IBM offers grid-like application processing

Upgraded WebSphere software allocates application processing across servers according to business priorities.

IBM this week announced upgraded software that the company says will let enterprise IT managers automatically distribute application workloads across multiple servers as well as process batch and long-running jobs with spare capacity.

WebSphere Extended Deployment (XD) is a software product that can automate the allocation of workloads across servers in a transactional application environment. Now Version 6.0 of the software can also be configured to run batch and compute-intensive jobs in the background if there is any spare capacity, according to IBM. This upgrade evolves the product beyond only addressing transactional applications, the company says, by letting IT managers run various jobs across multiple servers based on resource availability.

"Instead of grouping a whole bunch of batch jobs to run at the end of the day or week or month, IT managers can now have those running in balance with their online work," says Suzanne Dewitt, product manager for WebSphere XD. "The software will tap into the free capacity that is available on the fly."

WebSphere XD is a software add-on to IBM's WebSphere Application Server platforms. The software installs on customers' WebSphere administrative console and distributes software agents to managed application servers to monitor capacity and resource utilization. WebSphere XD also includes what IBM calls the on-demand router, which is software that sits on a separate box in front of the server cluster and assigns application workloads among servers based on the data collected by the software agents. IT managers define the applications with highest priorities based on their business goals. The software will manage resources against the preset priorities.

The software creates a virtualized pool of resources across the WebSphere environment and is able to allocate workloads across the available resources. WebSphere XD can be used in three modes: manual, in which IT managers allocate resources based on the data collected by the software; supervised, in which the software prompts IT managers to allocate resources based on the software's suggestions; and full autonomic mode, in which WebSphere XD automatically reallocates resources based on IT managers' predefined goals and the data collected across the servers.

IBM first introduced the software in October of last year as a way to maximize customers' WebSphere Application Server environments. With this release, IBM added the ability to monitor and collect data from non-WebSphere servers as well. WebSphere XD would not be able to take automated actions on the non-WebSphere servers, but it can collect data and feed that back to the on-demand router to help it determine the best way to allocate resources. WebSphere XD can also work with IBM Tivoli Orchestrator if it determines another server must be provisioned to meet transactional processing demands.

IBM's Dewitt says the company competes with grid players such as Platform Computing and Data Synapse because this software creates a grid, even if only across WebSphere platforms. HP, Sun, Microsoft and some other vendors are also working towards such products. She says the company plans to expand its use beyond WebSphere and further incorporate IBM's Tivoli management technology to establish a transactional grid in heterogeneous environments.

WebSphere Extended Deployment Version 6.0 is available for download now from IBM. The product is expected to ship August 30. Pricing starts at $15,000 per processor for that software that is designed as an add-on to WebSphere Application Server.  IBM also offers a $5,000 per processor version with less features and functionality, which is designed for leveraging XD capabilities in non-WebSphere environments.

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