Article

Making the Case For PowerVM

IBM i, UNIX, Linux, AIX
Posted:
March 24, 2017

 

Through its PowerVM technology and standalone features before it, virtualization has been popular on IBM i for more than 15 years. Today, PowerVM is sold with more than 70 percent of Power Systems and supports Linux and AIX systems. Why have the vast majority of Power Systems environments adopted PowerVM? And what are you missing if you’re one of the last three in 10 without it?

The short answer: Data, and how to deal with it. Servers dedicated to individual applications are expanding, and information-rich applications continue to eat up more storage. In this light, the ability of consolidation and virtualization to improve server utilization and save hardware space are invaluable.

But we all know that to implement these technologies at our organizations, they do need a value we can present up the management chain. This article helps you do that by explaining the flexibility and efficiency that PowerVM and allied technologies can bring your operations.

Flexibility

The bottom line is that using PowerVM with the built-in service partition VIOS will ultimately lead to greater hardware efficiency. For example, a virtualized partition can be suspended, freeing up computing power that can be dedicated to other resources. Because this is essentially like putting the virtual machine to sleep, it can also be woken up easily to continue leveraging stored applications in the future.

Simpler and Centralized 

Consolidation provides the added benefit of reducing complexity, and PowerVM comes equipped with robust functionality to maximize the benefits of virtualization. The technology allows for a number of other advantages, including:

  • Allowing for shared resources
  • Centralizing storage
  • Integrated virtualization manager for Power Systems servers
  • Live partition mobility
  • Active memory de-duplication
  • Separation of applications or business units by partitions
  • Improving hardware redundancy flexibility like SAN

The hypervisor is at the core of these functions, as it is responsible for sharing and moving resources between virtual machines.

Advantages of Using VIOS with PowerVM

The virtual I/O server (VIOS) is a specialized virtual machine that supports several advanced partitioning functionalities, including resource sharing. In a virtualization scheme without VIOS, each virtual machine requires its own physical adapter. VIOS, however, enables virtual adapters so virtual machines do not have direct access to the hardware.

Virtualization configured with VIOS eliminates the inefficiency caused by utilizing disparate physical adapters, so resources can be shared more effectively. This does create some risk for conflict, but also lowers the complexity of system management. In addition to increasing utilization rates and reducing the hardware management burden, VIOS allows for expanded partitioning functionality, further increasing its value.

Moving Resources without Downtime

One of the best examples of PowerVM working with VIOS is in live partition mobility. This feature allows a running virtual machine to be moved from one physical server to another without application downtime. Live partition mobility can lessen the impact of planned downtime. If IT knows it has to bring a server down for maintenance, it can use LPM to shift important applications to another server until downtime is completed. Although this functionality is advantageous, it's important to note that LPM is not designed for disaster recovery or high availability. Both servers must be up and running to utilize LPM. However, the feature may still be utilized to avoid performance bottlenecks when combined with analytics. If IT can see a problem coming, LPM can be used to migrate applications before an outage.

Surprisingly Affordable

Looking at all these benefits, the first question likely to crop up is the issue of cost. It actually doesn't take any extra hardware or software to utilize PowerVM. It is integrated with the server firmware, so it's relatively easy to leverage virtualization on Power Systems. The one caveat is that there is some resource usage associated with actually moving virtual machines around. This may affect performance in some cases, but the impact is usually minimal and the benefits will most likely outweigh the small performance cost.

When to Shift Resources?

Virtualization with PowerVM allows businesses to make the most of their hardware so that resources are rarely ever wasted. Using the technology will also yield efficiency in other areas by making the IT manager's job easier. For example, consolidating and centralizing resource management makes it easier to identify potential issues and fix them before they become problems. Particularly when combined with robust system performance monitoring software, the features included with PowerVM go a long way toward maximizing the return on investment for hardware.

Performance analytics tools, for example, can help to make the most of live partition mobility. By displaying real-time data, such a tool allows IT administrators to shift resources before a performance issue occurs. Robot Monitor is designed to provide this kind of visibility. Through its configurable monitors and customizable dashboards, you can centrally monitor your virtual partitions and focus in on those things that are critical to your environment. The tool will also send notifications via email, SNMP or directly into the Robot Network status center, which allows the operations or engineering staff to respond to potential issues more quickly.

Although we in the IBM i world have been virtualizing for years, we should even expect more as IBM’s technology allows for combining IBM i, AIX, and Linux on one server. This consolidation is going to impact the politics of running IT in our organizations. To thrive in this world, the next generation of infrastructure managers will have to be comfortable with staff experts from all of these different operation systems. They will also have to monitor system performance more closely, as managing the health of all systems requires communication between the staff responsible for each platform.

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