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IBM Takes a Swipe at VMware

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IBM Takes a Swipe at VMware

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IBM, which invented virtualization back in “ye ole mainframe days,” has waded into the current discussion with entry-level virtualization for its Power6-based, usually Unix-run, System p servers and BladeCenter blades called PowerVM Express.

Now, PowerVM, you should know, used to be known as Advanced Power Virtualization (APV) and has been available from IBM on Unix since 2004.

What’s new here is that PowerVM lets p servers run x86 Linux binaries unmodified without recompilation.

It’s a facility now dubbed Lx86 that IBM got from Transitive and beta’d as the Application Virtual Environment.

That, IBM thinks, should advance server consolidation and make things altogether cheaper, not to mention persuade a few Linux users to migrate to bigger IBM systems.

Anyway, IBM is aiming a new low-end PowerVM Express at SMBs. It can create three partitions and will run $40 a core, a price point that undercuts VMware ESX substantially. Though ESX has more bells and whistles, IBM claims the scalability advantage.

The widgetry also comes in an $850-per-core Standard Edition and a $1,500-per-core Enterprise Edition, both of which can do 10 partitions a socket. That means that they can create a maximum 160 virtual partitions on a single 16-way p server or BladeCenter.

Apparently it can partition below the processor level to one-tenth the processor.


And the Enterprise Edition is supposed to do away with planned downtime via its VMware VMotion-like Live Partition Mobility feature, which can move any of PowerVM’s logical partition units (LPARs) from one physical server to another dynamically.

Anyway, this particular brand of virtualization will work for AIX, Linux and System i’s i5/OS, which Blue claims is “the broadest range of operating systems” in the business, pointing out that other people’s solutions – like VMware’s – are, for the most part, limited to supporting Intel servers.


IBM also says nearly 70% of Power6-based System p servers “use PowerVM technology today” so it’s unclear how much growth it expects out of IDC’s promise that virtualization software and services will be worth $15 billion in four years, up from $6.5 billion in 2006.

It’s supposed to be able to cut energy consumption by as much as 80%, reduce TCO by maybe 72% and, well, just manage server growth better.

Besides the software, IBM introduced an entry-level System p 520 Express (a maximum four cores and 64GB of memory) and a 4U 550 Express (a maximum eight cores and a hefty 256GB of memory) that it hopes will entice Solaris and HP/UX users to switch.

The memory’s big to accomodate databases and server consolidation.

There will also be a new release of the i5/OS in March that supports the BladeCenter’s new two-way dual-core Power6 JS22 blades and Linux and AIX on the JS22 and JS21 servers for first time.


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