R2D2 Is Alive And Well–Inside Your IBM i Server
November 9, 2015 Bob Losey
R2D2? That little dome-headed droid that always kept the Star Wars heroes one step ahead of big trouble? Well, not exactly. The one we’re talking about doesn’t roll around, nor does he chirp. But, unlike the movie version, ours is real. He lives inside your IBM i server and he spends his life keeping you out of trouble. . . with never so much as a thank you from his owner.
It’s time he got a little respect, because he works day and night; not only “off the books” but entirely off your payroll. Nevertheless, he’s the best system administrator you ever had. For most IBM i owners he is the only sysadmin in the company.
Once we explain how the IBM i manages itself and how it detects and corrects intermittent errors, you will forgive us for the R2D2 imagery. When you stand close to the computer you might even swear you hear chirping coming from inside.
The IBM i has a self-management feature that is unique in all the world. During normal operations, it automatically balances its workload to optimize its performance. It accomplishes this by paying close attention to how often it needs to use each file and program. The ones it uses most often are stored close to its main processor for rapid access (cache memory, disk load balancing, and so forth). The resources it uses less often are stored further away. On an ongoing basis, it cleans out and reorganizes its SQL database to keep it current and running smoothly. This self-management does more than help prevent trouble from developing. It also translates into higher overall system performance.
In contrast, all other systems and networks require a systems or network administrator–a live one, on the payroll, who chirps not at all (though he might whine a bit). This human sysadmin has the job of performing all the housekeeping routines needed to keep those systems running smoothly. Who do you think is the more reliable and faster-working SysAdmin, the human-on-the-payroll, or the unsung little droid inside your box? But even if you ignore the reliability and speed advantages of the IBM i self-management, you should not ignore the money you save. Many of our clients tell us that the self-management feature alone saves them the cost of one or more systems or network administrators–at $45,000 to $75,000 each.
Detection/Correction of Intermittent Errors
Did you know that the IBM i integrates unique IBM data integrity features to avoid most intermittent errors and data corruption experienced by other computers? These features monitor data as it moves about the system and within key components. For example, a unique IBM feature is called chipkill, which swings into action whenever the IBM i system detects that a segment of its memory is going bad. It turns off the bad portion and turns on extra memory that is held in reserve on the memory stick for just such a contingency. The IBM i system has a similar capability for disk drives.
All systems develop imperfections if they run long enough. This is as true of biological systems, such as your own body, as it is of any computer. Nature’s way of coping with such inevitable imperfections is a formidable built-in error detection/correction system that we think of as the self-healing capabilities of the living organism. Scar tissue, for example, is the body’s method of closing down and working around “bad cells.” The IBM i design mimics this in order to avoid the potentially serious consequences of data corruption. In retrospect, this may seem like an obvious way to design a computer, but the users of other computers do not enjoy this level of protection.
Back during the dot-com boom, eBay was using Sun Microsystems servers and was down for about four to eight hours. Forbes magazine documented this Sun cache memory failure incident, a situation, according to Forbes, that Sun executives knew could happen. Nevertheless, SUN’s policy was to replace a faulty cache memory only upon customer insistence–generally after a failure had already occurred.
When was the last time someone told you your IBM i data was corrupted? In stark contrast, when was the last time you discovered that your Intel-based system data was corrupted?
Bob Losey is president of Source Data Products, which was founded in June 1979. For over three decades SDP has helped clients adapt to the information technology change with best value configurations, high availability, security, virtualization, application modernization and networking, as well as business processes with ERP, warehouse automation, and business analytics. During this time, SDP has seen most of its competitors vanish from the market. SDP clients range from Fortune 500 to privately-held SMBs.