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Built-in Intelligence

Building intelligent, portable workloads with WorkloadIQ—Build

Written by Ken Baker

If you haven’t heard, near the end of last year Novell unveiled its unique approach to intelligent workload management (IWM) with the introduction of WorkloadIQ. WorkloadIQ focuses on enabling IT organizations to better manage and optimize their computing resources in a policy-driven, secure and compliant manner across physical, virtual and cloud environments, while serving up the business services that end users need and want in a flexible manner. WorkloadIQ will empower organizations to manage the entire workload lifecycle while ensuring their environments are policy–driven, performance–optimized, identity–aware and integrated.

In an IWM world powered by WorkloadIQ, the end goal is to have workloads that freely move around and that are self-aware of their environment. For example, a workload could recognize that its performance is low and dynamically move from one environment to another based on certain parameters. As part of the move, it will automatically adhere to any audit, security or compliance requirements prescribed by the environment. To deliver on this type of intelligent workload management, WorkloadIQ is made up of four critical functions—build, secure, manage and measure. This article focuses on the build aspect of WorkloadIQ.

SUSE Studio has the ability to build workloads in different formats that enable seamless portability within an environment as well as seamless and easy transformations between different environments.

Building Intelligent Workloads

The goal of the first component of WorkloadIQ is to allow you to build intelligent, portable workloads with integrated identity, security and management services. As a key aspect of WorkloadIQ, you can leverage the SUSE Studio product from Novell to build the integrated stack of applications, middleware and operating systems that will make up these intelligent workloads. The products make it quick and easy to create, test and configure workloads for virtual and cloud environments.

One of the biggest challenges in addressing the needs of intelligent workload management is being able to build a portable workload that can easily move from one environment to another. While the vision is to be able to allow workloads to seamlessly move from physical to virtual to cloud in a dynamic manner, that technology isn’t completely here today. However, SUSE Studio has the ability to build workloads in different formats that enable seamless portability within an environment as well as seamless and easy transformations between different environments.

For example, for virtual environments you can use SUSE Studio to build a workload in the Open Virtualization Format (OVF), which is a standard way to package and distribute virtual appliances or self-contained workloads that run as virtual machines. As an open, secure, portable, efficient and extensible format, virtual workloads in the OVF format are not tied to a specific hypervisor or processor architecture. This allows workloads built in this format to seamlessly move between different virtual environments such as VMware or Xen.

SUSE Studio also facilitates the seamless transformation of workloads from virtual to cloud. In other words, if you build an OVF formatted workload for your virtual environment, by simply changing the target format and clicking the Build button again in SUSE Studio you can quickly transform (rebuild) it into an Amazon EC2 images for the cloud. You also have the ability to simultaneously build workloads for multiple targets during the initial build process.
(See Figure 1.)

When building a workload with SUSE Studio, there are five main steps to follow:

  1. Select your OS environment
  2. Choose your software packages/middleware
  3. Configure the workload
  4. Add any wanted overlay files
  5. Choose the environment format and build the workload

In terms of a server OS environment, SUSE Studio lets you choose from a set of base templates based on either SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, openSUSE 11.1, or a Just Enough OS (JeOS) based on either SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 or openSUSE 11.1. The JeOS option is ideal for those workloads that don’t require all the RPMs or packages of the full blown OS distribution. When selecting your OS environment, you also chose between a 32-bit or 64-bit architecture. If you have previously built a workload with SUSE Studio, these will appear as template options as well.

When choosing the software packages that make up the middleware of your workload, you have three choices. First, you can choose to add or remove any of the software available from the base template that you chose. Second, you can choose software from external repositories by adding them to the build process. For example, you can add repositories from the openSUSE Build Server at, or from any other URL that provides a software collection compatible with SUSE Studio and its templates. The third option is to upload into SUSE Studio any compatible RPM packages that you have stored locally or from the Web. You just need to make sure that those packages are built for your workload’s chosen base OS template and architecture.

When you choose a software package, SUSE Studio automatically resolves any necessary dependencies. Additionally, to help you choose the best software package you can use SUSE Studio’s software search capability. For example, if you want to add an Apache package, you can enter “Apache” in the search field and it will bring up all the available Apache packages ranked by their popularity. (See Figure 2.).

After selecting your software packages, you need to configure your workload. In this part of the process you can select language and keyboard, configure the network, enable the firewall, add users and groups, set up data base configurations and more. Next you’ll have the option to add any desired overlay files.

When you finally come to the actual build stage, you select the format for the environment for where your workload will run. As mentioned before, SUSE Studio actually allows you to select multiple formats, allowing you to build a workload for each of your target environments. For example, if you choose to build a cloud workload using the Amazon EC2 format, you can also opt to simultaneously build a workload for your virtual and physical environments as well by marking the additional formats that you want to build.

SUSE Studio becomes both a catalyst and foundation for organizations to achieve standardization that simplifies workload management, saves time and reduces costs.

Less Complexity, More Consistency

If you decide today that you want to run your workloads in a VMware environment, but tomorrow you decide you want to downsize your data center and move the workload to the cloud, it becomes easy through this ability to build and leverage the exact same workload for all these different environment formats. Not only does that speak to the portability that SUSE Studio delivers, but it highlights its ability to reduce complexity as well.

In fact, before even considering the benefits that portability provides, many organizations first look to SUSE Studio for its ability to provide a level of consistency or standardization that simplifies their overall workload management. For example, in an organization with 20 or so different business groups, each business group might build its own workload stacks with each using different versions of Windows or Linux, and different application sets and versions. That on its own becomes a wild mix that can be extremely difficult to manage and keep under control. That mix becomes wilder and even more unmanageable if you’re using scripts to build those workloads.

SUSE Studio becomes both a catalyst and foundation for organizations to achieve standardization that simplifies workload management, saves time and reduces costs. It lets you easily create a manageable set of base and fully built-out templates to address all your workload needs. And that simplification also makes it easier for organizations to get to the point where they can provide on-demand workloads.

For example, with SUSE Studio you could build a standard mySQL workload template that’s complete with the right OS and configured with the correct data base schemas. (See Figure 3.) So, if someone in the organization comes to you requesting to launch a new mySQL application, you can say here’s the mySQL template for you to build it on. Or if someone wants a finance application, you can provide them the standard finance template. This allows you to provide standard workloads comprised of a consistent stack of elements, but with the flexibility to add some variation as needed.

Maintenance and update is another area where SUSE Studio reduces complexity in terms of intelligent workload management. SUSE Lifecycle Management Server is provided as part of SUSE Studio Onsite, which can automatically update and apply patches to your deployed workloads.

Greater Portability

The simplification that SUSE Studio allows also helps prepare your organization to take advantage of the portability between different environments. To virtualize or move your application workloads to the cloud, you don’t want to have to deal with hundreds or thousands of stacks with all their different permutations as part of that process. And if you’re using scripts to build your workloads, trying to get the same results in generating a stack for the cloud that is equivalent to one you created a year or so ago for your physical or virtual environments can be nearly impossible. A script doesn’t have the intelligence to know what versions of which components you used when you created the original workload.

However, SUSE Studio does have that intelligence. It knows exactly what components and versions were used, making a rebuild or transformation to another environment as simple as clicking Build. And as already indicated, as you develop an on-demand workload capability with SUSE Studio, your on-demand workload templates can be used across all your different environments—physical to virtual to cloud.

As you develop an on-demand workload capability with SUSE Studio, your on-demand workload templates can be used across all your different environments—physical to virtual to cloud.

Delivering Workload Intelligence

In the world of intelligent workload management, you need to be able to deal with multiple environments, not just virtual and not just cloud. From a build perspective, that means you need portability and reduced complexity. As part of the WorkloadIQ solution, SUSE Studio delivers the portability, reduced complexity and stack consistency you need to quickly and easily build intelligent workloads that can be deployed in your physical, virtual and cloud environments. But WorkloadIQ doesn’t stop with the build process. Read the other WorkloadIQ articles in this issue of Novell Connection to learn what WorkloadIQ can do to help you secure, manage and measure your intelligent workloads.

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