Integrating PowerVC in an IBM i Shop

By Dana Boehler

The speed of business has never been faster. Product release cycles have shrunk to timelines inconceivable in the past. Some fashion retailers are now releasing new product every two weeks, a cycle that historically only happened 4-8 times a year, and certain retailers even have product available immediately after it is displayed on the runway.

The demand for immediate insight into the state of sales numbers, ad campaigns, and other business functions has made the continuous aggregation of data commonplace. And if those factors weren’t pressure enough, the threat of ever-evolving security hazards is generating mountains of updates, code changes, and configuration adjustments — all of which need to be properly vetted before entering a production environment.

All of this activity needs to run on infrastructure that administrators like ourselves must manage, often with fewer coworkers to assist. Thankfully, for those of us running IBM i on IBM Power Systems, IBM has provided a robust cloud management tool that allows us to quickly spin up and spin down systems: PowerVC.

PowerVC allows users to manage existing IBM Power System partitions, create images from those partitions, and deploy new partitions based on those images. More recent versions of PowerVC support IBM i management and deployment (earlier versions did not).

Over the past year, I have been using PowerVC to greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to bring a system into the environment. Typically, creating a new system would take several hours of hands-on keyboard work over the course of a few days of hurry-up-and-wait time. The first time I deployed a partition from PowerVC, however, I was able to reduce that to about an hour, and after more refinements in my deployment, images, and process, I am now down to under 25 minutes. That’s 25 minutes to have a fully deployed, PTF’d system up and running.

The full implications of this may not be readily apparent. Obviously, net new systems can be deployed much more quickly. But more importantly, new modes of development can be more easily be supported. PowerVC supports self-service system provisioning, which enables teams to create their own systems for development, test, and QA purposes, and then tear them down when no longer needed. Since the systems are focused on the task at hand, they do not need the resources a fully utilized environment would need.

There’s more: Templates can be created in PowerVC to give the self-service users different CPU and memory configurations, and additional disk volumes can be requested as well. Post-provisioning scripts are supported for making configuration changes after a deployed system is created. In our environment, we are taking this a step further by integrating PowerVC with Red Hat’s Ansible automation software, which has given us greater flexibility in pre- and post-provisioning task automation.

In practice, using PowerVC removes many of the barriers to efficient development inherent in traditional system deployment models and permits continuous deployment strategies. Using PowerVC, a developer tasked with fixing a piece of code can spin up a clean test partition with the application and datasets already installed, create the new code fix, spin up a QA environment that has all the scripted tests available for testing the code, and then promote the code to production and delete the partitions that were used for development and testing.

You do have to make some changes to the environment in order to support this model. Code needs to be stored in a repository, so it can be kept in sync between all systems involved. The use of VIOS is also required. Additionally, note that when using this type of environment, the administrator’s role becomes more centered around image/snapshot maintenance (used for deployment templates) and automation scripting rather than the provisioning and maintenance of systems.

For full information on the product and its installation, I recommend visiting IBM’s knowledge center.

Guest Blogger

Dana Boehler is a Systems Engineer and Security Analyst at Rocket Software, specializing in IBM i.

Introducing the POWER9 Server Family

POWER9 is here. As many in our community will be looking to upgrade, we want to provide information on what these new servers offer you and your business.

According to IBM, POWER9-based servers are built for data intensive workloads, are enabled for cloud, and offer industry leading performance.

As you have experienced, Power Systems have the reputation of being reliable, and the POWER9-based servers are no exception. POWER9 gives you the reliability you’ve come to trust from IBM Power Systems, the security you need in today’s high-risk environment, and the innovation to propel your business into the future. They truly provide an infrastructure you can bet your business on. From a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) standpoint, a savings of 50% can be realized in 3 to 5 years when moving to POWER9 per IBM calculations.

When compared to other systems, POWER9 outperforms the competition. IBM reports:

  • 2x performance per core on POWER9 vs. X86
  • Up to 4.6x better performance per core on POWER9 vs. previous generations

Learn more about POWER9 by visiting the new landing page. For more detailed data regarding POWER9 performance, be sure to click on the Meet the POWER9 Family link.

Attending the COMMON Fall Conference & Expo? Be sure to attend the POWER Panel session on POWER9. This will be your opportunity to learn more about the servers from experts.

Study Shows IBM i Has Big Cost Advantage Over Alternatives

According to an August 2017 study conducted by Quark + Lepton, an independent research and management consulting firm, IBM i on Power Systems servers provides a substantial TCO (total cost of ownership) advantage over equivalent Windows or Linux platforms.

For the study, which was funded by IBM, Quark + Lepton used three different server/database configurations: an IBM Power Systems server running IBM i Operating System V7.3 with DB2, an x86 server running Windows Server 2016 and SQL Server 2016 and an x86 with Linux and Oracle Database 12c. TCO estimates were based on the costs of hardware acquisition and maintenance, OS and database licenses and support, system and database admin personnel salaries and facilities expenses. Several different use cases were analyzed.

A Big TCO Advantage

The results of the study showed the projected three-year TCO for the three setups to be as follows:

  • Power Systems/IBM i/DB2 – $430,815
  • x86/Windows/SQL Server – $1.18 million
  • x86/Linux/Oracle – $1.27 million

The study concludes that “costs for use of IBM i on Power Systems are lower across the board”. For example, initial hardware and software acquisition costs for the IBM i systems averaged 8% less than the Windows systems, and fully 24 % less than the Linux systems.

Perhaps the most surprising factor in the stark differential between the IBM i solution and the others was in the cost of required support staff. Based on a 300-user scenario, IBM i required 0.3 FTE (full time equivalent) support personnel, compared to 0.5 FTE for the Windows setup and 0.55 FTE for Linux.

But the biggest differential in staff costs arose from the fact that IBM i admins could handle both the OS and the database. Those double-duty IBM i personnel commanded salaries of about $86,000, while Windows and Linux sysadmins were paid $71,564 and $86,843 respectively. However, the Windows and Linux setups also required the support of separate database admins, adding $100,699 (SQL Server) and $103,283 (Oracle) to the personnel costs for those solutions.

Simplicity

In its conclusion the report notes that while the industry is trending toward ever-greater complexity, the simplicity of IBM i makes it by far the most cost-effective platform on which to base an organization’s IT infrastructure.

IBM’s Watson is Becoming a Crime Fighter

Sherlock Holmes and WatsonIn Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Dr. Watson was the great detective’s trusted sidekick in fighting crime. Now, with IBM’s help, Watson has become a crime-fighting detective in his (actually its) own right.

IBM’s newest cognitive computing offering is Financial Crimes Insight with Watson, which is designed to help banks spot financial crimes such as money laundering. The mission of this latest incarnation of Watson, the brainchild of the company’s newly formed Watson Financial Services division, is to “[help] organizations efficiently manage financial investigation efforts through streamlined research and analysis of unstructured and structured data.”

This new suite of Watson products is aimed at helping financial institutions manage their regulatory and fiduciary obligations. It’s estimated that by 2020 the world-wide financial services industry will be faced with more 300 million pages of regulations, with the list growing by thousands of additional pages every day. That is, of course, far too much information for any team of human beings to stay on top of. But Watson, with its advanced artificial intelligence, cognitive computing and machine learning capabilities, was designed for exactly that kind of big data analytics.

The system was trained, using 60,000 US regulatory citations, by experts from Promontory Financial Group, a regulatory compliance consulting firm that IBM bought in 2016. The training also incorporates an ongoing review of transactions and cases that involve possible financial crimes. As Gene Ludwig, founder and CEO of Promontory Financial Group explains, “we’re embedding our deep regulatory experience into Watson so that a broader group of professionals can benefit from this knowledge and help their organizations operate more effectively and efficiently.”

These new Watson products are not narrowly focused just on crime, however. The broader aim is to help clients in the financial services industry address a wide range of risk assessment and regulatory compliance responsibilities. For example, in addition to the Financial Crimes Insight with Watson product, IBM is also offering Watson Regulatory Compliance, which focuses on assisting financial institutions in understanding and addressing constantly changing regulatory requirements.

Attend Watson and IBM i at the 2017 Fall Conference and Expo.

IBM Watson Taking the Fight to Cancer

CancerIBM Watson is taking the fight to cancer as more hospitals and medical research firms around the world use the resource in their ongoing war to treat the dreaded disease.

The Jeopardy champion has been consistently improving when it comes to designing treatment plans for cancer victims, Engadget reported.

New data presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology showed suggested treatment plans from Watson were often exactly what physicians would recommend.

Recent research from India showed Watson’s suggested treatments for colon cancer matched physicians recommendations 81 percent of the time, 93 percent of the time for rectal cancer, and 96 percent of the time for lung cancer.

A study from Thailand showed comparable rates of agreements for lung, breast, colorectal and gastric cancer treatments.

Healthcare researchers are increasingly using Watson for Oncology, a cognitive computing system trained by doctors from Memorial Sloan Kettering. The system takes a patient’s medical history, extracts information from the records, and is able to design a personalized treatment plan.

Watson for Oncology just made its debut in Australia, with Queensland-based Icon Group signing up with IBM and helping oncologists across the country, the Australian Business Review reported.

Icon Group will implement an “augmented intelligence platform” to help clinicians stay on top of ever increasing amounts of cancer research.

“Traditionally they rely on a series of conferences and journals and have to soak up every bit of the new research, but Watson gives them easier access to this information,” said Cathie Reid, one of Icon’s co-founders.

The Georgia Cancer Center is also making use of IBM Watson to quickly assess genetic markers in tumors, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

With so many taking advantage of IBM Watson as a powerful resource, the system continues to prove itself as a desired ally in the fight against cancer.

Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) Now Runs on IBM Power Systems

Stefanie ChirasToday’s corporate data centers are using more and more compute and storage resources to meet rapidly increasing operational requirements. Because traditional data center architectures are experiencing great difficulty in meeting these new demands, an alternative technology is swiftly gaining acceptance. Hyperconverged Infrastructure, or HCI, is on what Stefanie Chrias, IBM’s VP Power Systems, calls “a rapid growth trajectory.” And now, for the first time, this new technology that is so swiftly penetrating enterprise data centers is available to run on IBM’s Power Systems platforms.

But what, exactly, is hyperconverged infrastructure?

HCI takes the fundamental elements of the data center, servers, data storage, and networking, and packages them together in a single unified appliance. The entire unit, as well as its component parts, is controlled entirely by sophisticated software under the direction of detailed policies established by IT administrators. Both the compute engine and the storage controller run on the same server platform, and each appliance functions as a node in a cluster.

The constituent parts of the HCI appliance are hidden behind a unified “single pane of glass” software interface. So, there is no need for users or applications to deal directly with the hardware or its particular characteristics. The software can automatically and transparently carry out tasks such as performing data backups, scaling out (simply by adding nodes) to provision additional storage as needed, or swapping out nodes that fail. This approach greatly simplifies the IT management task.

Part of the appeal of HCI is that it was designed to run on inexpensive industry-standard x86-compatible servers and storage devices. But that meant IBM’s RISC-based Power Systems line was shut out of this fast-growing market.

HCI and Power Systems

IBM Power SystemsNow, however, IBM has announced that it is partnering with Nutanix, which 451 Research has named as the leading HCI provider, to market appliances based on the Power Systems line rather than x86 servers. Because of the superior compute and data handling capabilities of the Power architecture, IBM believes this new platform will allow enterprise customers to “run any mission critical workload, at any scale, with world-class virtualization and automation capabilities.” The platform is particularly suited to running high performance database, analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence applications.

For IBM, HCI is “a fundamentally different approach to enterprise application needs.” It also represents an important emerging market that IBM didn’t want to be left out of.


Looking for Power Systems education? Take a look at COMMON’s online offerings.