What To Do With The Spare IBM Power Systems Capacity

What to do with the spare IBM Power Systems capacity?

  • IBM

All my customers have spare IBM Power cores they are not using. This maybe because they are IBMi
users and only have one of 4 cores licensed or an IBM AIX customer allowing for future potential growth.
These same customers are often buying Intel based systems to run Linux applications so I asked
Andrew Laidlaw of IBM could you use the spare IBM Power cores to run Linux workloads?

He replied “You absolutely can run Linux (including Red Hat Enterprise Linux) on any Power Systems
server that we sell including the smaller S914 configurations. When it comes to supported options,
your customers can run the latest RHEL 7 (7.9) and RHEL 8 (8.4) versions quite happily on the ‘spare’
cores on those servers (see
supported Linux distributions for more options).

There should be no need to ‘activate’ any further cores, as with our scaleout servers all of the cores
are active at the time of shipping (the IBMi limitations are on the licenses, not the hardware itself). So
they should be able to use all of the cores and the memory installed in the server. The only exception
to this is when the customer has purchased using the Power Private Cloud (aka Power Enterprise Pools
2.0 / PEP2.0) which is unlikely to be the case for these lowcapacity servers.

So on the hardware side, there should be no extra costs which only leaves the cost of a RHEL
subscription. These can be purchased directly from Red Hat, or via IBM but you do need to get the right
part number (for RHEL for IBM Power). A RHEL Subscription and Standard Support to cover 4 cores is
a huge £295 per year (list price). However, to start with it is easy to get a 60 day evaluation subscription
from the
Red Hat website.

When it comes to installation:

If the customer is using PowerVM and VIOS then it’s pretty easy to get up and running using virtual
Ethernet and Fibre Channel adapters. They’ll just need to download the installation media from the Red
Hat website and then install as they would IBMi or AIX (more or less).

If they are running just a single IBMi instance on the server at the moment, then it requires a bit more
work, and they will need to have an Ethernet interface available to use, and some storage capacity to
get installed onto. If needed, our Lab Services team can support this kind of installation, (and Recarta’s
technical services team) and a lot of customers have vouchers that can be used to cover the cost of
this that they might be unaware of anyway.

But the most important element of this is probably workloads:

My first recommendation would be to use the new Linux partition to test out some of our more modern
management tools. For instance, your customers could use it to install
PowerVC for management if
they have a PowerVM environment. That could let them take the first steps in a Cloud journey, setting
up some lightweight SelfService interfaces. They could also use the system to manage and
Ansible playbooks to manage their IBMi environment(s) as well as any AIX, Linux, or even
Windows workloads. If they have IBM Storage products (or IBM Z mainframes) they could automate
some of the management of those too. There’s plenty of
good guidance on the use of Ansible out there,
and we have some real expertise in our Lab Services team that could be put to use particularly around
automating IBMi tasks. You can
do a lot with Ansible.

Another option would be to use the new Linux environment to test out some new workloads, or those
running on Linux on x86 systems. For instance we see some good performance benefits of running
modern Open Source databases (MongoDB, PostgreSQL, MariaDB / MySQL etc). There are also a lot
of modern languages and runtimes supported on Linux on Power (Node.js, Python, Go, Ruby etc) which
could make it a good platform for developing new applications and capabilities that could then be
deployed on the IBMi system.

And a final suggestion would be to start looking at containerised workloads. A Linux partition could be
a great place for customers to learn about and practice running containers using Docker or Podman /
CRI. If they get even more enthusiastic, then they can also run the
OpenShift Container Platform as
a Single Node deployment (
recently announced with OCP 4.9). This would not support Production
workloads, but could be something for your customers to experiment with if they are looking at a Hybrid
Cloud approach.”
(Andrew Laidlaw IBM Power and Red Hat Specialist IBM IT Infrastructure 2021)

The most wellknown application that this environment has been designed to support is SAP Hana.
This, if nothing else explains why IBM is committed to supporting Linux on IBM Power for the long term.

If you want to know more about running Linux workloads on your IBM Power system, please contact
us at Recarta and we will be pleased to go through your options.