Sundry Power Systems Withdrawals, New I/O Tweaks
March 2, 2015 Timothy Prickett Morgan
It is a bit quiet out there in Power Systems land, but IBM is getting its house in order and making a few changes as it moves solidly into the Power8 era and puts older systems out to pasture. IBM also announced a few minor upgrades to the networking and virtualization features in the Power Systems line last week, and withdrew a key piece of WebSphere software from its catalog that might affect IBM i shops.
Let’s go over the tweaks to the Power Systems line first, which were detailed in announcement letter 115-043. IBM is partially fulfilling its promise to bring support for Single-Root I/O Virtualization, or SR-IOV, across more of the Power Systems line. SR-IOV was first introduced with IBM i 7.1 TR8 back in April 2014 and it allows for Ethernet adapters to be shared by logical partitions without having to virtualize them with the Virtual I/O Server (VIOS). IBM has told customers that SR-IOV will provide better performance and control when VIOS is used in conjunction with it, however, and says further that SR-IOV is similar in concept to the Integrated Virtual Ethernet (IVE) that was part of the OS/400 stack way back when logical partitioning first came to the Power platform. (As I have pointed out before, OS/400 had logical partitioning way ahead of AIX and this virtual Ethernet was provided through the OS/400 kernel.) IBM announced Ethernet cards that support SR-IOV back during those April announcements, which we told you about here.
SR-IOV is supported on the feature EN0J and EN0L Ethernet adapter cards that were part of this announcement, which are four-port cards that run at 10 Gb/sec and differ from each other in the RJ45 and SFP+ cabling they use. These cards were available in Power 770+ and Power 780+ machines based on the Power7+ processors. Now these cards and the SR-IOV function is available on current Power E870 and Power E880 machines that use Power8 processors. SR-IOV allows for bandwidth to be carved up for logical partitions without VIOS, but you cannot do live migration of partitions over a network card that has been virtualized with SR-IOV. You need VIOS to carve up the Ethernet card to be able to do that. And remember: the latest releases of IBM i require either VIOS or SR-IOV; no options. This SR-IOV support on the Power E870 and Power E880 machines is available on:
These are PCI-Express 2.0 cards, and IBM points out that it is not yet shipping SR-IOV adapters with PCI-Express 3.0 links that support this Ethernet virtualization approach. Moreover, this SR-IOV capability is not turned on when the machines are built and setup by IBM; customers have to do it or pay a business partner to do it. You can learn a lot more about SR-IOV in this redbook, called IBM Power Systems SR-IOV: Technical Overview and Introduction.
Another part of last week’s announcement doesn’t really affect IBM i shops, but it matters to Linux shops. IBM has had a virtualization layer between the IBM i, AIX, and Linux operating systems on Power Systems machines for a very long time. Even when you are running without logical partitions on these machines, you are not in true “bare metal” mode, there is a little bit of the PowerVM hypervisor lurking in there. To squeeze more performance out of Linux machines, IBM created another set of firmware called OPAL, which allows Linux to run directly on bare metal Power8 iron or to run in virtual machines atop the PowerKVM hypervisor. This new OPAL firmware is now shipping on Power S812L, Power S822L, and Power S824L machines.
In a separate and unrelated development, IBM is giving customers who might want to buy Power7 and Power7+ systems, peripherals for them, or feature conversions related to them that it will be pulling the plug on a bunch of iron this coming November 30. In announcement letter 915-050, various Power7 and Power7+ processor modules and core activations are being withdrawn, and so are vintage Power 710, Power 730, Power 740, Power 770, Power 780, and Power 795 machines based on these processors. The various Power Linux machines, which were Power7 generation machines that could only run Linux, are also being mothballed in November. Various solid state drives are being sent out behind the shed, and so are a slew of model and feature conversions from older machines to the Power7 and Power7+ iron. In other words, if you want to stay on systems that are a generation back, you only have nine months more to do it. After that, you are subject to whatever is available in the channel. There are a lot of machines, features, and conversions listed in this withdrawal announcement, so if you are on a Power7 or Power7+ machine or want to move to one or upgrade one, you need to take a look at this.
Finally, in announcement letter 915-041, IBM says that it will withdraw various WebSphere Portal V7.0 products and stop support for them on April 30, 2015. This includes WebSphere Portal releases with different levels of functionality: the Server, Enable, Express, Extend, Content Management, Mobile Portal Accelerator, Content Accelerator, Collaboration Accelerator. This includes editions of the software created for IBM i, AIX, Linux, Solaris, Windows, and z/OS. A year later, on April 30, 2016, technical support for these WebSphere Portal programs will be withdrawn. The announcement letter says that there are no replacement products available, but that is just plain wrong. IBM announced WebSphere Portal V8.0 products in May 2012.