IBM Knows Your System, So You Already Know Its Cloud
September 21, 2022 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Tonny Bastiaans, worldwide offering manager for Power Virtual Server at IBM, and Ash Giddings, a product manager at Maxava and an IBM Champion 2022, have been doing a series of joint presentations over the last few months. I recently had a chat with them to get the juice.
There are a lot of companies that sell hosting, many that sell hosting and call it cloud, and many who have true utility-style cloud computing. But there are very few venerable systems vendors indeed who have long experience in creating full systems to run a diverse set of enterprise applications that also have built what is truly a cloud.
Big Blue is one of those very few, with its eponymous IBM Cloud. And with its Power Virtual Server cloud, IBM is offering metered pricing for compute, memory, and storage for slices of entry and enterprise Power Systems iron based on Power9 processors – and will soon offer instances on Power10 systems. And those instances run the same exact PowerVM hypervisor and the same exact IBM i, AIX, and Linux operating systems that Power Systems shops use today to run their mission critical applications.
It took IBM a long time to come around to bringing Power Systems to its cloud, and many of us have been impatient for it since watching the rise of Amazon Web Services for the past decade and a half. But it is just as fair to say that it has taken IBM i and AIX customers some time to come around to the idea of cloud computing and storage and trusting a multitenant system that is not in their own datacenters and under their own care and feeding. Many IBM i shops started out on the System/3 back in 1969, or the System/38 in 1978, or the AS/400 in 1988, or the iSeries in 2000, so they have long established processes and practices. Moving to the cloud means changing many of these things, but moving to the Power Virtual Server means not changing a whole lot of things.
“Power Virtual Server is co-located beside the IBM Cloud, and it consists of Power S922s and Power E980s, which have their own storage and their own network,” explains Bastiaans. “We provide this as infrastructure as a service, and customers can start up with as small of a piece as a quarter of a Power9 core and grow up to 143 cores. We have machines running in fifteen datacenters around the world, including Washington and Dallas in the United States, Montreal and Toronto in Canada, Sao Paulo in Brazil, London in the United Kingdom, Frankfurt in Germany, Sydney in Australia, and Tokyo and Osaka in Japan. We are seeing growing interest, a mix of big and small customers, of AIX and IBM i customers, and we now have over 350 customers and a growing number of customers coming in.”
Bastiaans says that there are a bunch of different use cases for early adopters of Power Virtual Server, and as usual many customers are testing out the cloud by moving application development and testing itself there. This is how many technologies, including virtualization itself more than two decades ago, were first commercialized. The reason dev and test move first to new approaches to infrastructure is because this is a low risk way to get started that also can put some stress on the cloud so customers can learn how to use it and see how it performs.
The second big use case for Power Virtual Server is disaster recovery and high availability, of course, and this makes perfect sense, too. For many years, disaster recovery services were available from IBM and other business partners, where a target machine was shared by many customers and used to back up data and applications for many customers. The odds that all customers would have an outage at the same time was low, so this shared model made economic sense for those who did not want to co-locate their own replica machine in a second datacenter. Putting HA/DR on the Power Virtual Server is a variation on this theme, and similar to the strategy being adopted by customers running other platforms. The difference is that HA/DR is a lot easier than it was two decades ago, and it doesn’t cost as much, either.
And of course, there are also customers who want a hybrid compute model, mixing on premises and cloud capacity to run applications and databases and those who simply want to move everything to the cloud and be done with it.
“We see the same things going on,” says Ash Giddings,. “There are very few conversations that we have with customers that do not involve the cloud. And to echo what Tonny says, many customers do start with dev/test first, dipping their toe into the water and getting a handle on the latency and other issues before they think about migrating production applications.”
When they do finally decide to port applications to Power Virtual Server – or any other cloud for that matter – they can get there in a number of different ways, says Giddings. One, and the method that Maxava naturally prefers, is to use a data replication tool with remote journaling, such as Maxava HA or the service called Maxava Migrate Live, to copy and synchronize data between the on-premise Power Systems machine and the slice of a system on the Power Virtual Server offering from IBM. This can take some time, and that is why in some cases, when a lot of data has to move, and move fast, some sort of physical media is used to move the data from on premises to the cloud and then the HA tools are used to synchronize a small percentage of the data that changed during the transport of that media, and to keep it synchronized until cutover. A third way to move data to Power Virtual Server is to take IBM’s Backup Media and Recovery Services for i tool (BRMS) and pair it with the IBM Cloud Storage Solutions for i (5733-ICC), which allows backups of the source partitions to be moved to virtual images and then transfer them to cloud object storage.
“The approach people take really depends on how much data there is and whether or not any downtime is allowed,” Giddings explains. “With dev/test, you might be able to just take a snapshot and not worry about the gap too much. But with production workloads, you definitely have to get things in synch. Moreover, there is this misconception in the cloud that once you migrate, you no longer need HA and DR. You still need HA in the cloud, with interregional and between different cloud providers increasingly common. But if you have HA already, moving to the cloud is a lot easier.”
IBM has over 50 datacenters around the world, interconnected with its own backbone, and that, coupled with the Power Virtual Server and the ability to also integrate with X86-based infrastructure running on the IBM Cloud, is another reason why Power Virtual Server is a natural choice for IBM i or AIX in the cloud.
“We have the same enterprise construct that customers are already familiar with,” says Bastiaans. “We use HMCs and PowerVC and VIOS, just like on premises Power Systems do. Cloud instances can be monitored the same way as on premises systems are. So this is an environment that they know and they can trust.”
Maxava, with its Mi8 monitoring tool, can help span multiple clouds or do hybrid cloud between on premises and any of the public clouds that run IBM i instances, or other kinds of instances for that matter.
“The great thing is that an LPAR in Power Virtual Server is just another LPAR,” says Giddings. “With regards to monitoring, the only thing that changes is the connectivity route really. Mi8 is a cloud centric solution that can monitor IBM i as well as AIX, Linux and Windows, plus our open API allows you to interrogate many other sources and raise alerts based on what is returned. Mi8 allows you to gain visibility into OS, hardware, application, and security exceptions, with the vast majority of the workload taking place in the cloud curtesy of data being sent via SSL directly from the VM to Mi8 cloud console where rules are checked, and associated actions performed. There’s no onsite console, so no internal fight for a VM, and for MSPs no more multi-tenant VPNs to manage.”
And Mi8 also has subscription-based pricing, which puts in in the same operating expense side of the budget as Power Virtual Server.
On September 15, Ash Giddings and Tonny Bastiaans provided their latest educational-based webinar on how to use the cloud for IBM i disaster recovery. You can sign up for the replay of the event here.
This content is sponsored by Maxava.