Thanks to Convergence, i 6.1 Shops Get PAVE Linux-X86 Emulation
April 21, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
So you have an iSeries or System i server or you are looking to buy or upgrade to a new Power 520, 550, 570, or 595 server, and you also want to consolidate some Linux workloads onto your machine to reduce complexity and make better use of the iron you invest lots of dough in. The only problem is that some of the Linux applications you have only run on X86 processors.
Last year, if you were a System p customer using AIX or a shop buying what was formerly known as the OpenPower variant of the System p platform (which was configured only to run the Power version of Linux with some extra price cuts to compete against X64-Linux platforms), then you could get a little thing called the System p Application Virtual Environment, or PAVE, as part of the base configuration of that System p box. PAVE started shipping along with AIX 6.1 last November on System p servers, and was eventually rebranded as PowerVM Lx86 earlier this year when the Power 520 and Power 550 servers were launched.
PAVE is a productized version of Transitive‘s QuickTransit emulation software, which in this case allows X86-Linux binaries to run unchanged on Power-based AIX or Linux servers. The QuickTransit tool is very sophisticated, and can in theory take any mainframe, Unix, or Linux workload and deploy it to another Unix or Linux server equipped with the emulator. QuickTransit is being used by Apple Computer to allow applications coded for PowerPC Macs to run on X64 machines, and it works. (I haven’t heard any complaints about it.) Hewlett-Packard is also using it to run Sparc/Solaris applications in emulation mode on ProLiant servers running Linux, and Sun Microsystems is even using QuickTransit to port Sparc/Solaris applications to its own X64/Solaris servers with applications that are not easily recoded.
It is hard to say for sure, but IBM once said that it believed that there were around 12,000 Linux-X86 applications out there in the world, and as of a year ago, there were only 2,800 native Power-Linux applications. While the major apps have been ported to Power, Linux consolidation onto Power is sometimes hampered by a few X86 applications that are founded based on projects that have not done a Power port and maybe never will, or on homegrown applications where the company doesn’t have the resources to do a port and requalification of the application on the new iron. So PAVE could come in real handy. But as far as I know, last year IBM was pretty iffy about whether or not System i shops would get the same freebie copy of the PAVE runtime environment that System p shops got as part of AIX 6.1 and the PowerVM hypervisor.
Well, now that we are all one big happy Power Systems family, there is not much IBM can do but put PowerVM in all of editions (Express, Standard, and Enterprise), which includes PAVE, on the Power 520, 550, 570, and 595 servers, and that means that i5/OS V5R4 and i 6.1 shops now have access to PAVE, too, on this new iron.
“IBM continues to work very closely with Transitive to address the needs of customers interested in reducing server sprawl and saving money by consolidating multiple diverse workloads onto Power Systems servers,” explained Scott Handy, vice president of marketing and strategy for the Power Systems division. “By making PowerVM Lx86 available to the unified Power Systems customer base, the universe of applications that can easily be consolidated by these customers increases beyond AIX, i and Linux on Power native applications to include virtually all Linux/x86 applications as well.”
(OK, here’s a question. If Business Systems and Enterprise Systems are the marketing arms of the newly rejiggered System and Technology Group at IBM, how come Handy has a marketing title when he is part of the Power Systems division, which is concerned only with product development and manufacturing? Just curious.)
Anyway, PAVE is certified to work on any Power5, Power5+, and Power6 server, and according to the IBMers I have spoken with in the past, it should work on any Power-based server, regardless of vintage. But that doesn’t mean IBM will support it. And you can only get it as part of the PowerVM hypervisor, which means you basically need to be on i 6.1, AIX 6.1, or a recent Linux 2.6 release. PAVE only supports 32-bit Linux applications, and may at some point be extended to support 64-bit Linux apps. IBM’s implementation of QuickTransit used in PAVE does not support anything beyond the Pentium II architecture (also known as the IA-32 architecture), which is more than a decade old. That means any application talking directly to the graphics card or using SSE2 or SSE3 instructions for multimedia acceleration are out, and any Linux applications that run in real mode on X86 iron will also not work inside PAVE. If the code doesn’t run correctly on Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 Update 4 or higher, or Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 Service Pack 3 or higher, then it is also not certified to run in PAVE.
Over 10 million machines–most of them Macs–are using the QuickTransit environment, according to Transitive.