James R. Doran  James R. Doran photo       

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Distinguished Engineer, Chief Architect Software Defined Environment Lab
Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY USA
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Professional Associations:  IEEE Computer Society


Case Study

IBM's On Demand Workplace: If it ain't broke, don't fix it?
Explore the business needs that lead IBM to augmenting its infrastructure with WebSphere Extended Deployment and how that change transformed the company’s ‘global meeting place’

By Jim Doran, IBM Distinguished Engineer, CIO On Demand Workplace Chief Architect

When it comes to supporting one of the world's largest IT companies, people assume IBM's technology underpinnings run smoothly. Akin to this belief, of course, is the expectation that all the processes to ensure the right technology work at the right time and delivery of a 'on demand'  just magically happens. A recent I/T project delivering  improved user experience, support for industry standards, and new application function   to support IBM's On Demand Workplace created an opportunity to test these assumptions.  

As its name suggests, the IBM On Demand Workplace is designed to simplify employee access to content, applications, people, and processes over a secure enterprise-wide portal. This enterprise portal supports  employees  working  from anywhere, anytime, while driving increased productivity and effectiveness. It's the primary point of interaction with resources such as HR, finance, customer systems, supply chain systems, e-learning, and the Help desk. The On Demand Workplace also creates new ways to collaborate and work  with others.

One of the big ways in which the IBM On Demand Workplace delivers value to the IBM employees is by delivering a personalized portal oriented around roles employees frequently assume. The On Demand Workplace is designed to help reduce costs and increase internal workforce responsiveness, motivation, effectiveness, and productivity, while establishing a platform for close collaboration with customers and business partners. IBM realized a US$395 million savings in 2001 attributed to delivering 43 percent of all employee training via distributed learning through the On Demand Workplace.

Essentially, the On Demand Workplace:

· Supports more than 300,000 employees, including 120,000 mobile workers
· Has more than 900,000 homepage visits each weekday to its more than 5,000,000 active pages
· Hosts hundreds of applications including: Webcasting, online learning, instant messaging, consolidated news sources, online health care enrollment, searches, expense processing, and a worldwide employee directory known as Blue Pages

Supporting this massive IT infrastructure would give pause to most IT managers. Additionally, providing tiered access to confidential information, ensuring privacy, and enabling foreign language support adds to its complexity.

While the On Demand Workplace was already successful, it faced the challenge of having to support an exponentially growing infrastructure. The goal of the IT staff was to support this growth, while minimizing the support costs associated with its scale.  The challenge faced was how to  deliver increasing functionality and compexity, without further complicating the ever  growing infrastructure.  In essence requiring a  strategy that maximizes existing resources.

Although some businesses subscribe to the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' approach to IT, IBM realized the On Demand Workplace required a facelift to more fully integrate all the people, processes, and information contained in it. This required a  service-oriented architecture (SOA).  At the heart of an SOA lies the ability to link business strategy with IT goals: the driver behind the success of the On Demand Workplace.

However, this facelift would occur on the back end and be invisible to the user. So why do it? Because it accelerates the rate at which valuable applications and content are delivered while easing back-end IT processes required to support the On Demand Workplace. Moreover, these under-the-hood changes would be even more monumental because they signified the first deployment of IBM WebSphere Extended Deployment (XD) software.

IBM WebSphere XD 6.0 is an integration middleware that combines autonomic and grid computing technologies  to manage and prioritize diverse workloads aligned with business needs. Essentially, the software enables applications  to tap into the power of their existing resources in the infrastructure without requiring additional computing power. Instead of requiring more physical resources be allocated  when an application begins to breach its stated service level objective ( response time ),  XD capitalizes on those hidden ‘pockets/whitespace’ of unused resources (surplus capacity) , along with metering the actual transaction flow, thereby preventing maximizing application availability to the employees.

Key Challenges:
The key challenges facing the IT staff in revamping the On Demand Workplace were:
· Ensuring the reliability and scalability of an unproven product to an audience of more than 300,000 users from around the world.
· Transforming the IT culture to view the infrastructure as a pool of resources whose whole is truly more than the sum of its parts.  
· Creating a strategy to define a policy-based method of provisioning applications.
· Mitigating the inherent risks of a sweeping change to the fundamental infrastructure of a highly complex mission critical enterprise portal that is accessed 24x7.

IT and Business Approach
The first of these challenges, ensuring scalability and reliability for an unproven product was conquered by extensive pilot testing and simulation of the  the On Demand Workplace’s architecture.  By basing the architecture on open computing principles,  individual components can be managed separately, thereby delivering needed capacity in specific areas. . This is critical for an IT staff grappling with how to manage a growing yet somewhat erratic user demand.  With reliability  being a top priority, the IT staff needed to work alongside the business in order to differentiate and identify how applications rank against each other and make the hard dicsions around what exactly was considered priority. To further address the scalability and reliability challenges, the team took advantage of the software’s data caching capabilities while also providing end users with the flexibility to more easily manage and monitor their infrastructure.  

To tackle the need to transform the IT culture to view the infrastructure as a pool of resources required a shift in the approach to the project. Historically, the approach would have been to scale the infrastructure horizontally and support dedicated silos of computing power.  However, using WebSphere XD, the IT staff was now able to gain a holistic view of the entire infrastructure. This view enabled them to uncover and use the white space of what was previously siloed capacity.

To define a policy-based method of provisioning applications, the IT staff partitioned the transaction processing applications into small pieces, which allowed for a greater focus on system manageability.

Prior to implementing WebSphere XD,  individual silos of application capacity existed.  In the event that consumption exceeds that dedicated capacity, applications are at risk of failure or reduced performance delivery.  Th On Demand Workplace is critical to running the business in IBM. . Without a strategy to define a policy-based method of system provisioning, there was increasing risk that business could be halted or delayed. What was required was a streamlined, automated approach to handle unexpected traffic spikes that could lead to system outages, poor application performance, and unanticipated downtimes.

Given the expectations and complexity of IBM's IT infrastructure, when it came to implementing a new software tool designed to enhance the On Demand Workplace, WebSphere XD had to immediately prove its value and demonstrate its ability to manage a high traffic,  mission critical portal  without any interruptions in service.

Real-world example
By defining policies and priorities for applications such as Webcasting, BluePages, and Enterprise search, the On Demand Workplace via WebSphere XD can manage the flow of transactions and adjust, on the fly, the requests to best deliver performance consistent with policy definitions. In the event a Webcast requires more server computing resources, WebSphere XD meters the transactions of other applications to prevent a breach of policy for delivery of the Webcast.

WebSphere XD makes similar management decisions with regard to BluePages and Web conferences. It's best to establish these priorities as part of the SOA planning process because they help determine the required application service goals, and to prioritize, given the reality of finite computing resources, against a dynamic workload.

SOA Support
The IBM On Demand Workplace is leading the industry in its use of autonomic technologies by using the combination of an SOA and WebSphere XD to provide flexibility and resiliency.

By aggressively moving to a virtualized,  infrastructure, the On Demand Workplace  gains flexibility along with increased  value through increased IT resource usage, improved scalability, increased resiliency, and decreased costs in managing the infrastructure.

The On Demand Workplace Today
By changing the way IBM provisions computing resources from a collection of vertical processing silos oriented around specific applications, to a portfolio of shared resource pools, the On Demand Workplace, driven by WebSphere XD, demonstrates the value of an SOA strategy built around a goals-directed infrastructure.  Applications are insulated from frequent spikes in traffic load, and application owners can concentrate on delivering business value quicker, and begin to treat the On Demand Workplace as a utility.

Today, through WebSphere XD, IBM’s On Demand Workplace is a world class corporate portal architecture that functions as a foundation for simplified application integration; improved employee productivity and high availability.

The result is a dynamic infrastructure that is delivering increased availability that aligns with performance objectives and has already yielded a 25 percent cost savings that was previously allocated to dedicated computing resources.  WebSphere XD is a key part of the On Demand Workplace value proposition that will enable applications to accommodate fluctuations in business demands without increasing complexity of the environment.







Kathy Keating
IBM Software Group Communications
One Rogers Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
617-693-5429 (O)
617-460-2702 (C)



Jim Doran/Somers/IBM
11/30/2005 04:21 PM    
    To
    Kathleen A Keating/Cambridge/IBM
    cc
    Nancy Kaplan/Somers/IBM@IBMUS
    Subject
    Re: Fw: WebSphere XD article for WebSphere Advisor
    
    
    
    

Kathleen, just an idea, this is kind of the high level mission statement I use around ODW;  Perhaps we can work it in.

Deliver a world class Corporate Portal architecture which functions as a foundation for simplified application integration; improved employee productivity, and high availability.
Jim Doran    IBM Distinguished Engineer    203-486-4247 (T/L 376-)
IBM Corporation    CIO On Demand Workplace Chief Architect    jrdoran@us.ibm.com
Assistant:    Theresa Sacco    914-766-3287 (T/L 826-)

 


Kathleen A Keating/Cambridge/IBM
11/30/2005 11:32 AM    
    To
    Jim Doran/Somers/IBM@IBMUS
    cc
    Nancy Kaplan/Somers/IBM@IBMUS
    Subject
    Fw: WebSphere XD article for WebSphere Advisor
    
    
    
    

Hi Jim,

I know you must be swamped.  If you have a minute, though, would it be possible to give this article one more look?  The editor is still interested in running with it and has given us a deadline of Friday, December 9.  

I look forward to your feedback.

Regards,
Kathy

Kathy Keating
IBM Software Group Communications
One Rogers Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
617-693-5429 (O)
617-460-2702 (C)

----- Forwarded by Kathleen A Keating/Cambridge/IBM on 11/30/2005 11:28 AM -----
Kathleen A Keating/Cambridge/IBM
11/16/2005 02:25 PM    
    To
    Jim Doran/Somers/IBM
    cc
    Nancy Kaplan/Somers/IBM@IBMUS
    Subject
    Re: WebSphere XD article for WebSphere Advisor
    
    
    
    

Hi Jim,

The editor has made some minor recommendations to the article and I've tried to make them as you'll see in the attached.  Essentially, she's looking for a bit more background on some of the challenges that faced the IT team in deploying WebSphere XD.  

In the attached, the editors comments are in red and my suggested changes are in blue.  I believe this will be the last time you'll have to look at this...until it goes to print.  

Please advise on recommendations/edits/changes, etc.

Regards,
Kathy

[attachment "XDCIORevised.doc" deleted by Jim Doran/Somers/IBM]


Kathy Keating
IBM Software Group Communications
One Rogers Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
617-693-5429 (O)
617-460-2702 (C)



Jim Doran/Somers/IBM
11/11/2005 03:17 PM    
    To
    Kathleen A Keating/Cambridge/IBM
    cc
    Nancy Kaplan/Somers/IBM@IBMUS, Scott B Sykes/Somers/IBM@IBMUS
    Subject
    Re: WebSphere XD article for WebSphere Advisor
    
    
    
    

Kathy and Nancy, thank you for a terrific job on putting the missing business context on my story around our success with websphere xd.   For consistency in tracking updates, I made my updates via word using markup so you can identify and accept/reject changes.  

Please don't hesitate to contact me if questions.  
Thanks again
/Jim

[attachment "ODW_XD.doc" deleted by Jim Doran/Somers/IBM]
Jim Doran    IBM Distinguished Engineer    203-486-4247 (T/L 376-)
IBM Corporation    CIO On Demand Workplace Chief Architect    jrdoran@us.ibm.com
Assistant:    Theresa Sacco    914-766-3287 (T/L 826-)

 


Kathleen A Keating/Cambridge/IBM
11/08/2005 04:17 PM    
    To
    Jim Doran/Somers/IBM@IBMUS
    cc
    Nancy Kaplan/Somers/IBM@IBMUS, Scott B Sykes/Somers/IBM@IBMUS
    Subject
    WebSphere XD article for WebSphere Advisor
    
    
    
    

Jim,

As you know, Nancy Kaplan and I have been looking to place a story on our internal success with WebSphere XD.  The good news is that WebSphere Advisor would like a byline outlining the deployment.  With this in mind, I've pulled together a draft article for your review/edits/clarification.  When you get a moment, can you please give this a look for accuracy, etc.  as we would like to cite you as the author.

I look forward to your feedback.

Regards,
Kathy


IBM’s On Demand Workplace: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it??

When it comes to supporting the world’s largest IT company, many people just assume that IBM’s technology underpinnings will run smoothly.  Akin to this, of course, is the expectation that all the processes to ensure that the right technology works at the right time, on demand, will just magically happen.  In a recent IT project for implementing brand new software to support IBM’s On Demand Workplace, there was a little of both.

As its name suggests, the IBM On Demand Workplace simplifies employee access to content, applications, people and processes over a secure enterprise-wide portal. This portal enables employees to do their work from anywhere, anytime, faster and more effectively.  It is the primary point of interaction with resources such as HR, finance, customer systems, supply chain systems, e-learning, and the help desk and it creates new ways to communicate and work electronically with others.

What’s truly unique about the IBM On Demand Workplace is its ability to deliver a personalized portal that is tailored specifically to each employee's role. Further, the On Demand Workplace has been proven to help reduce costs and increase internal workforce responsiveness, motivation, effectiveness and productivity, while also establishing a platform for close collaboration with customers and business partners. In fact, IBM realized a $395 million savings in 2001 attributed to delivering 43% of all employee training via distributed learning through the On Demand Workplace.

Essentially, the On Demand Workplace:
· Supports more than 300,000 employees, including 120,000 mobile workers
· Has over 650,000 visits each weekday to its more than five million active pages
· Hosts hundreds of applications for webcasting, online learning, instant messaging, consolidated news sources, online health care enrollment, searches, expense processing, and a worldwide employee directory known as Blue Pages

Supporting this massive IT infrastructure would give pause to most IT managers.  Additionally, providing tiered access to confidential information, ensuring security, and enabling foreign language support adds to its complexity.

While the On Demand Workplace was already successful, it faced the challenge of needing to support an exponentially growing infrastructure. The goal of the IT staff was to support this growth, though without requiring extensive, additional IT resources. As any user can well imagine, the complexities of integrating the myriad internal and external resources of the On Demand Workplace without further complicating the growing infrastructure would require a business strategy that would maximize existing resources.

And while some folks subscribe to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ approach to IT, IBM realized that the On Demand Workplace needed a facelift in order to more fully integrate all of the people, processes and information contained within it to develop a true service-oriented architecture (SOA).  At the heart of an SOA lies the ability to link business strategy with IT goals, which is the driver behind the success of the On Demand Workplace.

However, this facelift would occur on the back-end and would be invisible to the end user. So why do it?  Because it would accelerate the rate at which information was delivered while easing the back-end IT processes require to support the On Demand Workplace. Moreover, these under-the-hood changes would be even more monumental as they signified the first deployment of the new IBM WebSphere Extended Deployment (XD) software.

IBM WebSphere XD version 6.0 is powerful integration middleware that combines autonomic and grid computing for more efficient management and prioritization of diverse workloads that are aligned with business needs.  The software is designed to maximize existing resources within the infrastructure without requiring additional computing power. Without WebSphere XD, there was a risk that business could be halted or delayed because there wasn’t a streamlined and automated way to handle unexpected traffic spikes which could lead to system outages and unanticipated downtimes.

Given the expectations and the complexity of the IT infrastructure, when it came to implementing a new software tool designed to further enhance the On Demand Workplace, WebSphere XD had to immediately prove its value and demonstrate its ability to support a fully integrated SOA without any interruptions in service.  As the IT staff embarked on its assignment, they decided that the three key critical success factors were autonomic capabilities, resiliency, and SOA support.  

More specifically, the On Demand Workplace now features:

Autonomic Capabilities -  that are delivered through a dynamic environment for applications to be managed and prioritized based on business goals using performance policies.  The autonomic capabilities in WebSphere XD enable applications to accommodate fluctuations in business demands without increasing the complexity of the development environment.  

The On Demand Workplace can easily grow to include hundreds of applications as WebSphere XD allows IT to virtualize computing resources by balancing the workload among current applications.  It achieves this by spreading applications across a shared pool of virtual resources such as memory, network and CPUs, to allow the IT staff to take white space (surplus capacity) from the infrastructure to more efficiently utilize resources.  

Resiliency – Using WebSphere XD, it’s easier to provision computing resources from a collection of vertical processing silos oriented around specific applications to a portfolio of shared resource pools. The capability demonstrates the On Demand Workplace’s ability to support a goals directed infrastructure.  By developing a context and a set of performance policies, users can deliver increased availability and performance while optimizing utilization of the infrastructure.  These policies are derived from business goals and define the quality of service rules that the infrastructure manages.  Following is a real-world example.

By defining priorities for Webcasting, BluePages, and search, the On Demand Workplace, via Websphere XD can manage the flow of transactions and adjust on the fly the requests to best deliver performance that is consistent with policy definitions.  In the event that a Chairman Webcast needs more server computing resource, Websphere XD will meter the transactions of other applications so as to prevent a breach of policy for delivery of the Webcast.  

Similar management decisions by WebSphere XD will be made with regard to Blue Pages and Web conferences.   It’s best to establish these priorities as part of the SOA planning process as they help determine the required application service goals, and to prioritize, given  the reality of finite computing resources, against a dynamic workload.    

Dynamic Provisioning -  The new IBM On Demand Workplace is leading the industry in it's use of  autonomic technologies. Using the combination of an SOA and WebSphere XD provides a powerful mix of flexibility and resiliency.  

By aggressively moving to a virtualized, on demand infrastructure, the On Demand Workplace dynamically provisions computing resources. This delivers value through increased IT resource utilization, increased resiliency, and decreased cost in managing the infrastructure.

By changing the way IBM provisions computing resources from a collection of vertical processing silos oriented around specific applications, to a portfolio of shared resource pools, the On Demand Workplace, driven by WebSphere XD, demonstrates the value of an SOA strategy built around a goals directed infrastructure.