Systems Software Stack Gets A Refresh With Power10
September 20, 2021 Timothy Prickett Morgan
When there is new server hardware, the systems software stack needs to be tweaked to support it and to take better advantage of it. And that is also a perfect time to add new features to the systems software that can be supported on older iron. (But not too old or customers will never move forward. . . . )
And so it is with the various core systems software – PowerVM, PowerVC, PowerSC, and the HMC – that runs atop Power Systems machinery and either alongside of or underneath the IBM i operating system and the IBM i Technology Refreshes that were simultaneous with the launch of the “Denali” Power E1080 machine on September 8. The Denali machine is arguably the most powerful server in the world, or rather will be when its full 16-node configuration is available later this year, and it is notable because it is the first Power10-based machine that Big Blue is putting into the field. (Our initial coverage of the Power E1080 can be found here, and our initial coverage of the September 2021 Technology Refreshes for IBM i 7.3 and 7.4 can be found there.)
In announcement letter 221-297, we see that PowerVM and PowerVC were both updated. PowerVM 3.1.3 supports Power10 iron – and presumably support for the entry and midrange machines coming in 2022 is already in the code in some fashion so early testers can try it – and is also available on Power8 and Power9 systems. In addition to the Power10 support, the updated PowerVM can support virtual optical devices and keep linked to them during a Live Partition Mobility (LPM) live migration of a PowerVM partition from one physical Power Systems server to another physical one. The PowerVM hypverisor now also knows how to figure out what network adapter in the paired systems to use as part of a Live Partition Mobility live migration. This is important because many IBM i systems have multiple physical or virtual network ports and you always want to choose the ones with the highest bandwidth and lowest latency to do a live migration.
The Virtual I/O Server, or VIOS, adjunct to PowerVM, which as the name suggests provides a hardware abstraction layer for virtualization of I/O (which is based on a stripped down AIX kernel), has also been upgraded to the 3.1.3 version. VIOS 3.1.3 is likewise supported on Power8, Power9, and now Power10 iron, and now includes performance improvements for virtual network interface cards (vNICs) on Linux partitions and also adds hybrid network virtualization support for Linux partitions.
Next up in the Power Stack is PowerVC, which is an IBM recasting of the Open Stack cloud controller, and with the PowerVC 2.0.2 release, IBM is moving to the “Wallaby” release that the OpenInfra Foundation (formerly the OpenStack Foundation) put out back in April 2021. There is often a six month or so delay between when IBM or Red Hat get their commercial-grade OpenStack out the door and when the open source community delivers a new release. By the way, the Wallaby rollup is the 23rd release of OpenStack since the project was started in 2010. The updates have been more or less on a six-month cadence, like clockwork. At this point, OpenStack is being updated for fit and finish as well as for new integrations and very occasionally for new capabilities. But it is fairly stable software, although it has less code and more changes than a stack like IBM i itself.
In addition to grabbing the Wallaby code, IBM added a bunch of stuff to the stack, including HyperSwap support for its Spectrum Virtualize (formerly known as the SAN Virtualization Controller) and IBM Cloud Object Storage (which is the result of an IBM acquisition that we cannot for the life of us remember the name of). Other features include:
- Thin provisioning with thresholds to help manage physical capacity of a pool
- Standalone backup node for import and export
- Display of additional storage and pool properties for overprovisioning and threshold
- Use of OpenStack Placement for scheduling
- Unused private flavors are periodically deleted
The PowerVM, VIOS, and PowerVC software, all of which requires PowerVM Linux Edition, PowerVM Standard Edition, or PowerVM Enterprise Edition, was available on September 10.
In announcement letter 221-269, the PowerSC security stack for Power Systems iron has been updated, too, with a 2.0 version, which IBM characterizes as “robust and simplified.” The big addition this time is endpoint detection and response, or EDR, functionality, which IBM describes thus:
- Host-based intrusion detection system: analyzes the traffic to and from a specific computer for signs of possible intrusion incidents, violations, or imminent threats. HIDS can also monitor key system files and any attempt to overwrite these files, a function that works in conjunction with file integrity monitoring (FIM). HIDS can do log-based intrusion detection, which overlaps with log inspection functionality, and includes time-based alerting and active response.
- Log inspection and analysis: PowerSC 2.0 can identify important security events buried in the OS and application logs and ignore relatively unimportant events.
- Event context and filtering: Events are sorted, prioritized, filtered, categorized, and put in context to help identify anomalous activity.
- Incident response: This methodology, used to respond to and manage a cyberattack, aims to reduce the damage and help recover as quickly as possible.
- Response triggers: Delivers criteria for an alert that users can quickly act upon.
PowerSC 2.0 can run on any Power8, Power9, or Power10 machine, and requires IBM i 7.3 or 7.4, AIX 7.1 or 7.2, Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server 7.4, or SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 SP3. This PowerSC update also shipped on September 10.
Finally, in announcement letter 221-217, the Hardware Management Console Virtual Appliance, which is the virtualized instantiation of the HMC that has been around since 2004 control freaking Power iron, has been updated to a 10.1 release. With the virtual HMC 10.1 release, Power10 machines are supported, both as a standalone system that is to be controlled as well as in Enterprise Pools 2.0 core and memory pooling clusters that might have Power8 and Power9 iron in them. There are enhancements to the integration between the virtual HCM and VIOS as well, and frankly, it gets hard to draw lines between IBM i, the HMC, and VIOS as time goes by.
The virtual HMC 10.1 requires four CPUs (we presume IBM means four vCPUs, which means threads, not four Power cores with as many as 32 threads in machines), 16 GB of memory, between two and four network interfaces, and at least 500 GB of space to run. The virtual HMC 10.1 became available on September 17.