IBM talks up virtualisation mobility

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IBM talks up virtualisation mobility

IBM expects that the ability to move running virtual partitions between physical servers will give the company an additional edge in the Unix server market.

Live Partition Mobility is currently in beta and the technology is slated for release in November for Power6 servers running AIX.

During a meeting at its San Francisco office, IBM claimed that will be the only server vendor that is capable of such live partition moving.

The meeting was timed as a response to Tuesday's unveiling of Sun's UltraSparc T2 processor by Sun Microsystems, better known by its Niagara 2 codename, as well as the Linuxworld San Francisco tradeshow that kicks off on Tuesday as well.

Although Niagara 2 traditionally targets high throughput applications such as web servers, the chip also drastically increased its floating point capabilities. Sun published floating point benchmark results that outstripped those of IBM's Power6 processor by 6 per cent.

Floating point calculations are typical for scientific-style simulations and models.

Sun in its press release however didn't focus on the high performance computing space, most likely because the Niagara doesn't scale to very large systems that are common for that segment. Instead the server vendor targets the processor at web servers as well as routers and switches.

"With Niagara 2, Sun focused on a niche with the high throughput web serving, which can be very easily done with blade [servers]," complained Scott Handy, vice president for worldwide marketing and strategy for IBM's Power systems.

IBM furthermore claimed a more elegant chip design. Design features such as strained silicon and an integrated memory controller allows it to control overall power consumption while increasing performance with a dual core chip compared to Sun's 8-core Niagara.

Reducing the number of cores can lead to savings on software licenses. Especially Oracle is known for charging users by the core rather than per socket or physical CPU. The database vendor for instance charges 2 licenses for each Niagara processor and 1.5 licenses for each IBM Power6 chip. A quad core x86 processor will set back the user 2 licenses.

Although performance is important, customers are increasingly asking for features such as virtualisation support and improved power efficiency, Handy charged.

He cited Big Blue's growing market share in Unix servers as evidence that the company's message is catching on. He also said that the company has completed 700 migrations from Sun and HP servers to AIX on Power systems over the last 18 months, generating more than $500m in revenues.

Handy especially talked up the Live Migration technology because it will cut down on planned down time, which occurs when system administrators have to shut down a server to perform hardware maintenance.

VMWare currently offers its Vmotion technology, but requires both servers to simultaneously access the same virtual image. IBM's technology physically moves the entire operating system and application stack to a new system.

The Xen open source technology will offer live migration in a future upgrade. Microsoft too plans to offer it as a feature to its Viridian virtualisation technology but doesn’t have a projected launch date.

Chip vendors too are catching on. Intel is adding a Flex Migration technology to Penryn, its 45nm processor that is due out early next year. AMD already is offering a similar technology in its Opteron processor, although no operating system currently supports the feature.
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