IBM October 2015 Power Systems Announcements from Power Technical University

November 3rd, 2015
Ron Gordon
Director of Power Systems


IBM Power Systems made several announcements of technical updates to Power Systems software including AIX, PowerVM, PowerVC, PowerKVM, and a Virtual HMC.

IBM Power Systems made several announcements of technical updates to Power Systems software including AIX, PowerVM, PowerVC, PowerKVM, and a Virtual HMC. These updates will all be available in the fourth quarter of 2015. Please excuse the brevity, as a full detailed description would take many pages. I will present, at a high level, why these are important to you, and then you can reference IBM documentation in the various subject Redbooks for further details and implementation considerations.

AIX: It was pointed out that AIX 6 will go out of service in April 2017. Extended Support will be available after April 2017 for a cost, but customers are advised to migrate to AIX 7 before the EOS date passes. AIX 7.2 will only support POWER7 and POWER8 systems. With that said, IBM announced AIX 7.2 new functionality, with availability in 4Q2015.

Some of what I consider significant enhancements are as follows: AIX SAN Flash Cache is where AIX can perform functions similar to easy-tiering… when an AIX partition is assigned an amount of storage on an SSD or Flash system, the designated “fast cache” will act as a high speed storage for SAN attached files. This feature of AIX is file system independent. While this will provide increased IO throughput to most applications, if easy-tiering is already a function of the SAN device, there may be minimal performance increase based on several factors. As this is a cache and all writes do go to the disk, this facility is supported with PowerVM LPM. AIX 7.2 will contain the first capability of plans for live full-kernel updates. With this iteration, AIX 7.2 will provide iFix live updates, which will be a major productivity gain for administrators. In AIX 7.2, there has been the removal of several software packages such as JAVA5, CIFS, Trusted Computing Base, etc. Most of the functions removed were technically obsolete, but the full list should be reviewed before moving to AIX 7.2 for compatibility reasons. Another optional performance feature is that LVM, which can be mirrored to flash-based storage. While there are other items for sure, I consider these most applicable to all customers. The last item that IBM discussed was an SOD for CAPI support in AIX.

This has several implications that will be expanded upon while general availability of support is announced.

» View IBM Power Systems Launch Technical Updates webcast.

Most customers use NMON for performance monitoring and reporting. IBM stated that the NMON analyzer maintainer in IBM has retired, and no further changes will be made. However, Nigel is still at it, and has created a new and faster charting tool for NMON data. This is downloadable for no charge from

AIX Enterprise Edition for AIX 7.2 has had some changes in componentry. The “new” AIX 7.2 EE will contain AIX 7.2, PowerVC, PowerSC, Cloud Manager with OpenStack, Tivoli Monitoring and BigFix LifeCycle. You may notice the absence of DSO (ASO is still not enabled on POWER8 systems) but don’t despair, as DSO is now integrated directly into AIX 7.2, proving the improved MPSS and “look ahead” support.

KVM 3.1 has incorporated enhancements that support SRIOV adapters, the ability to run in LE or BE, upgraded support for guests of Red Hat 7.2, SLES 11 and SLES 12, and Ubuntu 15.04. Additionally, PowerKVM 3.1 has included support for the new Power Linux LC models.

PowerVM 2.2.4 has added vNIC support for SRIOV adapters. For those using or considering SRIOV adapters (still only NIC… no HBA yet) for performance reasons, this allows the VFs to run in the VIO Server, which means performance gains, as well as enabling the SRIOV adapter to participate in LPM, which many customers were looking for. For customers using PowerVC or Cloud Manager with OpenStack with PowerVM, today the HMC is required as the connection point to PowerVM because the Nova component of Open Stack did not directly talk to PowerVM APIs. Now, a facility called “NovaLink” exists so that PowerVC or CMOS can talk to NovaLink in a Power Linux partition and enable provisioning directly to PowerVM on that server. There are also enhancements in PowerVM 2.2.4 that increase PowerVM LPM performance and reliability.

At the October Technical conference in Orlando, IBM stated that IBM System Director is formally withdrawn. As customers need system management and administrative functionality (other than CLI), IBM is recommending PowerVC as the strategic direction for provisioning. PowerVC 1.3.0 is based on OpenStack Liberty release, and enables much of the functionality that was in VMControl, which ran on System Director. Other facilities, such as inventory, compliance, patch management, etc., can be found in BigFix and other IBM products to provide a complete system management capability.

IBM also announced the Power Linux only S8xx LC models. These provide lower cost entry into POWER8 enabled servers running Linux for targeted environments. I covered these systems in a previous blog so will not bore you by repeating that information here, but please see my other blog on the “LC” models.

The last key item I will discuss is the announcement of the Virtual HMC. IBM has extracted the HMC code from the HMC appliance, and has made it available, as a product, you can install on any x86 system that meets or exceeds the minimum HMC requirements of memory and storage. The vHMC has the full functionality of the HMC appliance, and the vHMC x86 server connects just like the HMC to HMC port on Power Systems. The vHMC will require a Linux operating system on the customer x86 system, and can run bare metal or in an x86 partition. The Power environment can be supported by the HMC appliances, an HMC appliance and a vHMC, or dual vHMC’s.

That is an abbreviated overview of some of the key functions just announced by IBM. I have also recorded a short webinar that covers these topics also.

» View this Linux on Power announcements webcast.

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