August eServer i5 Announcement Roundup
August 23, 2004 Timothy Prickett Morgan
IBM launched the four-way eServer i5 Model 550, as we reported it would do, in last week’s issue of Four Hundred Stuff. In addition to the new server and its related Domino Edition and Solution Edition variants of i5/OS, IBM made some minor announcements that you should be aware of.
But before I get into this, I need to make a correction. I confused the date when the Model 550 will begin shipping, which is September 10, with the date that the new Integrated xSeries Adapter (IxA) card will begin shipping and that Linux will be supported on the Integrated xSeries Server (IxS) co-processor, which is August 31. My apologies for the error, but you will have to wait a few more weeks than I said you would have to.
IBM has discussed many of the Virtualization Engine Suite enhancements, which are being given the V1.1 designation, since this past spring, when the company rolled out that branding scheme for the various partitioning and systems management technologies that it intends to roll out across its server line to the most practical extent possible. IBM even made a statement of direction last week that the Virtualization Engine Suite would eventually support not just the Power-based iSeries/i5 and pSeries/p5 lines but also its zSeries mainframes running Linux and z/OS (which most people still call MVS after two name changes by IBM). The zSeries mainframes are the source of the ideas behind IBM’s partitioning and system management software for the Power machines. Now IBM apparently is going to bring the VES product set full circle and give Power and mainframe servers a consistent set of interfaces and capabilities. IBM did not say when this is going to happen, but given that many people believe that the z/OS platform will be ported to the Power6 generation of servers, and will run atop the VES hypervisor (just like OS/400, AIX, and Linux do today), this statement of direction could be viewed as a confirmation of sorts for that rumor. Then again, IBM may simply be porting the IBM Director Mutliplatform, Enterprise Workload Manager, and other Virtual Engine components to its zSeries line and keeping the products distinct.
The Virtualization Engine components mentioned above are included free with an i5/OS license. The Director Multiplatform is a variant of the Director 4.1 program that has been extended to be able to manage not just Windows and Linux on an xSeries box but also OS/400, Linux, and AIX instances on i5 servers; AIX and Linux instances on p5 servers; and Windows and Linux operating systems on IxS co-processors; and IxA-attached xSeries machines that form a collective with i5 servers. This version of IBM Director Multiplatform can run on an OS/400 instance on an i5 server, and can reach out over the network to manage AIX, Linux, OS/400, and Windows servers. It can also manage the partitions and IxS and IxA instances under its control. This software has been integrated with the PM iSeries (formerly Performance Monitor/400) of capacity planning and resource monitoring software, which means that PM iSeries can now report on more than just what is going on with OS/400 servers and partitions. PM iSeries will be able to keep tabs on i5/OS, Linux, and AIX instances on the i5 starting September 1. At that time, IBM will also be able to support both iSeries 8XX and eServer i5 machines that only support multiple partitions of i5/OS. In the first quarter of 2005, IBM will be able to have PM iSeries keep tabs on Linux partitions on iSeries 8XX gear.
The updated Virtualization Engine software also includes a new Enterprise Workload Manager that integrates the individual workload managers in OS/400, AIX, Linux, and Windows and that provides a single, cross-platform view of the applications running on a multi-partition machine or across a network, regardless of the operating system. Enterprise Workload Manager is a traffic cop that balances all of the service levels and business goals you plug into it, as they relate to specific applications and partitions, that then seeks to maximize performance and minimize use of resources. Enterprise Workload Manager adheres to the industry-wide-standard Application Response Management, which is an administered by The Open Group, for extending applications and operating systems so that management tools like Enterprise Workload Manager can measure the availability, performance, use, and response time of software, in real-time, and in a consistent way.
The Virtualization Engine and related software updates for the i5 line will begin shipping on August 27.
As we told you in May, IBM and its Linux partners, Red Hat and Novell, are going to support Linux machines on the IxS and IxA-attached xSeries machines. According to George Gaylord, marketing manager for integrated xSeries solutions, IBM is supporting Linux on the IxS and IxA, despite its big push for Linux on Power, because many Linux applications that customers want are still only available on 32-bit X86 platforms. IBM will support Red Hat’s Linux Enterprise Server 3 on the IxS and on IxA-attached xSeries machines, but will only support Novell’s SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 on IxA-attached servers.
According to Gaylord, SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 requires a floppy diskette during installation, and neither the IxS co-processor nor the iSeries/i5 server has a floppy, so the install fails. (Isn’t that silly?) IBM is evaluating the new SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9, which Novell announced a few weeks ago, to see if that will work. If the testing works out, it should be available before the end of the year (that’s my guess, not IBM’s). When I suggested to Gaylord that IBM might want to try SuSE 9.1 Professional on the IxS, which has a lot of the same core functionality (and which we use on a couple of our Web servers at Guild Companies), he conceded that this might be possible, but that it cuts against IBM’s practice of only supporting the server editions of Linux on server products. While this is true, one of the dirty little secrets in the server business is that many Linux clusters sold in the supercomputing arena (and based most certainly on server hardware) are actually running much less expensive workstation Linuxes that have been tweaked to support some server functions. If you are feeling intrepid, you can probably hack SuSE 9.1 Professional onto your IxS. But IBM is not going to support it.
The Linux support on the IxS allows for the shared I/O and disk storage that Windows-based IxS co-processors have, but IBM says that the Virtual LAN capabilities, which allow IxS platforms to communicate with each other and with the iSeries or i5 server, over the OS/400 server’s main memory bus, using the TCP/IP protocol and a virtualized LAN card, are not yet available on Linux-based IxS cards. Customers will have to use physical Ethernet NICs in the IxS card to hook Linux-based IxS cards into their systems.
Gaylord also cleared up some of my confusion on the new IxA card, the 1519 Model 200, announced concurrently with the Intel 64-bit Xeon “Nocona” servers a few weeks ago (see “IBM Launches New IxA Cards to Link to Nocona Servers”). It was not apparent from the IBM online sales manual or the announcement letters exactly how the Model 100 IxA and the new Model 200 IxA card were different. It turns out that the two IxA cards provide equivalent functionality (which I reported in my story), and differ mainly in their form factor. The Model 200 is skinny enough to be used in the new xSeries 346 and 236 servers. Gaylord says that while some OS/400 customers didn’t mind buying the 5U xSeries 235 server to get an X86 machine that costs between $2,000 and $3,000, some customers who wanted a denser machine bristled at the idea of paying $6,000 to $8,000 to get the skinnier 3U xSeries 365 machine. So the IxA Model 200 card allows companies to attach much cheaper xSeries Nocona servers to their OS/400 machines.
Gaylord also said that the distinction I made between the Model 100 and Model 200 IxA, which was culled directly from the online sales manual, in that the latter supported a larger number of physically attached xSeries servers, was not entirely correct. He said that both the Model 100 and Model 200 IxA cards support the larger number of servers. He said that the IxA Model 100 card supported the larger number of servers for some time, but that IBM had not updated the data in the online manual. Both he and I apologize for the confusion.