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Volume 23, Number 22 -- June 17, 2013

IBM Improves Private Cloud Control With SmartCloud 3.1

Published: June 17, 2013

by Alex Woodie

IBM i shops and managed service providers that adopt the latest release of IBM's SmartCloud Entry for Power software will gain several new points of control over their private cloud environments, including the capability to start and stop workloads at any time, and the capability to deploy multiple copies of an image simultaneously. IBM also divulged pricing details with the SmartCloud Entry for Power version 3.1 announcements, and made a statement of direction regarding "adopting a common technology base" rooted in open standards for SmartCloud Entry.

SmartCloud Entry for Power is a lightweight (for IBM anyway), AIX-based software product that allows organizations to turn their Power Systems servers into an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) private cloud environment. The software lets administrators create, modify, and delete virtualized slices of their server over a Web interface. It also delivers self-service provisioning for end users; provides security, auditing, and authentication capabilities; and includes basic activity monitoring and billing functions. IBM also sells SmartCloud Entry for Power bundle that includes Systems Director products.

With SmartCloud Entry for Power version 3.1--the first release of the software since IBM added the capability to run IBM i workloads with version 2.4 last October--IBM added a slew of new capabilities that give administrators even more fine-grained control over their Power cloud environments.

In addition to the aforementioned capabilities (starting and stopping any workloads and simultaneous deployment of multiple copies of an image), SmartCloud Entry for Power 3.1 gives customers the capability to create multiple configurations of virtual images, and allow these image configuration to exist in different projects. These features will be handy for administrators who want to rapidly deploy a new IBM i, AIX, or Linux environment by basically cloning an existing one. It will also be handy for high availability and disaster recovery workloads.

SmartCloud Entry for Power 3.1 also delivers the capability to deploy IBM i images to system pools and the capability to attach storage using N_Port ID Virtualization (NPIV) when deploying to a system pool. This will allow IBM i shops to utilize some of the better high availability features of high-end and midrange storage arrays, including the DS8000 and the Storwize V7000 and V3700.

Customers gain other new capabilities that will make management of private clouds easier, including resizing a disk at deployment time; setting priorities on workloads; and pinning a workload to a host, thereby preventing it from being moved, even during workload balancing. LDAP support has been added for authenticating users, as well as the capability of set SSH keys during deployment, but only for VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V environments. (SmartCloud Entry for Power can also be used to manage clouds running not just on Power Systems servers, but also on Windows-based System x boxes.)

Version 3.1 also brings the capability to enable remote restart to maintain availability of virtual servers and workloads within a server system pool, including automatic prioritized workload restart. It also supports Active Memory Expansion, IBM's main memory compression algorithm for AIX.

Pricing was included with the announcement. License tiers are split up into small, medium, and large groups. A license for a SmartCloud Entry for Power (including one year of maintenance) costs $80 per core for a small server, $200 per core for a medium-sized server, and $400 per core for a large server. The upgrade fee is $120 for moving from small to medium, $320 for upgrading from small to large, and $200 for moving from medium to large. (That is the difference in the cost of the machine size prices.)

IBM also released the SmartCloud Entry for Power bundle 3.1, which includes SmartCloud Entry for Power 3.1, as well as Systems Director Standard Edition 6.3, Systems Director VMControl Enterprise Edition 2.4, and Systems Director Storage Control 4.2. Pricing for the bundle starts at $320 per core for a small server, and costs $800 per core for a medium server and $1,600 per core for a large server. The upgrade fee is $480 for moving from small to medium, $1,280 for upgrading from small to large, and $800 for moving from medium to large.

IBM also made a statement of direction with its SmartCloud Entry for Power 3.1 announcement, which you can see here in PDF format. It says in part: "IBM intends to adopt a common technology base for all IBM SmartCloud Entry offerings, aligned with its SmartCloud Foundation portfolio, the OpenStack community, and other emerging open standards."

Considering that IBM's other statement of direction is its intention to support System z with SmartCloud Entry, it's tough to know exactly what IBM is talking about. Power Systems servers and System z servers are anything but "standards-based." Sure, much of the software on IBM i and z/OS may adhere to open standards. But the hardware is decidedly proprietary. It possibly will have something to do with IBM's acquisition of SoftLayer. In any event, it will be interesting to see how IBM adopts open standards, OpenStack, and/or SoftLayer to improve its private cloud management software for proprietary servers.


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