advantage of long-range communications, reaching an estimated 90% of the world. But cell networks such as 2G, 3G and LTE consume lots of power and were designed for connecting people. They are not optimized for low- or battery-powered devices or for IoT applications with infrequently transmitted data. Cell IoT modules that support narrow-band IoT and 4G cell networks will enable cell connectivity, device management, and app enablement for low-power wide-area network IoT. B...
The hierarchical architecture that distributes "compute" within the network specially at the edge can enable new services by harnessing emerging technologies. But Edge-Compute comes at increased cost that needs to be managed and potentially augmented by creative architecture solutions as there will always a catching-up with the capacity demands. Processing power in smartphones has enhanced YoY and there is increasingly spare compute capacity that can be potentially pooled. Uber has successfully ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
When talking IoT we often focus on the devices, the sensors, the hardware itself. The new smart appliances, the new smart or self-driving cars (which are amalgamations of many ‘things'). When we are looking at the world of IoT, we should take a step back, look at the big picture. What value are these devices providing. IoT is not about the devices, its about the data consumed and generated. The devices are tools, mechanisms, conduits. This paper discusses the considerations when dealing with the...