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PowerVM Preinstalled on POWER9 Facilitates Multicloud Environments

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There was a time when the philosophy around hardware acquisition was based on one application per box. Today, that static, silo model is no longer sufficient to support business needs. Enterprises must optimize resource use, maximize availability, and above all, deliver customers the products and services they want as quickly as possible. Increasingly, organizations understand that leveraging a cloud model is the best way to achieve those objectives. With the release of the POWER9* processor, IBM is supporting this global trend by delivering industrial-strength cloud functionality right out of the box.

“Every POWER9 workload is virtualized and mobile and therefore every POWER9 client is fully cloud enabled.”
—Ian Robinson, Power Virtualization offering manager

This latest generation of IBM Power Systems* servers bring a substantial performance boost at a compelling price point (to learn more, turn to page 20). Moreover, every POWER9 (S and H model) server ships preinstalled with IBM PowerVM* Enterprise Edition, the most feature-rich version of the Power Systems virtualization layer. “Whereas virtualization used to be a choice, with POWER9, it’s built into every system,” says Ian Robinson, Power Virtualization offering manager. “Every workload is virtualized and mobile from day one. That’s very relevant in today’s world, where most enterprises are looking at a multicloud strategy and trying to work out where their Power Systems assets fit into those multiple clouds.”

PowerVM Enables Cloud-Ready Computing

The PowerVM solution is a firmware-based virtualization layer specifically designed for the POWER* processor. Because it’s integrated directly into the firmware of the motherboard, it can deliver greater functionality and higher security than a bolt-on solution. In the early days of virtualization, IT shops applied the technology primarily to tame server sprawl by consolidating scores of boxes to just a few. Workloads were sometimes moved to optimize utilization, but the process typically involved stopping and restarting the application. PowerVM Standard Edition was developed to address these routine virtualization tasks.

Today, organizations increasingly want to leverage virtualization and the cloud model for tasks like load-balancing, updates, failovers and real-time backup for disaster recovery. IBM enhanced the capabilities of PowerVM to meet these needs. PowerVM Enterprise Edition includes advanced features like live partition mobility, active memory sharing and remote restart.

Live partition mobility enables a user to physically move a running workload from one Power Systems server to another, without disrupting operations. “With live partition mobility, a workload can be moved from server A to server B based on rules and available capacity but without any sort of human intervention,” says Robinson. “That means the system becomes like a self-optimizing cloud.”

With previous generations of the Power Systems platform, clients could order their servers with preinstalled PowerVM Standard Edition, preinstalled PowerVM Enterprise Edition or none at all. The new policy of shipping POWER9 servers with PowerVM Enterprise Edition preinstalled means that clients no longer need to decide in advance what their future requirements will be, nor do they need to spend extra for live partition mobility. Their new hardware arrives with the most sophisticated, highly functional virtualization software already installed.

“In making this transition, we feel that we are just reflecting the direction the clients were heading anyway,” Robinson says. “The number of people who are buying Power Systems hardware who have also bought virtualization and IBM PowerVC* is steadily going up. We just took that to its logical next stage. Clients were moving there anyway. We have just made that transition easier.”

Virtualized Workloads From the Start

With PowerVM Enterprise Edition, every workload on the server is installed into a separate VM or LPAR, so they’re virtualized from the start. Because the enterprise edition has live partition mobility, those workloads are also moveable, which supports a variety of cloud strategies.

The classic use case is load balancing. An organization expecting a period of high demand (e.g., a retailer on Black Friday or a tax software company the week before April 15) could temporarily move its transaction-processing workloads to a machine with more capacity. PowerVM Enterprise Edition lets them perform that action automatically, and without ever interrupting processing. Even better, if that strategy is insufficient, live partition mobility enables the system to respond to demand spikes on a minute-by-minute basis by automatically reallocating workloads.

The approach also enhances overall availability. If a platform for a video streaming service needs to undergo hardware maintenance or a firmware update, for example, the workload could be transferred temporarily to another partition, uninterrupted. When the task is complete, the workload could be transferred back, without users seeing any effect. “You can have a very high level of uptime because the workload just keeps on running,” says Robinson. “You avoid those messages everyone hates saying the system is going to be out of action at a certain time. Because in the world of global e-commerce, no time is convenient. Every business on the web is a 24-hour business.”

A hybrid cloud model supported by cloud-ready POWER9 servers in the public and private clouds supports more sophisticated development models. A team creating a new AIX* application, for example, could develop the project on a public cloud to provide a resilient infrastructure accessible to participants in different locations. When the app development is completed, they can transfer it back to the on-premises cloud for deployment. “Having cloud as an option gives you a lot of flexibility into how you work,” says Robinson.

PowerVC Makes Management Easy

In addition to the PowerVM Enterprise Edition, POWER9 servers include PowerVC as a default option. PowerVC is a virtualization management layer built around a high-level user interface that’s either web-based or available through an API. It supports rules for automatically moving workloads based on the available capacity of the systems as well as the activity of the workload.

Among other features, PowerVC includes affinity rules that enable the user to establish a framework to control the mobility process. In some cases, an application may need to remain colocated with its back-end database, so moving one means moving both. Other workloads need to remain on a specific server with a specific serial number in order to satisfy licensing agreements. With PowerVC, these rules can be set in advance and updated at any time.

PowerVC is designed to not only manage this process but to automate it, eliminating errors and freeing the IT staff to focus on new products and services rather than rote system administration work.

Around the globe, enterprises large and small are analyzing their workloads, applications and services to understand how they can be optimized using a cloud strategy. “Every POWER9 system is a cloud system,” says Robinson. “Every POWER9 workload is virtualized and mobile and therefore every POWER9 client is fully cloud enabled.”

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


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