IBM launches internal cloud deployment appliance

IBM Corp. on Thursday launched a hardware appliance to deploy service oriented architecture and WebSphere applications in an internal cloud computing environment.

The WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance provides virtual images that can be customized and deployed in a cloud, according to the company. It’s bundled with WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition, a version of its application server optimized for virtual server environments.

“It’s very much geared to a specific purpose,” said Sandy Carter, vice-president of SOA, business process management and WebSphere with IBM in Somers, N.Y. That purpose is to cloud-enable IBM’s 7,000 SOA and 100,000 WebSphere customers.

The appliance will save time and money, automate deployment and best practices, and lower maintenance costs, Carter said.

“(CloudBurst) is built on the principals of SOA,” and reaps highest efficiency in an SOA environment, but will work in any WebSphere shop, she said.

An internal cloud is not just another name for a virtualized environment, Carter insisted.

“It’s a little bit different,” she said. Cloud computing is a consumption model. “The user only sees the service. They don’t need to know anything about the technology or the implementation.

“Virtualization is only part of what makes up a cloud,” which also requires connectivity, provisioning, hosting and service delivery, she said.

Info-Tech Research Group Ltd. analyst John Sloan disagrees.

“‘Internal cloud’ is a rebranding of a kind of virtualized environment (that) was previously called utility infrastructure,” Sloan said in an e-mail interview.

Utility infrastructure aggregates servers and storage and uses virtualization to provision applications with the processing, memory and storage they need, Sloan said.

“Virtualization makes it easier to increase or decrease the amount of processing, memory and storage the applications require because you can treat these as abstracted ‘utilities’ instead of hard assets that need to be configured and deployed whenever you make a change,” he said.

A key attribute of cloud computing is the ability to scale to meet workload demands, he said. That becomes more of a challenge when an application has multiple layers. “You can see in VMware’s latest release more attention is being paid to how the virtualized environment reacts to application needs.

“Any ‘appliance’ that is basically composed of software, industry standard hardware, and an operating system can also be packaged as software on a virtual machine – a virtual appliance,” Sloan said. Whether customers go the virtual or physical route would mainly depend on how much server capacity they already have for their virtual infrastructure, he said.

IBM also announced a public cloud offering, BPM BlueWorks, with a set of business process and strategy tools to allow users to model applications in the cloud. Users wanting to optimize processes “might not have the expertise,” Carter said. “They can speed up the development of their expertise,” with shared practices and shared processes, she said.

“It’s almost like a social cloud,” she said.

“It kind of ties in two hot areas, social networking and cloud computing. What better press can you get than that?”

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