Archive for August, 2007

Predict the future, rewrite history

While sitting around this evening listening to the zdnet, David Berlind and Redmonk webcast, Monkcast #12: IBM HW group OEMs Solaris to chagrin of SW group & a fly in VMware’s ointment and both on the show and a web article, a few things came up that were worth commenting on, if for no other reason than to save history from being rewritten:

Continue reading ‘Predict the future, rewrite history’

AIX/6 and Power 6 Enhancements — Tools for the task

I’ve been catching up on some back issues of the IBM Open Systems magazine, in the latest issue, August ’07, Ken Milberg provides a useful overview of the new AIX Workload Partitions and comes to the same conclusion I did, “I see the WPAR as a real complement to LPARs, not a replacement”.

Over on Julien Gabel “blog’o thnet”, he does a liberal comparison of the new AIX and Power 6 features with some existing and many upcoming features promised for Solaris. It’s an interesting comparison insomuch that there has been much discussion over the similarity between AIX Workload Partitions and Solaris Containers. One of the reasons we introduced containers now was the linkage and exploitation of Live Application Mobility. Julien draws the distinction between Solaris Containers as utilization feature, and not a virtualization feature.

For my part I don’t see the difference, and the more you think about this, the more obvious it becomes. Continue reading ‘AIX/6 and Power 6 Enhancements — Tools for the task’

AIX, VIOS and HMC Facts & Features

There is an excellent document listing and comparing all the functions, features, etc. of AIX, VIOS and HMC. It’s in the techdocs library and was written and updated by Ravi Singh. You can get it here.

I’m about a month late with this, thanks to a post by Richard Brader, another Brit’ in Power-land ,who updates the “IBM System p Expert Corner – for Business Partners” wiki.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Today IBM and SUN announced that IBM would become the first Tier-1 distributor for Solaris. SUN are obviously excited about this, it gets them access to some excellent IBM System x (x86) hardware.

In the announcement, my boss, Bill Zeitler, head of IBM Systems Group also mentions that Sine Nomine and David Boyes and the effort to make OpenSolaris on the mainframe. I’ve known David for many years, back to the early Linux mainframe days and developments like this always remind me of the interesting debate we had with SUN then. David posted on the Sine Nomine web site here. I’m sure if it can be made to work effectively, David will get it done.

The first question came up over the relationship with AIX. Bill says its about custonmer choice and open interoperability in the marketplace and later when Ashley Vance from the Register asked about running Solaris on System p, the answer was we are not doing anything

Jonathon Schwartz remarked that mainframes “set the Gold Standard for virtualization with logical partitions” and “Linux support on mainframes gives customers and outstanding set of options”.Which of course is what I was saying back in 2001. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Ashley Vance, in his write-up, I think got slightly over excited in what was little more than a comment by Bill on customer choice. The real question is what will software vendors do here? For x86 it’s not such a big deal since one Solaris x86 binary should run on any other x86 Solaris platform, but on other platforms such as System z and other non-x86 compatible platforms it’s another binary to support, more testing to do etc. Disappointed that none of the analysts thought to ask that, or for that matter if Solaris were available on POWER hardware why SUN would bother with their own UNIX hardware. Oh well ;-)

There is a replay of the IBM/SUN conference call here.

Partition Mobility demo on YouTube

I mentioned in a post a couple back that we would be demoing the new Power 6 Partition Mobility to the great and the good out in San Francisco. Mark Kressin and the team behind the demo did a great job and the demo’s went like clockwork.

Interestingly, here is a “home video” of a demo and briefing done by Mark on Partition Mobility and briefing from VP of Power Systems Marketing, Scott Handy. If you decide to watch, let it get past the powerpoint style introduction where they explain what is going to happen. The video shows the console and workload migration later in.

What Mark shows is migrating an Oracle DB, driving about 11,000 transactions per minute on a 4-way Power-6 System on to 12-way, non-disruptively without a single transaction being lost. Neat.

BarCampESM in Austin

BarCampESMI just put my name on the attendees list for BarCampESM, it’s an excellent idea to get together in an informal attendee driven agenda. There is not date set yet for barcampESM so I really hope it will be when I can attend.

I have a lot to learn in this area, but hopefully will be able to make some useful contributions based on my background with the whole Grid services evolution and the work being done on the Server group management platform and interfaces.

[Update:] Here is a good description of Summer Camp for Systems Management, from William Hurley, one of the organizers/coordinators.

More on complexity, configurability

One of my first posts in this blog, was on the subject of complexity. James Governor of Redmonk weighed in today on complexity with a trackback post called “What SOA needs to learn from Ruby On Rails“.

I noted, that while our software, and often our systems were complex, that was because our customers are, not because we design them to be complex. Our customers run a vast array of machines, in widely different environments, supporting a broad range of applications. Of course, this is chicken and egg, and is a difficult tightrope for established solutions to walk. We could just remove most of the configuration options and in a generation or two the complexity would have gone, but what about the customers?

Forced into a straightjacket of “our way or the highway”, would you take the later?

It’s easy for the new kid, in this case Ruby on Rails to come out and offer little or no configuration options, side files etc. It doesn’t have to, it has never made a significant change it what or how it does things. The same isn’t true for the old-timers. Comparing SOA to Ruby, is like comparing a transport system to a footpath.

It is a subject important to me though. At the moment I’m carefully trying to marshal the merger of the function in the System p Hardware Management Console with that of IBM Systems Director and Director console. My desire is to make one simple management platform that acts both as the local platform director, managing configuration, hardware and service management etc. and at the same time providing a set of programmable, function services based interfaces to provide both remote access, and remote management.

So, I’m all for simplicity but it has to be thought through. We are doing this with the System p Configurations for SOA Entry Points. The original SOA Entry points were pure software plays divided into five categories, People, Process, Information, Connectivity, and Reuse. We are taking the entry points one step further and mapping the software onto System p removing another layer of complexity by showing how they work, how you can configure them and testing them as a total solution.

You can read the System p Configurations for SOA Entry Points overview here, via FTP

John Lennon once sang “It’s been too long since we took the time, No-one’s to blame, I know time flies so quickly” … “It’ll be just like starting over, starting over”.

Live Partition Mobility – It’s alive!

So, we’ve had a ton of interest in Live Partition Mobility, I can say that from the presentations and briefings I’ve done with customers and analysts, it’s both the most interesting topic from our recent Power 6 and AIX 6.1 announcement, and the one that gets the most questions.

This coming Monday in San Francisco we are holding a showcase technology forum to demonstrate the movement of workloads from one running UNIX system to another, while both systems are running. We will be showing the movement of an entire operating system and all its’ running applications from one server to another. The O/S can be either AIX or Red Hat and Novell SUSE Linux, which is pretty neat. The Live Partition Mobility is actually part of the firmware and processor design.

Using this technology can reduce downtime for applications, which was one of it’s original designs points. However, in increasingly energy conscious, and environmentally aware data centers, especially in places like California; Partition Mobility can offer some real unique advantages in letting you migrate work from one server to another, in fact from multiple servers, onto a single server over w/e and holiday periods, and power down the original servers. The evening before, or early in the morning of the day that you need to return to normal service, you just migrate the work back.

Sadly, Mondays event is already a sell out. No more invites available.

Power on Mars

Just like London buses, I don’t post for a while, then two came along together. Actually, I’ll follow this one up with some other interesting news for next week.

Anyway, a lot of the new on National Public Radio (NPR) today has been about NASAs next landing on Mars, instead of being another “bouncing ball” based landing, this time the Phoenix Mars Lander will be a more traditional rocket assisted landing, easy down gently. One thing NPR didn’t cover was that the Power Architecture will be at the heart of the mission and the lander. The major news organisations are just picking this up from an IBM press release, see Yahoo coverage here.

As Bowie sang “Wonder if he’ll ever know, He’s in the best selling show, Is there life on Mars?”

AIX beta going strong

I heard some interesting stats from the AIX-6 beta thats going on at the moment. Apparently there have been some 3,500 license accepts and more than 6,500 downloads. Given the normal beta only gets to less than 100 of our core accounts, this one should generate some interesting useage statistics and hopefully make the final product more useable, more quickly.

If you have not seen the details, they can be found on this page. But in summary some excellent new function is included:

  • Workload Partitions
    A new, software based, virtualization approach that complements the existing IBM System Logical Partitions by reducing the number of operating system images that have to be managed when consolidating workloads.
  • Role Based Access Control
    Provides improved security and manageability by allowing administrators to grant authorization for management of specific AIX resources to users other than root by associating those resources with a role that is then associated with a particular system user.
  • AIX Security Expert enhancements
    The AIX Security Expert has been enhanced to provide an option to store security templates directly in a Lightweight Directory Protocol (LDAP) directory—simplifying implementation of a consistent security across an entire enterprise.
  • Name Resolver Caching Daemon
    The Name Resolver Caching Daemon is a new facility to cache host lookup information locally which can improve the performance of applications that access this type of information multiple times.
  • probevue dynamic tracing
    probevue is a new dynamic tracing tool that can simplify debugging complex system or application code. This tool allows a developer or system administrator to dynamically insert trace breakpoints in existing code without having to recompile the code.
  • System Director Console for AIX
    This new facility provides direct access to the System Management Interface Tool (SMIT) in a Web browser. The System Director Console for AIX is included with AIX 6 and does not require any other Web server or other software.

AIX-6 beta runs on POWER6™, POWER5™, POWER4™ or PPC970 processors including the IBM System p™, IBM System p5™, IBM eServer™ p5, IBM eServer pSeries® server product lines, as well as IBM BladeCenter® JS21 blades and IntelliStation® POWER™ workstations.


About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group. I was formerly Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell, and an IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I'm an information technology optimist.

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