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Linux partition on IBM POWER (LoP) services and best practices

Adding a Linux partition to an IBM POWER system can open your customer to new business opportunities and resources.

Kenneth Milberg
For the VAR or systems integrator, adding a Linux partition to IBM POWER servers can open your environment to a whole new set of resources and possible customers, as outlined in part one of this two-part tip series. Once you've decided to try Linux on POWER (LoP), you'll need to keep in mind the following best practices.

Get trained on LoP

IBM provides lots of LoP training options. Start with this LoP training resource.

Don't assume a Linux migration from x86 machines to System p will work

If you're going to migrate to LoP, you must understand the critical differences between your source and target platforms. Ensure applications are supported.

The three big problems are: Endianness or byte ordering, data type length in 32- and 64-bit environments and data alignment differences in the architectures. If you're going to port, you must study these areas in detail.

The number of tested, native applications available for LoP just exceeded the 2,500 mark. Here is a link that shows you the list of all applications currently migrated to LoP. For the purposes of this article, let's assume that your application is on this list. What are the next steps?

Architect your LoP infrastructure

Linux on POWER VAR opportunities
Part 1: LoP for server consolidation and scalability

Part 2: LoP installation and architecture best practices

Using some industry standard tools and benchmarks, you should be able to quickly size a server without too much grief. I'm often asked how Linux compares to AIX from a performance standpoint on a System p. As a general rule, it usually come within 10% of AIX. With SLES 10, there is now support for libhugetlbfs, which provides transparent large page support for applications. In many cases, that substantially closes the gap with AIX to just a few percent. See this link on LoP published benchmarks.

I would also recommend you download the IBM Systems Workload Estimator. This is a Web-based sizing tool for System p, which will help you size a new system, upgrade to an existing system or assist in consolidating several disparate systems.

Examine code execution

What about applications and the underlying code? The IBM Performance Simulator for Linux for POWER systems is a suite of performance models based on IBM's POWER series of processors. You can examine how code executes on various IBM POWER processors to identify and avoid common performance hazards on these processors.

Plan an LoP system

One of my favorite tools is the IBM System Planning Tool (SPT), which is the next generation of what used to be the IBM LPAR Validation Tool (LVT). It is also integrated with the IBM Systems Workload Estimator (WLE), which will help validate your original assumptions. The SPT, which runs on a Windows PC, assists in system planning and design. It will also produce a system validation report that reflects the user's system requirements to make certain they do not exceed system recommendations.

Install LoP

LoP can be downloaded from a Linux distribution Web site, or it can be installed using the the IBM Installation Toolkit for LoP. Be advised that there are also hardware service diagnostic aids and productivity tools, as well as installation aids for IBM servers running Linux operating systems on POWER4 and POWER5 processors. You must check these service and productivity tools before you do anything! They provide necessary RPMs for SUSE and Red Hat to take full advantage of LoP.

Here you will also find important notices on LoP, and links to the Red Hat Network and your SUSE maintenance portal for related issues with the POWER architecture. I would also frequent each vendor's site. Here is the Red Hat resource for POWER.

More LoP partner opportunities

For more information on potential channel opportunities, check out the OpenPower project, which was created for Linux developers and users. You can actually test an open source application on LoP servers and see how they run. The link provides non-root, shared access with SSH to the latest POWER5 processor-based servers around the world. Feel free to compile and test your applications and even benchmark them against a current platform.

IBM is also offering integrators and developers who are active members of PartnerWorld the opportunity to participate in a new type of remote access program. Participants can get free remote access to IBM servers, operating systems and middleware by agreeing to provide feedback of their experiences using the program. This is the Virtual Loaner Program.

Here are some additional resources to frequent:

Finally, IBM business partners, should visit the Business Partner Leads resource to identify additional services you may want to provide to your customers.

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).

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