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Into the Cloud With PowerVC

Although virtualization within a server is useful, true flexibility and reliability come with the ability to move and provision workloads across multiple servers. PowerVM virtualization provides this functionality via the HMC. A third major element of PowerVM, the HMC is an optional, externally located hardware or software appliance that manages server resources at a systems level. It’s a more efficient way to define LPARs, and can also be used to create and run automated scripts to simplify system administration tasks.

With the increasing emphasis on cloud infrastructure, system-level tasks have become both more frequent and more complex. In response, IBM introduced PowerVC virtualization management, its OpenStack-based cloud management layer. PowerVC virtualization management brings server, storage and networking resources into a single portal to permit efficient management of all of the assets on the system. The software is regularly updated to stay current with the latest OpenStack releases.

“If a client doesn’t want to use PowerVC, they can manage Power Systems assets through PowerVM NovaLink using a plain vanilla OpenStack-based manager.”
—Rajesh Rengarajan, vice president, Power Systems Software

PowerVC virtualization management significantly speeds up the process of provisioning virtual machines. “A client was building out two data centers with POWER,” Burnett says. “In one data center, they used the traditional HMC management model with PowerVM. It took them two weeks to deploy 60 virtual servers. In the other data center, they deployed PowerVC with PowerVM. The software enabled them to deploy those same 60 servers in two hours.”

Able to manage up to 5,000 virtual machines, PowerVC virtualization management features the Dynamic Resource Optimizer (DRO), which can automatically balance workloads across multiple LPARs and servers. The PowerVC DRO can be combined with the Power Systems capacity upgrade on demand (CUoD) CPU and memory features to create a resilient, highly scalable system. For a nominal fee, Power Systems users can buy excess capacity that’s left inactivated—so-called dark cores and memory. When the need arises, the licenses for the cores and memory are activated. Applied with DRO in a virtualized environment, dark cores can be used for instant, affordable scalability.

Consider a big data application in which the system momentarily runs out of resources to process the input. In a typical cloud environment, the workload would be moved to a different server. In a CUoD implementation, DRO would instantly activate the excess capacity on the same server. “It’s a case of moving compute to data as opposed to moving data to compute,” says Chet Mehta, Distinguished Engineer, Power Systems Software development. “A lot of these users are looking for real-time statistics. If you have to move your data to a different host, it might take 20 minutes before you can resume analysis, but you may be able to add some cores to an application in a fraction of a second.”

PowerVC virtualization management has a self-service capability that enables users to request computing resources without assistance from IT staff. The system administrators establish rules and templates for the types of virtual servers that can be deployed. Users log in and, if they have privileges, request a server. One will be provisioned for them automatically and returned to the cloud when they’re finished. Once parameters are set for the process, provisioning takes place without any effort on the part of the IT staff.

Designing for Interoperability

Although the HMC provides significant benefits, it’s not optimized for cloud architectures. As a result, IBM added another element to PowerVM called NovaLink. This virtualization management component is designed to streamline the interface between PowerVM and OpenStack cloud management tools. Administrators can manage the server through services within NovaLink or they can use PowerVC virtualization management.

PowerVM virtualization supports AIX*, IBM i and Linux* LPARs. PowerVC virtualization management runs in a Linux partition, although it can interface with partitions running any of the other OSs.

Kristin Lewotsky is a freelance technology writer based in Amherst, N.H.

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