The Rest Of October’s Power Systems Software Announcements
October 19, 2020 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The software stack in the Cognitive Systems division, which most of us still call the Power Systems division, is a lot wider and deeper than the IBM i stack, even though IBM i does represent a lot of the software functionality and generates a lot of the revenue stream for Power Systems machinery.
In addition to the Technology Refresh updates for IBM i 7.4 and IBM i 7.3, which were announced on October 6 and which will be available on November 13, Big Blue also updated a bunch of other pieces of systems software that run on Power Systems, which also run IBM’s AIX variant of Unix as well as various implementations of Linux, including IBM’s own Red Hat Enterprise Linux distribution. In many cases, the tools that IBM is updating span all three environments – IBM i, AIX, and Linux.
One obvious shared piece of software is the PowerVM server virtualization hypervisor and its related Virtual I/O Server, now apparently called PowerVM VIOS. In announcement letter 220-380, IBM is making enhancements with PowerVM 3.1.2 and PowerVM VIOS 3.1.2, and the big one is that Live Partition Mobility – what others call live migration of virtual machines across two physical machines – has been “optimized.” A lot of these changes appear to be related to adding support for Fibre Channel storage networking adapters and the storage area network (SAN) appliances that they talk to, and specifically, VIOS now has N_Port ID Virtualization, or NPIV, multiqueue support, which boosts the throughput and reduces the latency of the communication between the Power server and the SAN when it is running LPARs. This is done by spreading out the I/O workload across multiple queues. This NPIV acceleration requires the updated PowerVM and VIOS releases and requires 16 Gb/sec or 32 Gb/sec Fibre Channel adapters (feature numbers #EN1A, #EN1B, #EN1C, #EN1D, #EN2A, and #EN2B), a Power9 machine with FW940 level firmware, and AIX 7.2 TL5 or later. It is not clear when or if IBM i or Linux will get this enhanced support, but IBM i is getting support for mapping multiple virtual Fibre Channel adapters to a single Fibre Channel port.
The update to PowerVM and VIOS has a secure boot feature now, which allows for a tamper-proof operating system image to be verified by the firmware before it is loaded into a partition on the hypervisor. IBM is also updating the Virtual Hardware Management Console (vHMC) to release 9.2.950, which adds in support for new I/O adapters in the Power Systems line and has all of the controls for the enhanced LPM capability.
Finally, in the same general virtualization vein, the Cloud Management Console, which is used to administer Enterprise Pools (the 2.0 release was launched earlier this year) can now manage up to 48 machines with 1,500 LPARs in a single pane of glass; the vHMC or HMC can support 500 virtual machines each, so the CMC overlays three or more copies of the vHMC or HMC. As you might imagine, this is more about creating a large on-premises or public cloud based on Power iron and making it easier to setup and manage. Most smaller Power Systems shops won’t need this capability, but some of the large shops, with handfuls to dozens of machines with hundreds of partitions might benefit.
As a reminder, PowerVM comes in three editions. The PowerVM Linux Edition runs on Power7+, Power8, and Power9 machinery and has a lower price than the version that also supports IBM i and AIX. The PowerVM Enterprise Edition runs on the same three styles of Power Systems CPUs, and has all the bells and whistles and the highest price and supports all three operating systems. PowerVM Standard Edition does not have all of the bells and whistles, does support the same features as the Linux Edition, but only runs on Power7+ and Power8 iron. (We talked about some of these changes two years ago.)
In announcement letter 220-247, IBM has made some tweaks to the PowerVC implementation of the OpenStack cloud controller that the Power Systems team rolled up a few years back. With PowerVC V2, the scalability of the OpenStack cluster is greatly improved, up to 10,000 LPARs compared to 6,000 with the prior edition, and up to 20,000 storage volumes, double that of the prior generation. PowerVC now allows its management console to run in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 with Python 3 is now supported. (You need Python to do OpenStack.) IBM has created a new GUI for its OpenStack implementation, and has snapshotting and cloning of LPARs now, too. (I wish IBM would be consistent and say either LPAR or VM.) There is also volume cloning of LPARs to create a backup archive of those partitions. PowerVC has a slew of other nips and tucks and tweaks, and two of the interesting ones are new Dynamic Resource Optimizers, one that combines CPU and memory utilization thresholds as a single unit and another that throttles the utilization on a shared processor pool.
PowerVC V2 runs on any Power7+ or later system, and integrates the with following storage arrays:
- IBM: Storwize (SVC), DS8000, and XIV
- EMC: VNX, VMAX, and PowerMax
- Hitachi: Virtual Storage Platform (VSP), VSP G1000, and VSP G Series
- Pure Storage: FlashArray
- Hewlett Packard Enterprise: 3PAR (pluggable)
- NetApp: AFF A-Series, EF-Series, and SolidFire (pluggable)
PowerVC V2 will be available on December 11. It costs $180 per core on a Power System machine in the Small tier, $320 per core for machines in the Medium tier, and $480 per core for machines in the Large tier. Those are license prices that include one year of Software Maintenance.
One last thing on the PowerVC front: In announcement letter 920-092, IBM says that it is stopping sales of PowerVC V1 on December 8, 2020 and stopping standard support on PowerVC V1 on April 30, 2022.
In announcement letter 220-379, we see that the PowerSC Multi Factor Authentication (MFA) software, in V1.3, now has support for IBM i and Linux running on Power, which presumably means it only supported AIX up until now. This software runs on Power7+, Power8, or Power9 machines and requires AIX 7.1 or 7.2, IBM i 7.3 or 7.4, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.4 or later, and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 SP3 or later. This support will be available on November 13 with the PowerSC V1.3 release. Not that this affects IBM i shops, but IBM is also updating the Power Systems Enterprise Cloud Edition stacks in announcement letter 220-388, which include PowerVC, PowerSC, PowerSC MFA, VM Recovery Manager, and Aspera data transfer software.
If you are interested, a bunch of enhancements to AIX 7.2 at Technology Release 5 (TL5) were also unveiled in announcement letter 220-381, and these are the foundation for much of the enhancements in PowerVM and VIOS.
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