IBM Updates PowerVM Hypervisor, PowerVC OpenStack
October 19, 2015 Timothy Prickett Morgan
It may seem like the only thing that IBM cares about lately in the Power Systems business is boosting its Linux-based L and LC series lines. But as the latest Technology Refresh updates from October 5 demonstrate (which we have reported on extensively at IT Jungle in the past two weeks), Big Blue is keen on updating the software stack on which IBM i shops depend. And in some cases, this also includes the hypervisor and management tools, as well as Linux running next to IBM i.
In announcement letter 215-262, IBM is updating the PowerVM hypervisor that it created from OS/400 so many years ago to the V2.2.4 release. With this update, IBM is a new logical partition type called NovaLink that is tightly coupled to various OpenStack cloud controller implementations, including IBM’s own PowerVC implementation of OpenStack. Nova is the compute element of the OpenStack cloud controller, and was originally created by NASA for its big cloud and donated to the OpenStack project five years ago when it was created with Rackspace Hosting, which donated the Swift object storage protocol and service.
The NovaLink partitions on PowerVM runs a Linux operating system and appears to be a bit like the AIX-based Virtual I/O Server, or VIOS. With VIOS, IBM uses an AIX partition to directly attach to peripherals in a system and then has OS/400 or IBM i link to these peripherals virtually through the VIOS partition. This has meant that IBM does not have to write physical drivers for IBM i for whole ranges of disk, tape, and other peripherals. The NovaLink partition allows for PowerVC or other OpenStack implementations to reach into a Power-based system and then control the partitions running atop PowerVM. My guess–and IBM does not explain this–is that the NovaLink partition is running a KVM hypervisor and a translation layer that can convert instructions to KVM to PowerVM. In any event, whatever NovaLink is, its intent is to make managing Power8 logical partitions scale better. NovaLink is being made available for technology preview for systems under control of the Hardware Management Console (HMC), but IBM warns that this preview is not intended for production use yet. NovaLink is only available on Power8 machines and they have to be using the firmware 840 release level; PowerVM V2.2.4 will run on Power7, Power7+, and Power8 machines.
In addition to the NovaLink feature, the updated PowerVM hypervisor has a new virtual network interface card (vNIC) that rides atop physical network cards that support the Single Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV) protocol, which carves up that physical card into multiple streams. The new vNIC driver allows more efficient network connections for logical partitions, and also allows for the vNIC and its settings to be live migrated along with the logical partition when customers use Live Partition Mobility. IBM says it has also tweaked the performance of Live Partition Mobility with this release, and it can now do live migrations when one of a pair of VIOS partitions fails on a system. (You needed both VIOS partitions in a pair to be working to do Live Partition Mobility before.)
On the PowerVC front, the V1.3.0 release is based on the “Liberty” update of OpenStack, which will be announced at the OpenStack Summit in Tokyo next week.
The big feature with PowerVC in this release is called Dynamic Resource Optimizer, and it can take the capacity-on-demand cores available on a cluster and the logical partitions running on a cluster of Power servers and do automatic workload balancing across those systems. It has a capacity planner that lets administrators see what the Dynamic Resource Optimizer feature will do before it does it, so they don’t have to put it on full automatic until they are comfortable with the choices it is making. The PowerVC 1.3.0 update also supports the control of storage access to IBM’s DS8870 disk arrays and supports up to 26 concurrent SAN fabrics, which is a very large SAN cluster indeed.
PowerVC can manage Linux virtual machines atop the PowerKVM hypervisor for OpenPower and LC and L class Power Systems machines as well as AIX, IBM i, and Linux logical partitions atop the PowerVM hypervisor. PowerVC Express costs $30 per core for small systems, and it is only available on small systems. PowerVC Standard Edition costs $80 per core on small machines, $120 per core on medium machines, and $160 per core on large machines.
The other big feature is that IBM is getting its PowerVC implementation on a regular schedule:
The prior “Kilo” release of OpenStack, which came out in April, will get three years of support and an extra two-year service extension for customers who want to pay for it, but from here on out, each PowerVC OpenStack release gets 18 months of support. IBM says that the rapid innovation rate for OpenStack is what is compelling it to keep releases available for this relatively short period of time. Even with this schedule, it will have four different OpenStack releases to support at any given time; extending beyond 18 months would add even more concurrent releases for Big Blue to support.