IBM Will Change WebSphere To Work In A Cloudy World
March 26, 2018 Timothy Prickett Morgan
If you had to pick one product that put IBM back on the map in software, it would have to be the WebSphere Application Server that was wrapped around the Apache Web server for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. That was back when Big Blue was the technology sponsor for the Olympics, and it used the summer and winter events, each held every four years and out of phase by two years, as a showcase for new technologies. Two years is a Moore’s Law gap, so it worked out nicely.
WebSphere was the pet project of Tom Rosamilia, who was the main executive from Software Group who was in charge of productizing and expanding the WebSphere middleware brand and, as you all know, who has run the System z mainframe and Power Systems businesses for many years. WebSphere has brought IBM many tens of billions of dollars in profits and probably half of that as profits in the two decades since it was a project to show how IBM could scale out web serving on Apache to a global crowd using various streaming technologies when they were in their infancy two decades ago.
WebSphere has always changed to meet the times, and it continues to do so. In announcement letter 218-176, IBM put out a few statements of direction on its plans for the WebSphere Application Server, many of which will ultimately be relevant to IBM i shops who are deploying applications on this middleware, in either a public or private cloud.
First of all, IBM says that it will be offering WebSphere Application Server licenses under an hourly pricing scheme, matching the most common time metric used for public infrastructure clouds. The hourly rate for WebSphere will be done on a per-core basis and will include tools for tracking the use of WebSphere instances, allowing companies to not just track usage on public clouds, but also to enable chargeback for internal lines of business on private clouds running WebSphere applications in a containerized environment.
IBM also said that it will be cooking up a private stack version of the IBM Cloud that will allow applications that run against WebSphere Application Server to be componentized and wrapped up in Docker containers all managed by Big Blue’s implementation of the Kubernetes container scheduler. Docker implies a Linux substrate, but is also compatible with Windows and there is no good reason why a Docker substrate can’t run natively or quasi-natively through the PASE AIX runtime environment (or a Linux analog of it) within IBM i. We shall see what IBM does here, but the IBM Cloud Private stack should of course be available on Power Systems iron and with both IBM i and AIX supported in some fashion.
IBM also says in its statement of direction that it has not forgotten about customers who run applications on top of WebSphere middleware within virtual machines rather than containers. Specifically, IBM says that it will improve WebSphere in virtual environments so the time to provision new application server instances is lower while also at the same time improving the linkages with logging and monitoring tools that are commonly used to do diagnostics. We are guessing that IBM is talking about the open source Nagios and Ganglia tools, but it did not mention these by name. IBM also says that it will tweak its support contracts so a license with support can be used on either private cloud or public cloud setups, and it called out the IBM Cloud Private and IBM Cloud Public by name. It is hard to believe that IBM would not enable such functionality on the Amazon Web Services public cloud, but it may decide to only offer such functionality to WebSphere customers who stay in the IBM fold. Big Blue has offered WebSphere on the AWS public cloud for many years of course, which you can learn about here. This installation looks a bit long in the tooth, from about 2011 or so, and was built atop SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP2. IBM offers a stripped down WebSphere Application Server Liberty on AWS atop the most recent Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.4 operating system, and it runs on M3 instances at a cost of 48.7 cents per hour, and with reserved instances discounts that knocks it down to around $2,208 per year. Base editions of WebSphere Application Server are available for Windows Server or Linux on AWS, and they cost considerably more, and the WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment Edition v 8.5 is the priciest, at $1.15 per hour or $8,563 per year after a 15 percent discount.