IBM i 7.1 Tweaked To Be More ISV Friendly
October 17, 2011 Timothy Prickett Morgan
As part of the October 12 Power Systems announcements, the IBM i 7.1 operating system-database combo was tweaked with Technology Refresh 3, the second update this year and the third such refresh since IBM moved toward a regular update cycle that was more akin to (but still distinct from) the way AIX gets updated. The Technology Refresh focuses on new functions and I/O support that is meant to be installed with the current operating system release and be less disruptive.
Steve Will, the chief IBM i architect at IBM, explained this Technology Refresh approach to readers of The Four Hundred back in May. Like PTF update packages, Technology Releases for IBM are cumulative, meaning TR3 has all the functionality of TR2 and TR1 packaged into it. AIX Technology Releases are sequential, which means customers can apply them individually and have to apply them sequentially to build the most current release of any version of the operating system.
In announcement letter 211-411, you will see that IBM i 7.1 TR3 supports the new Power Systems servers also announced this week (and reported on elsewhere in this issue) and also a number of new disk and disk controller features that I will tell you about in next week’s issues.
The big change not relating to hardware is that IBM is working with independent software vendors to make IBM i 7.1 a better platform for their applications.
With TR3, the integrated DB2 for i database is more amenable to processing fat SQL transactions that span large numbers of database rows and multiple applications. Under normal circumstances, the internal row-locking mechanisms in the database can significantly impede performance, but IBM says that it has changed the locking mechanisms so the operating system can manage a larger number of locks and still get better performance out of these parallel, row-hungry SQL transactions. IBM is also getting ISVs to use its Application Runtime Expert to check that a customer’s system is configured properly before they attempt to install their apps on top of it, and the new WebSphere Application Server V8 and the PowerVM suspend/resume feature have been jointly tested by IBM and a number of ISVs to make sure the transition to the new release is painless.
There are a number of other DB2 for i enhancements, including the ability to use smaller SQL statement sizes inside of an SQL package, which is created when end users kick off an ODBC or JDBC query on the system or by some ISV applications. The smaller statements mean the SQL packages take up less space and boost performance. IBM has tuned DB2 for i to work with the latest release of the JDBC 4.1 interface and now allows for the asynchronous movement of database tables and indexes to solid state disk drives in the system. This latter feature means that you don’t have to stop database processing to point to the SSD. There’s a slew of database features and functions that our Four Hundred Guru will no doubt walk you through and explain a whole lot better than I can.
The TR3 update supports thin provisioning on DS8700 and DS8800 external disk arrays from IBM. With thin provisioning, you basically lie to the operating system, telling the OS it can have all the disk capacity it thinks it needs to install itself and use to run its applications and then the disk array on the fly only gives the OS the disk capacity it needs without crashing the OS. This can free up a huge amount of disk capacity, even if it does sound a bit dangerous. (All the cool systems are doing it, man.)
Another cool feature in TR3 for IBM i 7.1 is that Big Blue has tweaked the Virtual Partition Manager for that it created for Linux partitions–and which allows for Linux partitions to be created that access the Virtual I/O Server without the need of the Hardware Management Console. Now, VPM can create VIOS-backed IBM i 7.1 partitions, obviating the need for an HMC if customers want to go the VIOS route. (To my way of thinking, it is probably a good tradeoff.) This VPM for IBM i 7.1 will work on Power6, Power6+, and Power7 servers. It can create up to four partitions on a machine.
IBM i now supports Ethernet link aggregation, which means allowing the virtual Ethernet links set up for logical partitions to be bunched together and shared over a multiple physical Ethernet adapters for both high availability and faster throughput while maintaining the defined bandwidth allocated for each logical partition. This is something all operating systems are being updated to support; most Linux and Unix variants have it, as do Xen and ESXi hypervisors, but Windows Server 2008 does not. TR3 allows for up to eight Ethernet links to be aggregated.
TR3 also adds support for Ethernet Layer 2 bridging, which allows multiple logical partitions to share a single physical interface to the Ethernet network. In plain American, it means you don’t need an Ethernet adapter for each partition on your machine any more, provided the NICs you have provide sufficient bandwidth for your partitions.