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IBM PowerVM: Product Overview and Insight

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted February 28, 2019


See the full list of best server virtualization software.

Bottom Line:

IBM PowerVM can virtualize AIX, IBM Linux, and IBM i clients running on its Power server platform. Indeed, it is one of the most full featured virtulization programs on the market – no surprise, given IBM's deep legacy in the data center.

But it may not be the easiest platform to implement. It will require experts to deploy it. Consequently, mid-sized and large companies should do fine, but SMBs may be best to avoid it unless they can afford outside help. IBM PowerVM is geared specifically for today's advanced data centers with demanding application workloads.

Product Description:

IBM PowerVM can consolidate multiple workloads onto fewer systems, increasing server utilization and reducing cost. PowerVM provides a secure and scalable server virtualization environment for AIX, IBM i and Linux applications built upon the RAS features of the Power Systems platform. In short, its hypervisor is quite flexible. It can help provide services in the cloud faster by automating deployment of VMs and storage. It can also help eliminate downtime via live mobility between servers.

PowerVM 2.2.6 delivers enterprise-grade virtualization, providing the foundation for cloud computing on IBM Power Systems. It can efficiently share resources among applications, consolidate multiple workloads, and provide the application mobility in a multi-cloud infrastructure. It is said to increase resource utilization, reduce operating costs, and provide a more agile environment for IBM AIX, IBM i, and IBM Linux applications running on Power Systems.

In the most recent release, IBM has more tightly integrated PowerVM with the Power platform. Every POWER9 server comes with POWERVM Enterprise Edition. There is also a Standard Edition as well as an IBM PowerVM, Linux Edition. PowerVM Standard Edition includes the following components:

  • Micro-Partitioning technology
  • N-Port ID Virtualization (NPIV)
  • Partition suspend and resume is supported on POWER8 processor-based servers when the firmware is at level 8.4.0, or later.
  • PowerVM NovaLink
  • Shared processor pools
  • Shared storage pools
  • Single Root I/O Virtualization (SR-IOV)
  • Thin provisioning
  • Virtual I/O Server (VIOS)
  • Virtual Network Interface Controller adapters

“It has been very reliable with little to no downtime. We have been able to stretch our IT dollars because the refresh rate on IBM Power can run for years. Also, we have been able to add many more VMs to physical machines than other platforms can run,” said a data center manager in manufacturing.

Servers/Operating Systems:

AIX, Linux and IBM i clients

“Our company utilizes VMware and PowerVM. VMware is user friendly and makes supporting Windows OS easier. PowerVM is moving in that direction. PowerVM is better in that you can prioritize workloads across different VMs and be granular in your reservation of cores and virtual CPUs. PowerVM allows you to modify VM characteristics while the VM is up and running,” said a System Admin in oil & gas.

Implementation:

PowerVM is a software download.

Scalability:

Up to 1000 VMs on a single server.

Overhead:

10% to 15%

Management:

Management tools such as Hardware Management Console (HMC), Integrated Virtualization Manager (IVM), and PowerVC help to aggregate and manage resources by using a consolidated logical view. You can allocate processors to partitions in increments of 0.01, which allows multiple partitions to share the processing power of the system. When the firmware is at level 7.6, or later, micropartitions can be defined as small as 0.05 of a processor and can be changed in increments as small as 0.01 of a processor. A maximum of 20 micropartitions can be created per core.

A running AIX, Linux, or IBM i logical partition can be suspended along with its operating system and applications. You can share memory among partitions in a shared memory pool, by using PowerVM Active Memory Sharing. Power Virtualization Performance (PowerVP) is a performance monitoring solution that provides detailed and real-time information about virtualized workloads that are running on Power Systems. You can use PowerVP to understand how virtual workloads use resources, to analyze performance bottlenecks, and to make informed choices about resource allocation and virtualized machine placement.

Patching/Backup:

Provided by other IBM Power tools.

Migration:

You can migrate an active or inactive AIX, Linux, or IBM i logical partition from one system to another by using Live Partition Mobility.

Security:

POWER systems provide a secured server platform. POWER9 hardware and firmware make it even more secure for cloud deployment with key features for PowerVM servers. Implementation includes:

  • A Secure IPL Process or Secure Boot which only allows platform manufacturer signed Hostboot and POWER Hypervisor (PHYP) related firmware up through and including Partition Firmware (PFW) to run on the system.
  • A framework to support Remote Attestation of the system firmware stack through a hardware Trusted Platform Module (TPM).

Key Markets:

Virtualization for AIX, Linux and IBM i clients running IBM Power platforms.

“It may be over engineered for smaller applications. However, if the infrastructure is in place you can utilize it to run Linux VMs as well,” said a System Admin in Oil & gas

Cost:

Starting at $590 per core, free with some other IBM products.

Product

IBM PowerVM

Platforms

AIX, Linux and IBM i clients

Scalability

1000 VMs on a single server

Overhead %

10 to 15

Markets

Virtualization for AIX, Linux and IBM i clients running IBM Power platforms

Cost

$590 per core

Migration

Move active or inactive VMs

Key Differentiator

Well suited for IBM environments

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