Journey to the private cloud

Issue 2, 2014

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By Sachin Gadre, Director, Product Management, Software AG
Ann Marie Bond, Manager, Product Management, Software AG

Is adopting cloud-based solutions high on your agenda? How do recent Software AG product releases enable private clouds?  What is our Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) strategy, and what are the key elements we’re focused on?  Read on and learn.

Cloud migration:  Private PaaS is a logical start
Most companies are just beginning their transition from traditional deployment in on-premises data centers to a deployment model based on a shared on-demand infrastructure similar to popular infrastructure-as-a-service offerings. PAAS (Platform-as-a-service) is an increasingly popular option for enterprise IT as it looks to provide the next level of optimization and flexibility in its infrastructure. 

PaaS can be deployed internally in the private cloud or hosted in the public cloud. Many enterprises are choosing the private PaaS option for deploying internal applications. Private PaaS is the deployment of a PaaS software layer on an enterprise's internal infrastructure (or using private PaaS providers like Amazon®) with the goal of exposing the PaaS service to developers within an enterprise's various lines of business.

A private PaaS, or private cloud, provides immediate benefits:

  • Responsiveness
    Dynamic allocation of resources to meet demands
  • Optimization
    Better use hardware, software and personnel resources
  • Fault tolerance
    Proactive prevention, isolation and recovery from failures without affecting the end user
  • Ease of operations 
    Centralized management and monitoring, and self-service

Next generation of integration in the private cloud
Expanding integration capacity often involves scaling horizontally with public or private PaaS, as shown in Figure 1. While the hardware can be provisioned in minutes, what happens to the software, fixes, configuration and assets?  How can deployment be automated? And once new nodes are added, what tools are available to monitor and manage this extra capacity to ensure stability? These are just some of the challenges with implementing a private PaaS with the goal of increasing integration capacity.












Figure 1: Scaling horizontally for more integration capacity

Private PaaS  capabilities
A private PaaS must include the ability to provision new platforms on demand with preconfigured applications. For optimal efficiency, these new platforms should be created using predefined templates that are ready to assemble and deploy. The resulting infrastructure should be centrally administered and managed.

The central management tooling should provide self-service, enables resources to be re-used and provide visibility into what’s deployed. Metering is important to be able to charge back to the requesting line of business. Finally, a resilient, scalable platform that supports an agile Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is the core of the PaaS. Figure 2 summarizes the key characteristics of a private PaaS.

Figure 2: Key characteristics of a private PaaS

How Software AG  provides private PaaS
To achieve a more agile IT infrastructure enabled by cloud computing, Software AG has enhanced existing products and introduced new products such as Command Central in webMethods 9. Command Central is designed to oversee, automate and manage private PaaS.  Using Command Central, the deployment of an Integration Server in a cluster is much easier. Here’s how the fundamental requirements of a private cloud are addressed by Software AG.

Centralized administration and management
Centralized management is a critical aspect of cloud computing. Private PaaS requires sophisticated automation for operational visibility and control. Command Central is the central administration and management tool, offering:

  • A single tool for monitoring, managing and configuring all webMethods products, grouped in a way that makes sense to the user
  • Life-cycle management: stop, stop and start, KPI viewing
  • Fix management:  Users can now create a template of a set of fixes and apply them singly or to multiple servers automatically, reducing errors and addressing a key pain point for large customers
  • Application, fix and configuration comparison:  Easy side-by-side comparison of installed product versions, fix versions and configurations reduces risk and assists in debugging
  • Administration:  Central configuration and log file visibility
  • Command-line interface and REST APIs:  All capabilities can be automated; scripts are used for data collection change management, and mass application of configuration updates and fixes

Initially this capability will be focused on core products: Integration Server, Broker, Universal Messaging and My webMethods Server.

Template-based provisioning and resource re-use
With Command Central’s template-based provisioning, you can:

  • Create a template of installed versions, fixes and/or configurations to clone servers, create new project environments, apply fix packs or troubleshoot environment problems
  • Use templates to apply software and fixes from the source of record, or store images and apply from an internal repository
  • Save templates as a “gold standard” to be re-used
  • Edit templates

Self-service in Command Central reduces the operational costs associated with supporting a private PaaS platform.  Self-service activities include:

  • PaaS instance creation - Administrators can create instances on demand, based on Optimize KPIs, Command Central KPIs or another custom rubric that previously required IT support
  • Monitoring and management - “Environments” allow users to filter their view to just the systems they care about
  • Auditing and usage tracking - While access control is still rudimentary, Command Central activities are logged and audited on the target application as usual

On-demand scaling: elastic ESB
With Command Central, it is possible to implement an elastic Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) strategy where preconfigured Integration Servers (ISs) are added to a cluster. You can:

  • Provision templates of new IS instances to a private cloud via scriptable interfaces
  • Count on new cloud API supports for provisioning Amazon EC2® and Rackspace platforms
  • Manage products, fixes, configuration and licensing of cloud-burst IS instances via template-based provisioning
  • Secure connectivity between on-premise and cloud-burst IS instances

Metering and chargeback
Metering is the task of monitoring usage of PaaS instances by various tenants. Metering information can be used to identify the charge back to every tenant based on usage of PaaS resources. Metering and chargeback can be accomplished several different ways within the webMethods platform. For example:

  • Mediator automatically captures statistics for all mediated services; reports are generated via CentraSite
  • With Insight, end-to-end service transaction statistics can be aggregated and dimensioned by requestor, message content and many other parameters

Data metering customizations can be built into services themselves on Integration Server.  Standard IS service auditing of fields from service invocations can be used for aggregation and reporting via WmMonitor APIs.

Platform resiliency (in-memory ESB)
Platform resiliency is provided primarily by Software AG’s in-memory ESB, Terracotta. Features include:

  • Clustering for HA and failover
  • Distributed caching
  • Local caching using BigMemory
  • WAN-based clustering
  • Ability to handle all types of “big” data

Integration Server recently added some key high availability and big data functionality as well, including:

  • Quiesce mode (maintenance mode) for 24/7 support
  • Big XML processing
  • Ability to work even if the database is down or experiencing problems

Continuous integration
webMethods supports the continuous integration software engineering practice through a combination of out-of-the-box product capabilities used in conjunction with open-source and tools developed by Software AG Global Consulting Services (GCS) :

  • Designer Workstation supports local development and easy integration with VCS for configuration management
  • Automated testing can happen in conjunction with open-source tools like Jenkins and using a GCS-developed testing toolkit
  • The asset build environment allows continuous builds using build scripts and then stores those builds in a composite repository
  • Deployer’s ability to deliver, configure and activate assets provides fine-grained control over every step of the process

Road map for the future
The PaaS road map for the webMethods suite includes:

  1. Increased adoption of Command Central - In the future, all products within the Software AG Suite will use Command Central for centralized administration and management
  2. Enhanced templates support - Command Central will be able to automatically provision and bootstrap a server, allow for substitution variables in templates, etc.
  3. Automated deployment of assets - Deployer will be accessible from Command Central so assets can be included in a template
  4. Enhanced metering and licensing - Out-of-the-box metering functionality will be introduced in the webMethods suite
  5. Multi-tenancy in ESB - Additional options will be available for setting up Integration Server in a multi-tenant fashion
  6. More granularity in self-service - This includes support for tenant self-service

Software AG’s strategic goal is to give customers deployment flexibility with a portfolio of on-premises, private cloud and PaaS offerings. Customers need to be able to choose which deployment and run-time model works for their individual business, security, response time and organizational needs. Integration Live, a new PaaS offering, will be introduced in the fall as a cornerstone of the Software AG PaaS strategy.

A differentiator for Software AG in our private PaaS offering continues to be our well-integrated product suite that supports the SDLC. Mature organizations know that efficiency throughout the SDLC pays dividends over time.

Finally, everything we build must have enterprise-class scalability, performance, reliability and security.  Organizations insist on this, and our products deliver whether on-premises or in the private cloud.