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IBM pSeries server trends and developments

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Wondering what are the new trends and developments in IBM POWER land? Perhaps you first want to know if and why you should care. IBM has secured the top spot in a $17 billion Unix server market with 31.8% of the share, compared to Hewlett-Packard's 29.8% and Sun's 26.2%, according to IDT. Clearly IBM has released the right technology at the right time.

If you are not already an IBM business partner, you may want to sign up. If you are considering the move, you must hone your skills, bring greater value to your customers and stay abreast of new IBM developments, which I'll outline in this tip.

Hardware

IBM introduced its POWER5+ chip on top-of-the-line models in September, which brings a much needed MHz boost to their enterprise systems. The p5+ 590 is now 2.1 GHz, while the p5+ 595 can be purchased at either 2.1 GHz or a flaming 2.3 GHz.

AIX

In 2006 and beyond only two AIX 5L technology levels (TL), formally referred to as maintenance levels, will be shipped each year, planned for February and August. Clients can get interim fixes (IF) to address specific problems without having to immediately apply the latest TL.

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AIX 5.3 TL 5 enhancements

  • security
    • AIXpert enterprise security tool
    • cryptographic coprocessor
    • Windows Active Directory Support
  • topas support for multiple LPARs and –C historical reporting
  • multibios – alternate disk install to the same disk
  • JFS2 file system rollback
  • NFSv4 grace period support
  • fcstat diagnostic command to help manage Fibre Channel devices
  • networking enhancements
  • Tivoli integration
  • NIM and install enhancements

Advanced Power Virtualization's Virtual I/O

Virtual I/O (VIO), one feature of Advanced Power Virtualization (APV), allows you to virtualize NICs or storage. Enhancements in the VIO 1.3 release include:

  • Support for iSCSI TOE adapter and virtual devices
  • Support for SCSI reserve/release for limited configurations
  • Support on the VIO client for a changeable queue depth attribute for virtual disks
  • Improvements for altering virtual device capacity without disruption
  • Configurable attribute allowing for improved VIOS health and expedited path failover processing
  • Performance improvements for CPU intensive applications

The iSCSI support is long overdue and the expedited path failover should be a big help to many that have asked for these improvements.

Integrated Virtualization Manager

Integrated Virtualization Manager (IVM) is an important utility that enables partition management without hardware management consoles (HMC). It's particularly valuable to small and medium-sized business (SMB) customers who have purchased low-end systems and formally had to spend over $5,000 for a dedicated hardware console. IVM is included at no cost with the purchase of APV on either System p or the BladeCenter JS21.

System Planning Tool

IBM's System Planning Tool is a free download and next generation of the IBM LPAR Validation Tool (LVT). An important new feature is that system plans generated by SPT can be deployed on the system by the HMC. The SPT is available to assist the user in system planning, design, validation and also to provide a system validation report that reflects the user's system requirements without exceeding system recommendations. The SPT is a PC-based browser application designed to be run in a standalone environment. The first release is a little slow and it may take a few attempts to install before it works, but its well worth the effort.

High availability

HACMP 5.4 is out and it rocks. Here's a list of new features:

  • Non-disruptive start-up: You do not need to take the application down when installing high availability cluster multiprocessing (HACMP). I'm not sure this is something I'd recommend in production, but it can be useful when you have to take down HACMP for an upgrade or patch and cannot take down the application because of a service level agreement (SLA).

  • Fast failure detection: HA will now detect a node failure before a topsvc timeout.
    • Smart assist restructure: There are now smart assists for DB2, Oracle and WebSphere, and a two-node assist to create a cluster.
    • WebSMIT is now easier to configure and it even provides a GUI.
    • Reintroduction of forced stop: This feature will help avoid resource conflicts by putting resource groups into an unmanaged state.
    • Linux support: Yes, HACMP 5.4 works on Linux and we even installed it successfully at IBM Tech University. How cool!

What does all this mean for you as an IBM Business Partner? It shows IBM's commitment to its technology. They are not just resting on their laurels, having overtaken Sun in Unix market share, but are constantly looking to better technology and support. This includes the hardware, systems software, high availability software and virtualization capabilities.

As a business partner you must stay abreast of all new developments so you can clearly show the customer the added value that you can provide to them. In today's world, it's not enough to just get the customer the cheapest price on a box; you must understand the technology and be able to clearly articulate how it will work to all customer levels -- from the CIO to the Unix manager to the Unix systems administrator.

About the author: Kenneth Milberg is a systems consultant with his own independent consulting firm, Unix-Linux Solutions. He has 15 years 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).

This was first published in November 2006

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