IBM Tech University buzz: HACMP meet Linux

IBM's porting of HACMP to Linux is a significant step in the software giant's recognition of the open-source platform, but can it find enough Linux HACMP customers?

Here's one expert's take on the "buzz" to come out of IBM System p, AIX 5L and Linux Technical University, held the week of Sept. 11 in Las Vegas, Nev. Click to read an overview of his week at IBM Tech University in part one.

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Kenneth Milberg, SearchSystemsChannel.com's Linux/Unix expert
Back to the conference, the Advanced Power Virtualization (APV) track was arguably the hottest of them all. As many of you already know, IBM won first place for Best Virtualization Solution at this year's LinuxWorld. Among many other features APV offers is the ability for both Unix and Linux clients to take advantage of micro-partitioning technology and shared processor LPARs (logical partitions), as well as virtual I/O servers, reducing the amount of necessary physical network and I/O devices.

Some of the most interesting coverage, outside of APV, regarded HACMP (high availability cluster multiprocessing) and IBM's release of version 5.4, which promises many enhancements to its high availability offering. This release was also the first to run on Linux. How exciting! One class I attended offered the opportunity to install and configure an HACMP cluster on Linux LPARs (logical partitions).

IBM Tech University Series
Part 1: A week at IBM University
Part 2: HACMP meet Linux
Part 3: Integrating IBM AIX's NIM and SUMA
Part 4: IBM AIX best practices and methods

Though I had a conflicting class that I probably should have attended, there was no way I could pass this up. How wonderful that IBM recognized the importance of Linux by actually porting its HACMP software to that platform. Part of me thought it's hard enough to get customers to run Linux on their pSeries servers -- is IBM confident it will find enough Linux HACMP customers to justify that investment?

It's a difficult sell for two reasons. For one thing, Linux technologists are used to open source clustering solutions, such as Beowulf. HACMP is more of a corporate IBM clustering offering, and many Linux aficionados distrust this partnership, preferring to stick with open source. The other is that many customers who run Linux on POWER (LoP) systems do so in development environments that usually don't require high availability. This certainly is changing, though it is not easy to get customers to use LoP when AIX performs better, is more reliable and also more tightly integrated with the POWER5 architecture, at least at this point in time.

My guess is that it won't be the most profitable venue for IBM, but it is a continuing part of IBM's effort to show its commitment to Linux, which is extremely important to the movement. It also offers an alternative to customers already running Veritas Cluster Server (VCS) on Linux servers at a much cheaper price. Channel partners that have priced out both Veritas and HACMP clustering on AIX platforms already know that HACMP is dramatically cheaper then it's more well-known high availability cousin. Historically Veritas has also been much more associated with the Sun world than any other.

Though I was disappointed that I could not get the Linux installation complete, due to several issues with NFS drive mappings, I was happy to see it up and running on other students' boxes. It had a smart GUI interface and it appeared able to do most things one could do on an AIX cluster, such as set up your topology, create resource groups and check the status of the cluster. Beware that under the covers it is still HACMP. For those used to working with AIX, it is definitely not plug and play despite the many ease-of-use enhancements delivered in release 5.4.

Speaking of Linux, I also attended a workshop on installing Red Hat Linux on a pSeries LPAR. I can tell you skeptics out there that it really works and actually takes advantage of most virtualization capabilities in the POWER5 architecture. The installation itself is about as simple as installing it on your home PC, once you get the network installation management (NIM) server configured.

The next article in this series will provide some technical tips and tricks that I picked up at the conference.

About the author: Kenneth Milberg is a systems consultant with his own independent consulting firm, Unix-Linux Solutions. He has 15 years' worth of experience with Unix and Linux systems, as well as broad technical and functional experience with AIX, HP, SCO, Linux and Solaris. Milberg holds certifications with IBM (IBM Certified Systems Expert -- eServer p5 and pSeries Enterprise Technical Support AIX 5L V5.3 & IBM Certified Specialist –HACMP), SUN (SCNA,SCSA), HP (HP Certified –HP-UX administration) Cisco (CCNA) and Oracle (OCP-DBO).

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