Welcome!

Containers Expo Blog Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Destiny Bertucci, Stackify Blog

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, Microservices Expo, @CloudExpo

Containers Expo Blog: Article

Back to Square One

A better way to build virtual images

I grew up playing quite a few different sports, both team and individual. For me, there was little else that I would rather have done than compete on the field, court, diamond, or course. I loved sport, and I loved to compete (still do as a matter of fact), so it was a great fit. Partially motivated by getting me to focus on something other than annoying the crap out of my little brother, my parents strongly encouraged my involvement in sports of all kind. For that, I will always be grateful. Not because I parlayed my athletic experience into a seven figure contract, flashy cars, and a private yacht (I am still open to those things though), but because sports taught me many, many lessons. These lessons went far beyond how to make a shot, hit a ball, or return a serve. Many of these lessons were equally applicable to sports and ‘real-life', even if I did not know it then.

Now, there's a chance you grew up in a similar fashion, but if you have gotten this far in the post (I'm sure I dropped some readers after that opening act), you are probably asking yourself what this has to do with anything remotely related to cloud computing?? Well, it all goes back to those lessons that sports taught me. When I look at ongoing work, that in many cases is laying the foundation for cloud-based environments, one of those old lessons jumps out at me: Sometimes, you just have to go back to the basics!

While this lesson is probably applicable to many things going on in the cloud space now, I want to hone in on virtual image construction in particular. Virtual images are nothing new, and many companies have been making use of them for quite some time. Given that, you may be thinking that users and image providers have mastered the art of image construction. If that is your belief, I can only tell you that you are not seeing the same thing as me.

In a significant number of cases, users I talk with that are using virtual images as a basis for their cloud or enterprise-wide virtualization efforts are flat out struggling to manage their virtual image inventory. Virtual images offer extreme consumability enhancements in environment deployment, and relatively speaking, are easy to create. This has been the perfect combination for an explosion in the volume of images a company needs to manage and maintain. Over time, this kind of virtual image sprawl can cripple or completely derail a company's cloud or virtualization efforts.

Now, you may be asking if virtual image sprawl were the eventual outcome, why would I even want to adopt the use of virtual images. The answer is because sprawl does not have to be the outcome. If we go back to the basics, the basics of effective virtual image construction that is, you can put your company in a good position to avoid a potentially crippling increase in virtual image inventory.

There is an important realization when building a virtual image. You cannot capture every piece of configuration for an environment and preserve it in a virtual image. This may seem basic but is often the fundamental mistake users make when constructing virtual images. For example, if a user is constructing a virtual image containing a web server, their initial reaction may be to preserve configuration information down to the level of proxy directives in the virtual image. It may make that virtual image highly consumable in that it requires zero configuration actions after deployment, but it also restricts its use to cases where those proxy directives apply. If someone wants to deploy that image with a different set of proxy directives, they have to deploy and perform manual updates, or worse yet, they take their direction from the author of the initial image and create a new image with the proxy directives they need. Now the company has two images that provide the same basic functionality. Clearly, we have a problem.

With that said, the first step in constructing a virtual image should be deciding what to install and capture directly into the image. These things are often obvious: large binaries, software with long-running installations, content common to most classes of the image's users, etc. The key here is fighting the temptation to stuff more and more content into an image because usually all that does is restrict its applicability to a constrained set of use cases.

The next step is a bit trickier and takes a little more design work on the part of the image author. Based on what you install into an image, you need to decide what variations of content configuration image deployers may need. For example, going back to our web server virtual image, different deployers may need different proxy directives in their deployed environment. This amount of variance does not warrant the creation of a unique virtual image, but you do not want to push that configuration work on the user either.

In order to allow variations of configuration for the deployed environment, you need to identify input parameters that deployers should be able to pass into the image deployment process. Once identified, you need a set of scripts that run at image activation time, act on those input parameters, and apply the desired configuration to the deployed environment. This is not a radical idea. In fact, it is the kind of activation framework model enabled by the Open Virtualization Format via its OVF envelope.

For completeness, let's look at what a web server virtual image may look like if constructed according to these concepts. First, we start by installing operating system and web server binaries. We may extend this to include other necessary components (i.e. enterprise-wide firewall software), but we do not capture much beyond basic binaries (little to no configuration). Once we have the basic components installed, we identify input parameters deployers should be able to specify. This may include proxy directives, cache directives, authentication configuration, and more. Once identified, we write up a few simple scripts that act on the input and configure the web server. We then wrap all of this up in a framework (like one enabled by OVF). The framework's job is to automatically call our scripts during image activation and ensure user input flows down to that execution process.

That is admittedly a very simple look at the process, but I think it provides a nice overview of an effective methodology for virtual image construction. If you are out there creating virtual images, take precautions against the curse of sprawl. I hope that these tips provide you with some ammo in that effort!

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.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
BnkToTheFuture.com is the largest online investment platform for investing in FinTech, Bitcoin and Blockchain companies. We believe the future of finance looks very different from the past and we aim to invest and provide trading opportunities for qualifying investors that want to build a portfolio in the sector in compliance with international financial regulations.
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
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...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
We are given a desktop platform with Java 8 or Java 9 installed and seek to find a way to deploy high-performance Java applications that use Java 3D and/or Jogl without having to run an installer. We are subject to the constraint that the applications be signed and deployed so that they can be run in a trusted environment (i.e., outside of the sandbox). Further, we seek to do this in a way that does not depend on bundling a JRE with our applications, as this makes downloads and installations rat...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
Digital Transformation (DX) is not a "one-size-fits all" strategy. Each organization needs to develop its own unique, long-term DX plan. It must do so by realizing that we now live in a data-driven age, and that technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, the IoT, Cognitive Computing, and Blockchain are only tools. In her general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rebecca Wanta explained how the strategy must focus on DX and include a commitment from top management to create great IT jobs, monitor ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is ...