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System i Tops in Virtualization Wonderland

Quoting from iSeries Network.com

In the virtualization wonderland, the Cheshire Cat is the System i, grinning broadly in utter confidence that no one has a better handle on the technology it pioneered. Meanwhile, the role of newcomer Alice is shared by Microsoft and Intel as they make their way around new territory while trying to avoid potential "rabbit holes."

With the growing popularity of virtualization as a hot "new" technology and one of the latest buzzwords, Microsoft last year announced plans to build Windows-based software for supporting multiple operating systems on one server. The company already offers a Virtual Server product that runs on top of Windows and supports multiple Windows sessions, but it doesn't take advantage of built-in virtualization technology offered by chipmaker Intel.

Meanwhile, that cool cat known as the System i has played in the virtualization Wonderland for years, and has a great deal of experience in the area. Its POWER5 processor can support up to 10 micro-partitions per chip and has IBM's Hypervisor technology behind it. Virtual storage is enabled with every System i, and the built-in Virtualization Engine console manages it all.

"It really is a whole system capable of virtualization," says Craig Johnson, an IBM System i product manager.

System i customers can logically divide the platform into multiple partitions that can support different operating systems and then move the processor resources among those partitions to meet the computing requirements of each at any given time.

And like the White Rabbit, System i customers are taking advantage of the tools available in virtualization wonderland. Since IBM introduced logical partitioning in 1999 with V4R4, the company has seen the proliferation of more than 30,000 partitions in production today.

On the System i, Big Blue brought out virtualization support for integrated xSeries solutions in the 1990s, Linux in 2001, and AIX in 2004. Customers have ordered hundreds of AIX partitions, thousands of Linux partitions, and tens of thousands of integrated xSeries solutions, Johnson says.

On the other hand, Microsoft's new software will provide a thin hypervisor that sits on top of the hardware and virtualizes resources like CPU and memory so it can create multiple OS sessions, Microsoft says. One of the sessions will provide the control for stopping and starting virtual sessions. The new technology will support Windows, Linux, and other operating systems that run on x86 servers.

VMware is another virtualization software package for x86 machines, and an open-source software package called Xen is also available.

Still, none of these Intel-based solutions have the integrated features and built-in management that the System i offers. "Virtualization is getting a lot of notice on x86 environments using VMWare or Xen," says Jean Bozman, research vice president for IDC's worldwide server group. "But it's software that lets you create multiple environments. If you want to provision software or manage it, you may have to add additional products or layers to that software solution. With System i, it's already available as it ships."

Lately, the attention on virtualization seems to stem from the technology's ability to reduce and control IT costs.

"Everyone is trying to get their arms around operational costs in various ways," Bozman says. "Many are simplifying their infrastructures and using virtualization to get there." Because the System i already has virtualization technology and management built in, it helps control those costs.

By running multiple operating systems on one box, IT departments can consolidate many servers onto one system. Using virtualization technology also helps increase server utilization through hosting multiple copies of an operating platform on a single machine and extracting as much work as possible from that system.

Read the original article, here.

Published Monday, June 05, 2006 1:02 PM by David Marshall
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