Welcome!

Machine Learning Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Shelly Palmer

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.

@CloudExpo Stories
Cloud applications are seeing a deluge of requests to support the exploding advanced analytics market. “Open analytics” is the emerging strategy to deliver that data through an open data access layer, in the cloud, to be directly consumed by external analytics tools and popular programming languages. An increasing number of data engineers and data scientists use a variety of platforms and advanced analytics languages such as SAS, R, Python and Java, as well as frameworks such as Hadoop and Spark...
Interested in leveling up on your Cloud Foundry skills? Join IBM for Cloud Foundry Days on June 7 at Cloud Expo New York at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Foundry Days is a free half day educational conference and networking event. Come find out why Cloud Foundry is the industry's fastest-growing and most adopted cloud application platform.
Cloud promises the agility required by today’s digital businesses. As organizations adopt cloud based infrastructures and services, their IT resources become increasingly dynamic and hybrid in nature. Managing these require modern IT operations and tools. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Raj Sundaram, Senior Principal Product Manager at CA Technologies, will discuss how to modernize your IT operations in order to proactively manage your hybrid cloud and IT environments. He will be sharing bes...
SYS-CON Events announced today that delaPlex will exhibit at SYS-CON's @CloudExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. delaPlex pioneered Software Development as a Service (SDaaS), which provides scalable resources to build, test, and deploy software. It’s a fast and more reliable way to develop a new product or expand your in-house team.
Regardless of what business you’re in, it’s increasingly a software-driven business. Consumers’ rising expectations for connected digital and physical experiences are driving what some are calling the "Customer Experience Challenge.” In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Marco Morales, Director of Global Solutions at CollabNet, will discuss how organizations are increasingly adopting a discipline of Value Stream Mapping to ensure that the software they are producing is poised to o...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In his Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, will explore t...
Five years ago development was seen as a dead-end career, now it’s anything but – with an explosion in mobile and IoT initiatives increasing the demand for skilled engineers. But apart from having a ready supply of great coders, what constitutes true ‘DevOps Royalty’? It’ll be the ability to craft resilient architectures, supportability, security everywhere across the software lifecycle. In his keynote at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Jeffrey Scheaffer, GM and SVP, Continuous Delivery Busine...
Most DevOps journeys involve several phases of maturity. Research shows that the inflection point where organizations begin to see maximum value is when they implement tight integration deploying their code to their infrastructure. Success at this level is the last barrier to at-will deployment. Storage, for instance, is more capable than where we read and write data. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Josh Atwell, a Developer Advocate for NetApp, will discuss the role and value...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Outscale, a global pure play Infrastructure as a Service provider and strategic partner of Dassault Systèmes, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 2010, Outscale simplifies infrastructure complexities and boosts the business agility of its customers. Outscale delivers a secure, reliable and industrial strength solution for its customers, which in...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CollabNet, a global leader in enterprise software development, release automation and DevOps solutions, will be a Bronze Sponsor of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, taking place from June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CollabNet offers a broad range of solutions with the mission of helping modern organizations deliver quality software at speed. The company’s latest innovation, the DevOps Lifecycle Manager (DLM), supports Value S...
IBM helps FinTechs and financial services companies build and monetize cognitive-enabled financial services apps quickly and at scale. Hosted on IBM Bluemix, IBM’s platform builds in customer insights, regulatory compliance analytics and security to help reduce development time and testing. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Tom Eck, Industry Platforms CTO at IBM Cloud, will discuss how these tools simplify the time-consuming tasks of selection, mapping and data integration, allowing developers ...
In order to meet the rapidly changing demands of today’s customers, companies are continually forced to redefine their business strategies in order to meet these needs, stay relevant and continue to see profitable growth. IoT deployment and development is integral in this transformation, and today businesses are increasingly seeing the value of investing their resources into IoT deployments. These technologies are able increase ROI through projects such as connecting supply chains or enabling sm...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus intern...
Everywhere we turn in our industry we can find strong opinions about the direction, type and nature of cloud’s impact on computing and business. Another word that is used in every context in our industry is “hybrid.” In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Alvaro Gonzalez, Director of Technical, Partner and Field Marketing at Peak 10, will use a combination of a few conceptual props and some research recently commissioned by Peak 10 to offer a real-world consideration of how the various categories of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in compute, storage and networking technologies, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/...
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deli...
This talk centers around how to automate best practices in a multi-/hybrid-cloud world based on our work with customers like GE, Discovery Communications and Fannie Mae. Today’s enterprises are reaping the benefits of cloud computing, but also discovering many risks and challenges. In the age of DevOps and the decentralization of IT, it’s easy to over-provision resources, forget that instances are running, or unintentionally expose vulnerabilities.
For financial firms, the cloud is going to increasingly become a crucial part of dealing with customers over the next five years and beyond, particularly with the growing use and acceptance of virtual currencies. There are new data storage paradigms on the horizon that will deliver secure solutions for storing and moving sensitive financial data around the world without touching terrestrial networks. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Cliff Beek, President of Cloud Constellation Corporation, w...
In his opening keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Michael Maximilien, Research Scientist, Architect, and Engineer at IBM, will motivate why realizing the full potential of the cloud and social data requires artificial intelligence. By mixing Cloud Foundry and the rich set of Watson services, IBM's Bluemix is the best cloud operating system for enterprises today, providing rapid development and deployment of applications that can take advantage of the rich catalog of Watson services to help drive insigh...