IBMi where i really does stand for integration…

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We have been running 3 separate IBM i systems for a number of years now so that we could test the products we develop and provide some level of recovery should one of the systems have a failure. We also run a number of Linux based systems which we have used for virtualization projects and development of the PHP websites we run as well as Windows desktops and Servers. As you can imagine that burns up not only a lot of power but a lot of time to manage each of the separate environments and keep each one up to date with fixes and software patches.

Previously we never felt we had an IBMi system that could handle a Virtualized environment so we never attempted to put one in place and just kept replacing the existing systems as needed. At the end of last year we looked at getting one of the new Power7 systems to replace the old iSeries (520) we have and use it to build our dream setup of multiple partitions running on a single footprint. Unfortunately we felt IBM’s pricing policy (we pay 30% more than our US cousins for the same system due to IBM’s pricing policy for Canada. They are not the only ones that do it either as we found out so any tech solution from US base providers costs you more in Canada than it does in the US.) was out of touch with reality with the Loonie now being on par if not higher than the greenback.. So we decided to take an alternative route, after some discussion with a close friend and hardware guru we decided to beef up our existing 8203-E4A Power6 system and test out what the performance would be in a virtualized environment.

First thing we needed to do was to decide whether to run this under a HMC or go for the new Power VM Virtualization method. The Power VM seemed like a suitable option but we wanted to gain some experience with HMC and the restriction of the number of LPAR’s you could create under Power VM plus micro partitioning of the CPU sealed the deal. This meant we had to order a new copy of the PowerVM standard edition, we also added AIX Version 7 and a 3 year SWMA for each of the products. Next we needed to order a HMC and some additional disks (4 x 140GB), a Raid controller and more memory (additional 4 GB), we looked at IBM but again found the pricing to be too high for us to make it worth our while. So we found a HMC on eBay and ordered disk, Raid controller and memory for an IBM business partner in Europe (Yes it was far cheaper to order and pay delivery from Europe than to order in North America).

Once the disk and memory was installed and configured with the new Raid capabilities we set up the HMC and made it the console for all of our existing systems which replaced the old LAN console technology we had been using. All we needed now was the software to allow us to partition the systems CPU, this was where the fun started.
We placed the order before the Christmas break for all of the software in the hopes of being able to download the software and get started while there wasn’t much customer activity in the expectation it would be a pretty simple affair. 6 weeks later and we still don’t have the software. Some of that is due to our request to download the software originally but after seeing that the download was over 70GB we decided it was too much and would be far quicker to order the media. That was after it took IBM nearly a month just to get the downloads to show up on our entitlement page. Then IBM said it would take a week to deliver the media which came and went with only an update being delivered and not the actual based installation media! I have to say the invoicing department is on the ball though as we did get the invoices almost as soon as the orders were placed.

This did not stop us from doing anything though, we were installing IBMi and SuSe Linux on the system as well so we could moved ahead with that while IBM sorts out the other issues. The SuSe Linux media was easily obtained and downloaded and we already have copies of the IBMi software so we moved ahead and installed those first. The next post will be about the experiences we had while installing each of those LAPR’s and some of the problems we stumbled across especially with the lack of clear and understandable documentation for installing guest partitions under IBMi.

Hope fully IBM will get us the AIX software before we write about the other installs, but I have to say my fears about the performance hit the partitioning would have on the work we carry out was totally unfounded, it even seems to run better now than it did before and the guest partition that replaced an old 515 system is definitely faster than we could have hoped for. The older 520 and 515 will still be around as they will be our recovery systems should anything happen to the new setup but they are powered down and off line for now.

So this post started off with the heading of “IBMi where i really does stand for integration” and I am going to say we are very happy with the results so far, we do have integrated the work of 4 systems into one and seen no detrimental performance issues so far. Once we have AIX we will have our dream system all under one roof.


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