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IBM Launches Appliance For Private Cloud Computing

IBM is the first major vendor to produce a cloud appliance for its customers, a sign of how the concepts of private cloud computing are changing.

IBM used to talk about how service-oriented architecture was going to modernize the enterprise software infrastructure. Now it's talking about how SOA makes a good entrée to cloud computing.

IBM this week announced its WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance for deploying applications to a private cloud. IBM is the first major vendor to produce a cloud appliance for its customers, a sign of how the concepts of private cloud computing are getting a hearing in the deepest recesses of the enterprise.

Private clouds are scalable compute resources established in the enterprise data center that have been configured by IT to run a virtual machine upon demand. In some cases, business users are empowered to select an application and submit it as a virtualized workload to be run in the cloud.

The WebSphere Appliance stores and secures virtualized images of applications on a piece of IBM xSeries hardware that's ready to be plugged into a private cloud, Tom Rosamilia, general manager of the applications and integration middleware division, said in an interview. That image will be cast in a VMware ESX Server file format for now; other hypervisor formats are likely to follow, he said. The WebSphere Application Server Hypervisor Edition is also preloaded on the appliance and can run the virtualized image upon demand. The Hypervisor Edition is new, too, and both it and the appliance will become available by the end of the second quarter.

Hypervisor Edition is a version of the WebSphere Application Server designed to run virtualized applications on IBM's x86-based server series. The appliance with application server will be priced at $45,000, Rosamilia said.

Having an application ready to run on a hardware appliance represents a number of shortcuts for the IT staff, Rosamilia said. Once an application is configured carefully to run with its operating system and middleware, that version of the application is "freeze dried with its best practices into a virtualized image," or a complete instance of the application with the software on which it depends.

Additional instances of the application can be started up as needed from this freeze-dried image without danger of configuration error, Rosamilia noted. The application is a service, awaiting its call to run in a virtual machine while on the WebSphere appliance. When it's run, the appliance logs the resources use and who used them for chargeback purposes, one of the requirements for successful private cloud operation, according to private cloud proponents.

Rosamilia said enterprises that have applications that are already configured as a service or sets of services will find those applications fitting easily into a cloud infrastructure. An appliance approach makes it simple "to disperse those applications to the cloud" with a lower set of skills than IT currently needs to configure and deploy an application in the data center.

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