Get Industrial-Strength Virtualization for IBM i, AIX, and Linux with PowerVM

IBM i (OS/400, i5/OS)
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PowerVM-enabled virtualization is a means to control costs, improve performance, and enhance IT flexibility.

In a business environment that demands that we all find ways to do more with less, virtualization has been accurately promoted as delivering a number of benefits, including the following:

  • Reduce hardware costs.
  • Reduce server administration costs.
  • Reduce power consumption.
  • Reduce cooling requirements.
  • Simplify and enhance security.
  • More easily facilitate dynamic workload balancing.


Virtualization delivers these benefits by consolidating what were separate physical servers and running them as virtual servers on a single physical machine. The fact that there are fewer physical systems accounts for the reduction in hardware costs and for the lower power and cooling requirements. In addition, centralizing servers on fewer physical systems translates into less machines to manage, maintain, and secure and less geographic and hardware disparity to address. Finally, the net reduction of utility (power and cooling) requirements also reduces the cost of standby power requirements.


The load-balancing benefit comes as a result of being able to readily reallocate processor and other resources among the virtual servers. This is, at best, difficult and typically not possible to do rapidly when running separate physical servers.


One benefit of virtualization that is often not fully recognized is that virtualization makes it easy to rapidly create application environments and deploy new applications in either a test or production environment. Businesses no longer have to order and install new hardware when deploying a new application; now, they can create a new partition on existing hardware and run the application there. This minimizes impact to other applications by allowing new ones to run on their own virtual servers.


In addition, with virtualization, it is not necessary to have separate physical systems for test and development environments (assuming that network I/O performance is not adversely affected). They can be run on their own virtual servers within the same physical machine as is used to run the production virtual severs. The strict isolation of the virtual servers provided by an advanced virtualization engine can practically guarantee that any problems encountered during testing and development will not affect the production virtual servers running on the same hardware.


IBM i and, before it, i5/OS and OS/400 have long provided a platform for server virtualization through their logical partitioning (LPAR) facilities. Each partition can run a separate instance of an operating system. And the partitions are isolated from each other so that if one crashes, the others are unaffected.


What's more, because each partition can run a different operating system, including not just IBM i, but also AIX and Linux, IBM i can virtualize servers for all three operating systems running simultaneously on the same hardware. And each partition can have processor resources dedicated to it, or it can share resources with other partitions.


This support for multiple operating systems is critical for today's businesses because few organizations run a totally homogeneous computing environment. Without multi-operating-system capabilities, the benefits that virtualization delivers would be fragmented within the enterprise.


PowerVM standardizes virtualization functionality within the IBM Power Systems family and enhances this IBM i legacy of virtualization support to provide greater flexibility, more functionality, and higher performance.


Through its micro-partitioning feature, PowerVM supports up to 10 logical partitions per processor core. Thus, for example, an eight-core system can support up to 80 partitions. To optimize load-balancing and power-sharing capabilities, processor resources can be assigned to these partitions at a granularity of 1/100th of a core.


Most of the virtualization work of PowerVM is performed by the PowerVM hypervisor. Type 1 hypervisors, such as the PowerVM hypervisor, are run directly on the system's hardware. This compares with type 2 hypervisors, which are software applications running under an operating system.

The Power of PowerVM Virtualization

A number of PowerVM partitioning features are designed to optimize capacity utilization to improve operational performance while reducing server costs by making better use of existing resources. These features include the following:

  • Dynamic Logical Partitioning allows you to move processor, memory, and I/O resources between partitions on the fly to adapt to ongoing fluctuations of the loads experienced in each partition.
  • Multiple Shared Processor Pools make it possible to automatically balance processor usage among partitions.
  • The Virtual I/O server, a special-purpose partition, can be used to virtualize I/O resources and share them among partitions. This eliminates the need for dedicated network adapters, disk adapters and drives, and tape adapters and drives for each virtual server.
  • Shared Dedicated Capacity can be used to reallocate, on an as-available basis, spare CPU cycles from a dedicated partition to a shared pool. However, to ensure that the system continues to meet the defined business requirements, the dedicated partition has an unconditional first-call on those cycles.
  • Active Memory Sharing can share memory between partitions as required. Memory is dynamically reallocated on the fly to meet the fluctuating requirements of each partition.
  • Live Partition Mobility allows AIX and Linux partitions to be migrated from one physical server to another with little or no disruption to ongoing processes. This feature can be used to minimize downtime when the server must be upgraded or maintained.


Note: Some of the features described above require additional licensing fees and/or hardware costs. In addition, some of the features are not available on certain models. Check the chart showing feature availability on the various Power Systems editions.

Managing Power Systems Virtualization

Two tools can be used to manage the virtualization features of PowerVM: the Integrated Virtualization Manager (IVM) or the Hardware Management Console (HMC).


The IVM is a browser-based interface that allows you to configure virtualization features on a single system. It is included with all entry-level and midrange Power Systems servers. There are no additional licensing fees for the IVM, making it a cost-effective virtualization option for small and medium-sized businesses.


The HMC, which is packaged in an external tower or a rack-mounted server, includes a wider feature set than the IVM. In addition, whereas the IVM can be used to configure and manage virtual servers on only a single physical system, the HMC provides a central point of control for multiple physical Power System servers.


Dual HMCs can manage the same set of servers. Thus, if one HMC goes down, the second one can continue to be used to manage the physical and virtual servers attached to it, thereby minimizing the risk of virtualization monitoring, management, and administration downtime.


The HMC communicates with the Power System servers it manages through a standard Ethernet connection.


You can run either IVM or HMC under IBM Systems Director, which provides a single point of control for a multi-server data center.

PowerVM Advantages

PowerVM offers a number of advantages when compared to third-party, software-based virtualization engines. For one thing, IBM designed PowerVM specifically for IBM Power Systems. This reduces the chance of conflicts between the virtualization engine and the hardware and operating systems. And, as a type 1 hypervisor, PowerVM hypervisor provides tight integration with Power System servers and also allows PowerVM to offer more features and deliver higher performance through fewer layers of software.


Because PowerVM provides firmware-based virtualization, it is better able to isolate individual partitions than is the case with purely software-based, third-party virtualization. The result is that any problems or crashes in one partition are far less likely to affect activity in the other partitions. As a result, you are likely to experience less downtime than would be the case with virtualization software that runs under the operating system.


Furthermore, firmware-based partitioning is better able to avoid performance bottlenecks than software-based partitioning. And the greater isolation of partitions also contributes to enhanced security.


Automated, dynamic resource reallocation features—available with PowerVM, but not necessary with third-party virtualization engines—are critical to optimizing resource utilization. Without the ability to reallocate resources dynamically and, preferably, automatically, the physical server must be sized adequately such that each virtual server running on it can be permanently allocated sufficient resources to handle peak loads.


In contrast, when resources can be reallocated dynamically, the physical server can be sized to provide only adequate capacity for the peak load on the physical server as a whole. Because the timing of peak loads tends to vary among virtual servers, the peak load for the physical server as a whole is less than the sum of the peak loads for the virtual servers that run on it.


For a more detailed comparison of PowerVM and other virtualization options, please see the IBM white paper A Comparison of PowerVM and x86 Virtualization Performance.

Lowering the Incremental Costs of Adding Server Functionality

PowerVM-enabled virtualization makes it easy to lower the total cost (staff time and hardware) to add server functionality. Consider the following:


High Availability


HA solutions work by replicating all critical applications and user and system data from a production server to a hot-standby backup server. When the primary server is unavailable due to planned maintenance or unplanned events, users can be switched to the backup server with little or no downtime.


While the ideal HA solution replicates critical user and application data from a production server to a hot-standby server, in some cases there is value in replicating between partitions on the same hardware, such as to accommodate software migration or upgrades or to maintain a virtual server replica when the backup machine is unavailable. Virtualized hardware also makes HA affordable for some organizations that are not yet able to justify redundant hardware.


Furthermore, in a dual-hardware HA environment, the primary and production servers don't have to be separate physical machines. Instead, they could be virtual servers on the same system. Clearly, this approach will not eliminate the downtime that results from the physical server being unavailable, such as during a hardware upgrade, but it can eliminate considerable downtime caused by other events. For example, because different partitions can run different versions of the operating system, using this configuration, users can be switched to the backup virtual server when it comes time to upgrade the operating system of the primary virtual server. This can almost eliminate downtime during upgrades.


The ultimate HA solution uses two physical servers. This allows operations to continue if the physical server needs to be taken offline, such as when it must be upgraded. If those two servers are geographically separated, this configuration also serves to protect against downtime during a disaster because it is unlikely that both servers will be affected by a single disaster. Then, if the primary server is brought down by a disaster, users can be switched quickly to the remote backup.


With the help of virtualization, a dual-system HA solution, whether those systems are local or remote to each other, doesn't have to be as expensive a solution as it might at first seem.


Backup servers typically use few processor and memory resources when they are running solely as backups. During normal operations, their sole function is normally to accept updates from the primary server in order to keep the primary and backup servers synchronized. The backup server might also be used to run tape backup jobs and read-only batch reporting, but these functions usually aren't as demanding as the production applications and they can normally be scheduled for when the system isn't busy.


In a dual-system HA environment, each physical system doesn't have to serve as only a production server or only a backup server. On each of the two systems, some partitions can contain production virtual servers, while other partitions back up the production virtual servers on the other system, such as is depicted in Figure 1.



Figure 1: Split production and backup loads.


Using this configuration, neither server has to be sized sufficiently to handle the full production load because, during normal operations, neither physical system runs all of the production virtual servers.


When one physical or virtual server goes down or must be taken offline for maintenance, its production load will transfer to the other physical system, but this extra load is usually manageable.


Planned maintenance can be scheduled for when the business is closed (increasingly a rarity in the Web-enabled, globalized world) or when system utilization rates are typically low. Even if one of the physical systems is unavailable, a single physical server may be able to handle the full production load during slow periods. And PowerVM's load-balancing features can automatically reallocate resources to the formerly backup partitions that must assume production roles during these periods.


Unplanned outages can be more problematic because they can happen at any time, including during peak-load times. Thus, when using this balanced production/backup configuration, it is important to identify applications that can be shut down or curtailed in order to provide mission-critical applications with adequate performance when unplanned system outages occur.


Disaster Recovery


There are also scenarios in which one needs to rewind a production database to restore lost files or to create reports coincident with past events, such as to report on production and inventories as of the end of the previous night's manufacturing run. To support these requirements, virtualization reduces infrastructural logistics when setting up a secondary environment in which Continuous Data Protection software can be rapidly deployed to deliver "time-machine-like" functionality with little additional hardware cost or burden on the IT staff.


Data Mining, Archiving, or Generating Reports


Virtualization also allows rapid, cost-effective provisioning of a secondary environment from which CDP-style replication or database transformation tools can create a data warehouse with event and/or transactional integrity that can be used for data mining purposes.


These solutions are not a fantasy that will arrive only in the future. A wide range of existing mature, robust solutions are virtual-machine ready and deliver rapid, successful solutions across data mining and other infrastructural software applications. Eliminating the traditional impediments to creating a new server environment creates new levels of freedom to quickly evaluate options and create a more robust computing environment that works for your business.

Virtually Powerful and Affordable

Virtualization provides the ability to create a highly dynamic computing environment capable of rapidly responding to evolving business requirements. Furthermore, because virtualization is better able to optimize system resource usage, it can lower the total cost of operating a multi-server enterprise data center.


As seen above, PowerVM offers a superior virtualization environment, particularly when compared to virtualization engines that operate as a software application under a host operating system. Any organization that currently runs multiple physical Power Systems servers should at least be evaluating PowerVM-enabled virtualization as a means to control costs, improve performance, and enhance IT flexibility.



Henry Martinez

As Senior Vice President of Engineering, Henry Martinez has a broad spectrum of experience in the application of information technologies (IT), including traditional IT, consumer electronics, the utility industry, aerospace, and industrial automation. He has managed global, virtual R&D labs; launched high-technology startups; established domestic and international manufacturing operations; and negotiated and implemented technology alliances/transfers.


Prior to joining Vision Solutions, Henry has been Senior Vice President of New Product Development for CCC Network Systems, Vice President and General Manager of Excellon Automation's Laser Business Division, Director of Strategic Technologies for Leviton Manufacturing, and Research & Development and Unit Manager for Northrop Electronics. Martinez holds a BSEE from UCLA with graduate studies in computer science and has participated in Executive Management programs at Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology. Additionally, he is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), has authored article in several technical publications, and holds two U.S. patents.


Henry may be reached at For further information about Vision Solutions, visit or call 801.541.7769.







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    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.