IBM eServer i5 and i5/OS Announcement Roundup
May 10, 2004 Timothy Prickett Morgan
I gave you the basic feeds and speeds of the new IBM Power5-based “Squadron” eServer i5s last week. This week, I want to get into some of the details of the new i5/OS operating system, support for Linux and AIX on the eServer i5, and other interesting announcements and previews related to this new platform. Over the next few weeks, we will go through the announcements with a fine-toothed comb so that on shipment day, June 11, you are ready.
First I want to correct a mistake in last week’s story. In describing the i5 Model 570, I said that it did not appear that there was a way to do a capacity-on-demand upgrade from two to three processors in that machine. I talked to IBM at COMMON, and it turns out that you can do it as long as you have two physical Power5 processors (that’s four processor cores) in the Model 570 to start.
The new operating system, i5/OS V5R3 (formerly known as OS/400 V5R3), which will begin shipping concurrently with the new i5 machines on June 11, is required on those Power5-based servers. As has been IBM’s tradition, i5/OS V5R3 also runs on prior AS/400 and iSeries iron. Specifically, it will run on AS/400 Model 170, 250, and 7XX servers, as well as the SB2 and SB3 specialized application servers. It also runs on the iSeries Model 8XX machines. Because the PowerPC and Power families of processors are binary compatible, it is logical that any 64-bit PowerPC or Power machine, AS/400 or iSeries, should be able to run i5/OS V5R3. But, as in the past, IBM wants to encourage customers to move to new iron to run new software. This makes sense, because V5R3 might not run very well on older machines, particularly those that are clock-speed challenged. That said, by supporting the AS/400 Model 170 servers, which use 100 MHz and 125 MHz “Apache” and 200 MHz and 252 MHz “Northstar” PowerPC processors, clearly the old AS/400 Model 6XX and SXX servers that use some of the same technology should be able to run V5R3. IBM seems to have set the cut off based more on the time a machine has been in the field–no big 9406 box older than the first quarter of 1999 and no small machine that predates the Model 170 (which was launched in the first quarter of 1998 and revamped in late 1998 and again in late 1999).
If you want to upgrade to i5/OS, you have to be at the OS/400 V5R1 or OS/400 V5R2 level. If you are on an earlier release, you will have to do an Aztec-two-step upgrade, getting onto V5R1 or V5R2 before you jump to i5/OS. Incidentally, on May 28, IBM will stop selling OS/400 V5R1 and its related systems programs. OS/400 V5R1 and these related programs will be supported until September 30, 2005. On May 4, IBM killed off a bunch of AS/400 feature conversions for processors that have long since been discontinued. On October 1, IBM will stop selling the Northstar-based iSeries Model 250 (which is really a rebranded Model 170) as well as iSeries Model 820, 830, 840 and SB1 servers. IBM will also stop selling the “Bumblebee” Dedicated Server for Domino variants of these boxes, too, and their associated processor, memory, and other features. If you haven’t gotten the message, the V5R1 generation of machines does not have much of an economic life left.
There are a lot of changes and improvements that IBM has made with i5/OS. Our technical team who puts together Four Hundred Guru will be covering these enhancements as they play around with them, but I want to give you a rundown on the things that caught my eye.
IBM may call it DB2 UDB, but it is and always really will be DB2/400 to us. IBM has made significant enhancements to the RPG SQL precompiler and has made other enhancements that make OS/400’s SQL comply with ANSI and ISO standards related to the SQL language. There are a host of new data types and formats (BINARY/VARBINARY and UTF-8 and UTF-16 are the main ones) for you to make use of in your applications. IBM has also worked on performance tweaks to the DB2/400 database. With V5R3, IBM is offering parallel concurrent table reorganizations, which speed things up considerably. IBM has also made enhancements to the SQL Query Engine such that longer more complex queries that include subqueries, views, common table expressions, and derived tables can run a bit faster. IBM has also made the star join function of the database faster, and it has speeded up SQL deletes of data in the database. The database now includes job-level caching for stored procedures, which means that frequently called stored procedures run from cache and do not have to be processed as a unique call each time they are invoked. Finally, IBM says that it has increased the capacity of DB2/400 and is now offering a migration kit to port applications and data into i5/OS from other environments. With V5R3, DB2/400 supports tables that are 1.7 TB in size as well as 256 tables in a single view, partitioned tables, and larger decimal precision. IBM has also enhanced the DB2 UDB XML Extender V8 for the OS/400 environment, which includes full schema support and a bunch of other enhancements that are absolutely Greek to anyone who does not know XML. IBM has also improved the Query for iSeries tool to support a wider range of data types and partitioned tables, and DB2 Query Manager and SQL Development Kit has been improved with support for a host of new data types and RPG functions to match those in the database and the compilers.
The partitioning capabilities of the eServer i5 and i5/OS have been significantly enhanced with the announcements. As I explained last week, IBM will be able to support up to 10 logical partitions per processor (except where the relatively low performance of the chip does not allow it), up to a maximum of 254 partitions per machine. Why 254? I asked IBM, and as it turns out, the company is keeping two of them in reserve. Two years ago, I heard it was 255. That is 64 Power5 cores in the biggest box with four logical partitions each, which makes sense. OS/400 originally supported this level of micropartitioning way back in 2000. What is the reserve? Why, I think it is the so-called Virtualization Engine IBM has started to talk about. And what is that really? Why, I happen to think it is a baby version of the OS/400 microcode without OS/400 on top of it. (Yes, you can laugh now.) And I think that IBM has two copies of this running in shadow mode on all machines, and that this is what is keeping track of all the partitions on the machine.
If I am right, IBM did not so much as get rid of the requirement for OS/400 to manage partitions as it turned OS/400’s microcode into the Power Hypervisor for the Virtualization Engine. In any event, for now, IBM is only going to support a maximum of 64 OS/400 partitions and 253 Linux partitions on the i5 machines. In theory, you could buy an i5 with no OS/400, but in practice, one partition has to be running at least OS/400 Value, Express, Standard, or Enterprise Edition.
The neat new partitioning feature IBM has is called uncapped partitions. Basically, instead of setting a ceiling in the amount of processing capacity a given partition can take–four processors, half a processor, whatever–you give the partitions the ability to steal capacity from each other as needed. Because there is a policy-based rules engine behind all of this, you won’t end up with four partitions all saying they have 100 percent of the system and a machine that is doing precisely nothing because the partitions are fighting. By essentially allowing the partitions to overlap capacity and use the resources other partitions are not using, IBM is once again demonstrating that it understands this virtualization game just a little bit better than its competitors. You won’t see this from Microsoft until Windows 2007 or later.
Multiple OS Support
The new eServer i5 machines cannot run OS/400 V5R1 or V5R2, even inside the new hypervisor’s logical partitions. IBM said that it was just too much work to bring them forward to be compatible with the new hypervisor. That said, it would have been useful if OS/400 V5R1 and V5R2 could have been run inside the partitions. This is one of the values that partitions offer: being able to gradually move old stuff forward on new iron in a controlled test and production environment.
When AIX support becomes available on August 27, the i5 servers will support the current AIX 5L 5.2 within logical partitions. IBM has not said what AIX applications will run in this AIX environment, but says that it will provide a list of supported applications on or before the August 27 ship date of AIX 5.2 support. On the Linux front, IBM says that Red Hat and Novell are working to certify the 64-bit implementations of their respective Enterprise Linux V3 and Linux Enterprise Server 9.0; both are expected to have their software ready by the third quarter.
Integrated xSeries Server
The other interesting thing is that IBM will now allow customers to run Linux in the Integrated xSeries Server co-processor and on servers attached to the iSeries and i5 servers through Integrated xSeries Adapter cards. IBM is a bit vague on the details here, and says this support will not come out until the second half of 2004. The odds are that both Red Hat and SuSE will be supported on the IxS, and it may turn out that IBM only supports it on the new IxS card that it plans to deliver this year using the Intel Pentium M “Centrino” processor. This new IxS card will plug into I/O towers and into the i5 servers themselves. It probably will not be available in prior iSeries machines, but IBM could surprise us.
On the Windows client, iSeries Access for Windows has been improved to support the new data types and formats as well, and a new .NET data provider (called IBM.Data.DB2.iSeries) will let Windows applications written under the .NET framework to reach in and access the DB2/400 database. The ODBC driver for iSeries Access for Windows has been improved to support the new data types, and IBM has added two new OLE DB providers, one called SQL Only (IBMDASQL) and another called Record Level Access Only (IBMDARLA). The Java-based iSeries Access for Web tool has been componentized and pieces of the tool can now be embedded as portlet components into WebSphere Portal-Express or Express Plus for Multiplatforms Version 5.02. IBM is also announcing iSeries Access for Linux, which, as the name suggests, is a Linux version of the program that runs on X86 and Power clients and servers and provides many of the same features as iSeries Access for Windows. Right now, it has a 5250 emulator and an ODNC driver, and as .NET components become available in open source form through project Mono, IBM will probably weave them in, too.
Next week, I will dig a little deeper into the announcements. There’s plenty of other cool stuff in there.
“The eServer i5, i5/OS V5R3 Continue the AS/400 Transformation”