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Active Memory Sharing Utilizes a System's Existing Resources

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IBM's new feature in PowerVM Enterprise Edition takes configuring, but once you set it, you can forget it.

 

One of the visions that IBM has for Power Systems within the enterprise is to maximize utilization of server resources through virtualization. One of the more interesting technology announcements to emerge from COMMON this year is support for Active Memory Sharing in PowerVM.

 

Active Memory Sharing is a new technology that represents the next step in resource virtualization. It's a way for users to improve memory utilization by dynamically allocating a pool of physical memory across logical partitions. The idea is to achieve higher utilization of system resources and deploy an increased number of workloads on a single physical system footprint. The goal here is to enable doing as much work as possible with existing resources and right-size all the workloads that you deploy.

 

In a white paper by Erwin Earley, managing consultant, IBM i Technology Services, the company explains the capabilities, benefits, and necessary conditions for Active Memory Sharing. A component of PowerVM Enterprise Edition, Active Memory Sharing is available on Power6 processor-based systems running IBM i 6.1 (with enablement PTFs), AIX 6.1 (TL3), and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11. For partitions that will be leveraging Active Memory Sharing, a virtual I/O server (VIOS) must be deployed. Partitions all must be "pure" virtual partitions, meaning that all I/O access must be virtualized by the VIOS partition, and a shared memory partition must be leveraging shared processors.

 

Using Active Memory Sharing, users do not need to allocate the maximum amount of memory a given workload might require at peak performance because the configured shared memory pool will adjust automatically. As memory is needed, the shared pool of memory self-balances accordingly. It's similar to a shared processor pool and represents the total physical memory resource that assigned shared memory partitions have available. The pool of memory automatically flows between running partitions without manual intervention once the partitions are configured. A shared memory partition is defined as one that has been configured to use a shared memory pool.

 

Defining a shared memory partition means defining the minimum, maximum, and desired (assigned) memory for the partition, much the way a user defines logical partitions that don't share memory. The only catch about shared memory partitions is that changing a partition between being "dedicated" and one that shares memory requires that the partition first be shut down.

 

To understand the idea of a shared memory partition, it helps to define one using dedicated memory. In a dedicated partition, the user configures the allocation of memory as minimum, maximum, or desired. The allocated memory is referred to as logical memory. But once the partition is activated, the allocated memory remains constant, unless the user makes a Dynamic LPAR change.

 

With Active Memory Sharing, the partition's logical memory can be mapped to any physical memory contained within a shared memory pool. Physical memory assigned to one partition can be reassigned to a different partition as requirements change. The physical memory is not dedicated to a single partition; it can be mapped to any logical memory address of any partition within the shared memory pool and remapped as needed. The pool of physical memory is, in effect, dynamically allocated across logical partitions.

 

Earley uses the example of a system that has a total of 350GB of physical memory, but the logical partitions are defined at 450GB. This wouldn't work on a system that didn't have Active Memory Sharing since it could result in either partitions with less than the specified memory definition or one that actually fails going active. With Active Memory Sharing, the user takes a portion of the physical memory and defines a pool of shared memory that is managed across a set of shared memory partitions. The result is the system now can support higher memory requirements. This is achieved by dynamically adjusting the allocation of shared memory within the designated partitions.

 

When a shared memory partition needs additional memory, the hypervisor acquires that memory from another partition within the shared memory pool. An interesting aspect of all this is that the hypervisor works in conjunction with the operating system to decide where to get the needed memory. The hypervisor takes cues from the operating system to determine which memory pages it will acquire. There are provisions for the over-commitment of logical memory, with overflows going to a paging device such as the newly supported Power Systems solid-state disk drives (SSD).

 

With Active Memory Sharing, the amount of memory available to a partition will change during the course of a series of tasks, depending on the memory requirements of the workload. Earley notes that Active Memory Sharing is intended for workloads that have memory requirements that vary over time. The sharing of memory allows for automatic expansion and contraction of the partitions' physical memory footprint. Active Memory Sharing is best used where multiple workloads have peak resource demands at different times. Server workloads spread across geographically disparate areas might be candidates.

 

Workloads that differ between day and night, such as where resource requirements are typically peaking during normal business hours and other workloads peak at night could be enhanced by employing Active Memory Sharing. These might be situations where partitions have been configured to support interactive business-hour functions, such as sales kiosks, while other partitions might support batch processing at night.

 

Another scenario for use would be one in which there's a mix of workloads and corresponding partitions, but each partition is used infrequently. As Earley says, "Environments that can most benefit from Active Memory Sharing are those with a mix of workloads that have different peak demands at different times. The idea is to have one workload's resource requirements low while another's...requirements are high and to allow the hypervisor to manage [the] balance of resources."

 

Earley notes that environments where demands are consistent across all workloads may not be ideal for Active Memory Sharing, nor are environments requiring high or sustained memory requirements. Environments that require high-performance predictability also may not be suitable.

 

"The primary benefit of Active Memory Sharing is maximizing overall memory utilization on the system rather than improving the overall performance of the workloads implemented on the system," Earley says.

 

Deploying Active Memory Sharing requires a series of simple progressive steps, starting from a baseline of dedicated memory partitions and proceeding toward a shared memory pool, checking to see if the shared memory has sufficient physical memory behind it to satisfy peaks.

 

Active Memory Sharing is an expansion of the virtualization capabilities of IBM's Power Systems, one that may save companies the expense of purchasing unneeded additional memory when running many workloads. Administrators now have a means of utilizing the memory they already have on their systems. Combined with processor micro-partitioning and I/O virtualization, Active Memory Sharing should help some companies manage their resources more efficiently.

Chris Smith

Chris Smith was the Senior News Editor at MC Press Online from 2007 to 2012 and was responsible for the news content on the company's Web site. Chris has been writing about the IBM midrange industry since 1992 when he signed on with Duke Communications as West Coast Editor of News 3X/400. With a bachelor's from the University of California at Berkeley, where he majored in English and minored in Journalism, and a master's in Journalism from the University of Colorado, Boulder, Chris later studied computer programming and AS/400 operations at Long Beach City College. An award-winning writer with two Maggie Awards, four business books, and a collection of poetry to his credit, Chris began his newspaper career as a reporter in northern California, later worked as night city editor for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, and went on to edit a national cable television trade magazine. He was Communications Manager for McDonnell Douglas Corp. in Long Beach, Calif., before it merged with Boeing, and oversaw implementation of the company's first IBM desktop publishing system there. An editor for MC Press Online since 2007, Chris has authored some 300 articles on a broad range of topics surrounding the IBM midrange platform that have appeared in the company's eight industry-leading newsletters. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

IBM's new feature in PowerVM Enterprise Edition takes configuring, but once you set it, you can forget it.

 

One of the visions that IBM has for Power Systems within the enterprise is to maximize utilization of server resources through virtualization. One of the more interesting technology announcements to emerge from COMMON this year is support for Active Memory Sharing in PowerVM.

 

Active Memory Sharing is a new technology that represents the next step in resource virtualization. It's a way for users to improve memory utilization by dynamically allocating a pool of physical memory across logical partitions. The idea is to achieve higher utilization of system resources and deploy an increased number of workloads on a single physical system footprint. The goal here is to enable doing as much work as possible with existing resources and right-size all the workloads that you deploy.

 

In a white paper by Erwin Earley, managing consultant, IBM i Technology Services, the company explains the capabilities, benefits, and necessary conditions for Active Memory Sharing. A component of PowerVM Enterprise Edition, Active Memory Sharing is available on Power6 processor-based systems running IBM i 6.1 (with enablement PTFs), AIX 6.1 (TL3), and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11. For partitions that will be leveraging Active Memory Sharing, a virtual I/O server (VIOS) must be deployed. Partitions all must be "pure" virtual partitions, meaning that all I/O access must be virtualized by the VIOS partition, and a shared memory partition must be leveraging shared processors.

 

Using Active Memory Sharing, users do not need to allocate the maximum amount of memory a given workload might require at peak performance because the configured shared memory pool will adjust automatically. As memory is needed, the shared pool of memory self-balances accordingly. It's similar to a shared processor pool and represents the total physical memory resource that assigned shared memory partitions have available. The pool of memory automatically flows between running partitions without manual intervention once the partitions are configured. A shared memory partition is defined as one that has been configured to use a shared memory pool.

 

Defining a shared memory partition means defining the minimum, maximum, and desired (assigned) memory for the partition, much the way a user defines logical partitions that don't share memory. The only catch about shared memory partitions is that changing a partition between being "dedicated" and one that shares memory requires that the partition first be shut down.

 

To understand the idea of a shared memory partition, it helps to define one using dedicated memory. In a dedicated partition, the user configures the allocation of memory as minimum, maximum, or desired. The allocated memory is referred to as logical memory. But once the partition is activated, the allocated memory remains constant, unless the user makes a Dynamic LPAR change.

 

With Active Memory Sharing, the partition's logical memory can be mapped to any physical memory contained within a shared memory pool. Physical memory assigned to one partition can be reassigned to a different partition as requirements change. The physical memory is not dedicated to a single partition; it can be mapped to any logical memory address of any partition within the shared memory pool and remapped as needed. The pool of physical memory is, in effect, dynamically allocated across logical partitions.

 

Earley uses the example of a system that has a total of 350GB of physical memory, but the logical partitions are defined at 450GB. This wouldn't work on a system that didn't have Active Memory Sharing since it could result in either partitions with less than the specified memory definition or one that actually fails going active. With Active Memory Sharing, the user takes a portion of the physical memory and defines a pool of shared memory that is managed across a set of shared memory partitions. The result is the system now can support higher memory requirements. This is achieved by dynamically adjusting the allocation of shared memory within the designated partitions.

 

When a shared memory partition needs additional memory, the hypervisor acquires that memory from another partition within the shared memory pool. An interesting aspect of all this is that the hypervisor works in conjunction with the operating system to decide where to get the needed memory. The hypervisor takes cues from the operating system to determine which memory pages it will acquire. There are provisions for the over-commitment of logical memory, with overflows going to a paging device such as the newly supported Power Systems solid-state disk drives (SSD).

 

With Active Memory Sharing, the amount of memory available to a partition will change during the course of a series of tasks, depending on the memory requirements of the workload. Earley notes that Active Memory Sharing is intended for workloads that have memory requirements that vary over time. The sharing of memory allows for automatic expansion and contraction of the partitions' physical memory footprint. Active Memory Sharing is best used where multiple workloads have peak resource demands at different times. Server workloads spread across geographically disparate areas might be candidates.

 

Workloads that differ between day and night, such as where resource requirements are typically peaking during normal business hours and other workloads peak at night could be enhanced by employing Active Memory Sharing. These might be situations where partitions have been configured to support interactive business-hour functions, such as sales kiosks, while other partitions might support batch processing at night.

 

Another scenario for use would be one in which there's a mix of workloads and corresponding partitions, but each partition is used infrequently. As Earley says, "Environments that can most benefit from Active Memory Sharing are those with a mix of workloads that have different peak demands at different times. The idea is to have one workload's resource requirements low while another's...requirements are high and to allow the hypervisor to manage [the] balance of resources."

 

Earley notes that environments where demands are consistent across all workloads may not be ideal for Active Memory Sharing, nor are environments requiring high or sustained memory requirements. Environments that require high-performance predictability also may not be suitable.

 

"The primary benefit of Active Memory Sharing is maximizing overall memory utilization on the system rather than improving the overall performance of the workloads implemented on the system," Earley says.

 

Deploying Active Memory Sharing requires a series of simple progressive steps, starting from a baseline of dedicated memory partitions and proceeding toward a shared memory pool, checking to see if the shared memory has sufficient physical memory behind it to satisfy peaks.

 

Active Memory Sharing is an expansion of the virtualization capabilities of IBM's Power Systems, one that may save companies the expense of purchasing unneeded additional memory when running many workloads. Administrators now have a means of utilizing the memory they already have on their systems. Combined with processor micro-partitioning and I/O virtualization, Active Memory Sharing should help some companies manage their resources more efficiently.

Chris Smith

Chris Smith was the Senior News Editor at MC Press Online from 2007 to 2012 and was responsible for the news content on the company's Web site. Chris has been writing about the IBM midrange industry since 1992 when he signed on with Duke Communications as West Coast Editor of News 3X/400. With a bachelor's from the University of California at Berkeley, where he majored in English and minored in Journalism, and a master's in Journalism from the University of Colorado, Boulder, Chris later studied computer programming and AS/400 operations at Long Beach City College. An award-winning writer with two Maggie Awards, four business books, and a collection of poetry to his credit, Chris began his newspaper career as a reporter in northern California, later worked as night city editor for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, and went on to edit a national cable television trade magazine. He was Communications Manager for McDonnell Douglas Corp. in Long Beach, Calif., before it merged with Boeing, and oversaw implementation of the company's first IBM desktop publishing system there. An editor for MC Press Online since 2007, Chris has authored some 300 articles on a broad range of topics surrounding the IBM midrange platform that have appeared in the company's eight industry-leading newsletters. He can be reached at chriswriting@cs.com.

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    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using NodeRun.com as a pre-built development environment

     

     

  • Inside the Integrated File System (IFS)

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericDuring this webinar, you’ll learn basic tips, helpful tools, and integrated file system commands—including WRKLNK—for managing your IFS directories and Access Client Solutions (ACS). We’ll answer your most pressing IFS questions, including:

    • What is stored inside my IFS directories?
    • How do I monitor the IFS?
    • How do I replicate the IFS or back it up?
    • How do I secure the IFS?

    Understanding what the integrated file system is and how to work with it must be a critical part of your systems management plans for IBM i.

     

  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.

     

     

  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • How to Meet the Newest Encryption Requirements on IBM i

    SB PowerTech WC GenericA growing number of compliance mandates require sensitive data to be encrypted. But what kind of encryption solution will satisfy an auditor and how can you implement encryption on IBM i? Watch this on-demand webinar to find out how to meet today’s most common encryption requirements on IBM i. You’ll also learn:

    • Why disk encryption isn’t enough
    • What sets strong encryption apart from other solutions
    • Important considerations before implementing encryption

     

     

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.

     

     

  • Fight Cyber Threats with IBM i Encryption

    SB PowerTech WC GenericCyber attacks often target mission-critical servers, and those attack strategies are constantly changing. To stay on top of these threats, your cybersecurity strategies must evolve, too. In this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

     

     

     

  • 10 Practical IBM i Security Tips for Surviving Covid-19 and Working From Home

    SB PowerTech WC GenericNow that many organizations have moved to a work from home model, security concerns have risen.

    During this session Carol Woodbury will discuss the issues that the world is currently seeing such as increased malware attacks and then provide practical actions you can take to both monitor and protect your IBM i during this challenging time.

     

  • How to Transfer IBM i Data to Microsoft Excel

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_Generic3 easy ways to get IBM i data into Excel every time
    There’s an easy, more reliable way to import your IBM i data to Excel? It’s called Sequel. During this webinar, our data access experts demonstrate how you can simplify the process of getting data from multiple sources—including Db2 for i—into Excel. Watch to learn how to:

    • Download your IBM i data to Excel in a single step
    • Deliver data to business users in Excel via email or a scheduled job
    • Access IBM i data directly using the Excel add-in in Sequel

    Make 2020 the year you finally see your data clearly, quickly, and securely. Start by giving business users the ability to access crucial business data from IBM i the way they want it—in Microsoft Excel.

     

     

  • HA Alternatives: MIMIX Is Not Your Only Option on IBM i

    SB_HelpSystems_WC_GenericIn this recorded webinar, our experts introduce you to the new HA transition technology available with our Robot HA software. You’ll learn how to:

    • Transition your rules from MIMIX (if you’re happy with them)
    • Simplify your day-to-day activities around high availability
    • Gain back time in your work week
    • Make your CEO happy about reducing IT costs

    Don’t stick with a legacy high availability solution that makes you uncomfortable when transitioning to something better can be simple, safe, and cost-effective.

     

     

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  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • ACO MONITOR Manages your IBM i 24/7 and Notifies You When Your IBM i Needs Assistance!

    SB DDL Systems 5429More than a paging system - ACO MONITOR is a complete systems management solution for your Power Systems running IBM i. ACO MONITOR manages your Power System 24/7, uses advanced technology (like two-way messaging) to notify on-duty support personnel, and responds to complex problems before they reach critical status.

    ACO MONITOR is proven technology and is capable of processing thousands of mission-critical events daily. The software is pre-configured, easy to install, scalable, and greatly improves data center efficiency.