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IBM delivers new DevOps stack for microservices development

IBM has delivered a new tool, known as Microservice Builder, that helps simplify microservices development, including building, deploying and managing microservice applications.

IBM has added to its portfolio of DevOps tools by introducing a new product for developing microservices known as the IBM Microservice Builder.

IBM's Microservice Builder makes it easier for developers to build, deploy and manage applications built with microservices, and it provides flexibility for users to run microservices on premises or in any cloud environment. The tool simplifies microservices development in a DevOps context.

"Microservices are becoming increasingly popular for building business applications, and with good reason," said Charles King, president and principal analyst with Pund-IT. "Basically, rather than the highly monolithic approach required for traditional enterprise application development, microservices enable apps to be constructed out of individually crafted components that address specific processes and functions. They can also leverage a wide variety of developer tools and programming languages."

Charlotte Dunlap, principal analyst for application platforms at GlobalData, called IBM's Microservice Builder "significant" for its new monitoring capabilities, "which are increasingly important to DevOps as part of [application lifecycle management]," she said. "Developing and deploying advanced apps in a cloud era complicates application performance management (APM) requirements. IBM's been working to leverage its traditional APM technology and offer it via Bluemix through tools and frameworks. [Open source platform] technologies like Istio will play a big role in vendor offerings around these DevOps monitoring tools."

Microservices are hot

IBM officials noted that microservices have become hot among the developer set because they enable developers to work on multiple parts of an application simultaneously without disrupting operations. This way, developers can better integrate common functions for faster app deployment, said Walt Noffsinger, director of app platform and runtimes for IBM Hybrid Cloud.

Along with containers, DevOps aligns well with microservices to support rapid hybrid and cloud-native application development and testing cycles with greater agility and scalability.
Walk Noffsingerdirector of app platform and runtimes, IBM Hybrid Cloud

The new tool, according to IBM, helps developers along each step of the microservices development process from writing and testing code to deploying and updating new features. It also helps developers with tasks such as resiliency testing, configuration and security.

"With Microservice Builder, developers can easily learn about the intricacies of microservice apps, quickly compose and build innovative services, and then rapidly deploy them to various stages by using a preintegrated DevOps pipeline. All with step-by-step guidance," Noffsinger said.

IBM is focused on DevOps because it helps both Big Blue and its customers to meet the fast-changing demands of the marketplace and to be able to launch new and enhanced features more quickly.

"DevOps is a key capability that enables the continuous delivery, continuous deployment and continuous monitoring of applications; an approach that promotes closer collaboration between lines of business, development and IT operations," Noffsinger said. "Along with containers, DevOps aligns well with microservices to support rapid hybrid and cloud-native application development and testing cycles with greater agility and scalability."

The WebSphere connection

The Microservice Builder initiative was conceived and driven by the team behind IBM's WebSphere Application Server, an established family of IBM offerings that helps companies create and optimize Java applications.

"Our keen insight into the needs of enterprise developers led to the development of a turnkey solution that would eliminate many of the challenges faced by developers when adopting a microservices architecture," Noffsinger said.

The WebSphere team designed Microservice Builder to enable developers to make use of the IBM Cloud developer tools, including Bluemix Container Service.

The new tool uses a Kubernetes-based container management platform and it also works with Istio, a service IBM built in conjunction with Google and Lyft to facilitate communication and data-sharing between microservices.

Noffsinger said IBM plans to deepen the integration between Microservice Builder and Istio. A deeper integration with Istio, he said, will allow Microservice Builder to include the ability to define flexible routing rules that enable patterns such as canary and A/B testing, along with the ability to inject failures for resiliency testing.

Popular languages and protocols

IBM's Microservice Builder uses popular programming languages and protocols, such as MicroProfile, Java EE, Maven, Jenkins and Docker.

Noffsinger also noted that the MicroProfile programming model extends Java EE to enable microservices to work with each other. It also helps to accelerate microservices development at the code level.

He said the tool's integrated DevOps pipeline automates the development lifecycle and integrates log analytics and monitoring to help with problem diagnosis.

In addition, Noffsinger explained that the tool provides consistent security features through OpenID Connect and JSON Web Token and implements all the security features built into the WebSphere portfolio which have been hardened over years of use.

Meanwhile, Pund-IT's King argued that the sheer variety of skills and resources that can be brought to bear in microservice projects can be something of an Achilles' heel in terms of project management and oversight.

"Those are among the primary challenges that IBM's new Microservice Builder aims to address with its comprehensive collection of developer tools, support for key program languages and flexible management methodologies," he said.

Next Steps

Helping microservices communicate in Kubernetes clusters

WebSphere Raspberry Pi

Streamlining Java EE for microservices

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