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What About Cloud Automation?

Joseph Gulla focuses on automation with IBM LinuxONE Rockhopper II as it’s a Z product built for cloud.

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This post is part of the series that I have been developing about automation on IBM Z. Up to this point, my posts have been about system, network and application automation on z/OS. This post is the first of two posts that have a specific focus on automation with IBM LinuxONE Rockhopper II as it’s a Z product built for cloud. 
In this post, I will set the groundwork for the IBM Cloud Private discussion that will come in Part 2 next week. In case you’re not entirely familiar with the IBM LinuxONE Rockhopper II announcement in 2018, I thought it would be best to discuss it and the powerful virtualization technology that it supports. 

z14 and LinuxONE Servers

In April 2018, IBM announced its newest cloud-ready mainframes. The IBM z14 Model ZR1 and IBM LinuxONE Rockhopper II are the latest additions to its family of servers announced in 2017. IBM Z GM Ross Mauri explained the main points. Here are three of them that hit home for me:
  1. Design. The new systems feature a 19-inch industry standard, single-frame design that allows for easy placement into cloud data centers and for private cloud environments. I noticed this change right away when I saw the z14 at the ECC Conference last June. Whereas the z13 had a one-of-a-kind profile, the z14 has the standard data center device contour. 
  2. Security. The new systems bring the clout of the IBM Z to an even broader set of clients seeking robust security as these systems provide pervasive encryption, as well as cloud capabilities and powerful analytics with machine learning. Everyone in IT is aware of the challenges—many say “crisis”—regarding security of IT resources and data. Executives in many surveys list security as priority No. 1.  
  3. Digital business. In this era of digital business, the mainframe remains the most stable, secure and mature environment to support IT initiatives, including the proliferation of blockchains. Consider that 87% of all credit card transactions and nearly $8 trillion in payments a year are processed on mainframes. It’s a no-brainer that the mainframes have a major role in digital transformation initiatives.   
The z14 strengths are compelling—standard design, pervasive security and platform for digital initiatives. What are the specific features of the IBM LinuxONE Rockhopper II? 

IBM LinuxONE Rockhopper II

The new IBM LinuxONE offerings bring significant increases in capacity, performance, memory and cache across nearly all aspects of the computer system. The complete system redesign delivers this growth in capacity in 40% less space and is standardized to be deployed in any data center. 
The IBM LinuxONE Rockhopper II server has up to 30 cores,  that is , equivalent to 180-240 x86 cores; . It can be configured with up to 8 TB memory and has I/O support for up to 2 million IOPS (128 GBpS). It has an and optional 16U of available frame space for additional components , like storage, server and network switches.  Clearly it’s a powerful environment for server consolidation of production workloads running on x86 servers. 
The systems-management savings alone from this consolidation can be compelling as there’s a huge opportunity for IT budget savings by reducing IT administration and support labor. Computer Weekly  reports that more than 70% of the total cost of ownership for typical data centers goes to labor or outsourced services.  

Rockhopper II Virtualization Support 

It’s generally understood that virtualization is the most important underlying tenant of cloud computing. Virtualization isn’t new. Prior to cloud, virtualization was very important and useful for many decades. 
Stop and think for a moment about virtualization on IBM Systems. Virtualization began in the 1960s, as a method of logically dividing the system resources provided by mainframe computers between different applications. Since then, the meaning of the term has broadened. Without robust virtualization technologies pioneered and developed over the decades, cloud computing would simply not be possible. What virtualization technology choices are available with the Rockhopper II? 
PR/SM-LPARs and IBM Dynamic Partition Manager
Virtualization is built into the backbone of LinuxONE. Processor Resource/Systems Manager (PR/SM) manages and virtualizes all of the installed and enabled system resources as a single large symmetric multiprocessing system. Full sharing/partitioning of the installed resources is supported with very high levels of efficiency and utilization. PR/SM LPARs provide certain workload isolation that’s designed to meet the highest EAL5+ security certification.  
Scale up or scale out on demand is also provided with support for up to 40 LPARs on Rockhopper II (up to 85 LPARs on Emperor II). Dynamic Partition Manager (DPM) is PR/SM with a simplified provisioning and management experience. DPM has guided storage setup, provisioning and management functions. PR/SM-LPARs can be used by themselves or in combination with other virtualization technologies like z/VM.
z/VM v6.4 and v7.1
z/VM enables tremendous scalability, security and efficiency. It provides support for 2 TB of memory and improved z/VM paging, enabling workload consolidation, growth in memory-intensive applications and superior levels of elasticity. Compared to LPARs, z/VM provides more flexibility and opportunities to automate operational activities. However, it’s often used to complement LPAR use. Think of the implementation of a hierarchy of virtualization where LPARs are at the top of the stack.
z/VM keeps growing and changing, enhancing its usefulness. It provides operational improvements in cloud environments by providing guest large page and guest transactional execution support. It increases efficiency and reduces complexity as it has removed the need for a SAN Volume Controller, allowing low-end devices such as Storwize, SAN Volume Controller, V7000, V840 and V9000 to be directly connected to z/VM host use.
z/VM supports security features including pervasive encryption support—encrypting data moving between active memory and z/VM paging volumes. It enables guests to improve application program security by exploiting LinuxONE encryption features. z/VM supports IBM Z platform performance features, allowing guests to improve the performance of Java garbage-collection processes. 
z/VM 7.1 is delivering a new release cadence that improves z/VM’s continuous delivery model. This release includes single system image support in the base product and it improves the availability of z/VM systems by allowing clients to schedule outages without disrupting business-critical applications. These are important new capabilities. 
KVM running on IBM LinuxONE
Kernel-based Vvirtual Mmachine (KVM ) is a strategic open-source component for the IBM Z and IBM LinuxONE platforms. IBM provides the KVM enablement for IBM Z and LinuxONE to the open-source community, making it possible for distribution partners of IBM to deliver KVM on Z and LinuxONE. 
KVM supports up to 8 TB memory per guest for greater processing scale and performance, as well as support new analytics workloads with single instruction multiple data for rapid processing of data. Also, it provides improved performance for guests, Java workloads and cryptographic processing.  

What’s Next?

Next week, I’ll finish developing the automation story with a specific focus on an IBM Cloud Private solution, creating a “data center in a box” by co-locating storage, networking and other elements in the same physical frame as the mainframe server.
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