Appliances, Stacks and software virtual machines

A couple of things from the “Monkmaster” this morning peaked my interest and deserved a post rather than a comment. First up was James post on “your Sons IBM“. James discusses a recent theme of his around stackless stacks, and simplicity. Next-up came a tweet link on cohesiveFT and their elastic server on demand.

These are very timely, I’ve been working on a effort here in Power Systems for the past couple of months with my ATSM, Meghna Paruthi, on our appliance strategy. These are, as always with me, one layer lower than the stuff James blogs on, I deal with plumbing. It’s a theme and topic I’ll return to a few times in the coming weeks as I’m just about to wrap up the effort. We are currently looking for some Independent Software Vendors( ISVs) who already package their offerings in VMWare or Microsoft virtual appliance formats and either would like to do something similar for Power Systems, or alternatively have tried it and don’t think it would work for Power Systems.

Simple, easy to use software appliances which can be quickly and easily deployed into PowerVM Logical Partitions have a lot of promise. I’d like to have a market place of stackless, semi-or-total black box systems that can be deployed easily and quickly into a partition and use existing capacity or dynamic capacity upgrade on demand to get the equivalent of cloud computing within a Power System. Given we can already run circa 200-logical partitions on a single machine, and are planing something in the region of 4x that for the p7 based servers with PowerVM, we need to do something about the infrastructure for creating, packaging, servicing, updating and managing them.

We’ve currently got six-sorta-appliance projects in flight, one related to future datacenters, one with WebSphere XD, one with DB2, a couple around security and some ideas on entry level soft appliances.

So far it looks like OVF wrappers around the Network Installation Manager aka NIM, look like the way to go for AIX based appliances, with similar processes for i5/OS and Linux on Power appliances. However, there are a number of related issues about packaging, licensing and inter and intra appliance communication that I’m looking for some input on. So, if you are an ISV, or a startup, or even in independent contractor who is looking at how to package software for Power Systems, please feel free to post here, or email, I’d love to engage.

3 Responses to “Appliances, Stacks and software virtual machines”


  1. 1 James Governor February 15, 2008 at 10:03 am

    Thanks for the incoming link, and your rather spiffing use of “stackless”.

    Stephen O’Grady has been tracking the virtual appliance space. If you were a client he could probably help you build the list of ISVs. 😉

    Stephen is a demon for “creating, packaging, servicing, updating and managing them” kind of thinking, one reason he is excited by bitrock – http://redmonk.com/sogrady/2008/02/12/bitrock-application-installation-in-a-networked-world/

  2. 2 cathcam February 15, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Thanks for the heads-up on Stephens post, I’d already taken a cursory look at BitRock, its interesting in so much as it does network install, but NIM is already pretty good for that but focussed on AIX. If we update that to deal with i5/OS and Linux on Power, then what we need is tooling to build the packages, to inspect, update etc.

    Currently there seems to be a lot of interest around OVF. The only real question is should we wait or go with something of our own. As you know, as the open guy I’m always up for standards, but is this a standard too far?

    Maybe I should try and schedule time with Stephen when he’s in Austin in April. I’ll be back in the UK sometime in the next 8-weeks to get a new visa. I’ll update dopplr with trip dates and details when I have them.


  1. 1 People Over Process » links for 2008-02-16 Trackback on February 16, 2008 at 1:27 am

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About & Contact

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


I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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