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Open Source on IBM i

Open-source solutions are all around us. From infrastructure solutions to full-featured productivity applications, open-source solutions are available to fit the need and the IBM i platform can be great for hosting those applications. This article explores the deployment of open-source solutions on IBM i by taking a look at three broad categories of applications:

  1. Infrastructure
  2. Web-centric
  3. Development tools

Along the way, I’ll highlight the benefits of open source—especially as they relate to IBM i. I’ll also explore how open-source solutions can be integrated into existing IBM i solutions and data. Finally, I’ll share how that integration can greatly extend both the reach of IBM i resident data as well as the open-source generated data.

What Is Open Source and Why Is It Important

Open source refers to a development and release paradigm in which the software authors allow the code to be shared, viewed and modified by others. It’s important to understand that “open source” doesn’t directly translate to “free software” although it’s true that a good portion of open-source projects result in applications that are freely available for deployment. Over the years, the IT community and business decision makers have more readily accept applications resulting from open source.

Infrastructure Applications

A key area of strength for open-source applications has been in the infrastructure space. Infrastructure refers to the applications and functions an IT organization relies on for its day-to-day operations. These functions include items such as Domain Name Service, File Sharing, DHCP, Firewall and email services—all of which have good open-source solutions. Generally, Linux is the operating system platform upon which these open-source infrastructure solutions are hosted.

The capabilities of Power Systems servers running IBM i make implementation of open-source infrastructure solutions attractive as well as practical. The first reason is allocation of processor and memory resources to a workload. Typically, open-source infrastructure solutions will run on Linux in an LPAR. As such, they’ll be assigned a certain amount of processor and memory resources. Often, open-source infrastructure solutions on the Power Systems platform don’t require much in the way of processor and memory resources. Typically, shared processor resources will be assigned with the desired resources being less than 1.0 processor units. Likewise for memory, the appropriate amount of memory can be allocated for the solution being implemented. Since the resource allocation is controlled at the LPAR level, the size of the workload can be changed—that is, the exact amount of resource required by the workload can be assigned to the partition. Additionally, the benefits of uncapped processors can be leveraged to allow the partition to be allocated exactly the amount of processor resource required and then allow processor resources to be allocated or de-allocated as the workload requirements change. Similar capability with memory allocation is available to the Linux LPAR on POWER6 and POWER7 models through Active Memory Sharing.

Simplifying the Linux installation. A Linux installation on Power Systems servers using IBM i for Virtual I/O requires several steps including:

  • LPAR creation
  • Virtual I/O definition
  • Virtual network support
  • Linux installation
  • Service and productivity tools installation

The service and productivity tools (available at provide many additional functions and capabilities specific to the POWER architecture. These include the capability to respond to a power-off request with a clean shutdown of the operating system, as well as supporting Dynamic LPAR functions. You can certainly perform the Linux installation and then download and install the utilities, however, an easier way would be to take advantage of the IBM Installation Toolkit (also called PowerPack CD) for Linux that’s available from the Service and Productivity Tools website.

PowerPack CD front-ends the Linux installation with several questions related to the desired configuration of the Linux instance being built. Based on your answers, it builds a response file that’s used to perform a silent (no user interaction) installation. PowerPack CD also takes care of installing the necessary service and productivity tools. One additional benefit of PowerPack CD is that you have the same look and feel for the Linux installation regardless of whether you’re installing a RedHat or Novell/SuSE distribution.

Erwin Earley is an advisory software engineer for IBM assigned to the POWER AIX/Virtualization Delivery practice in Rochester, Minn.

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