IBM Knows Your System, So You Already Know Its Cloud


September 21, 2022

Timothy Prikett Morgan

Tonny Bastiaans, Worldwide Offering Manager for Power Virtual Servers at IBM, and Ash Giddings, Product Manager at Maxava and IBM Champion 2022, have given a series of joint presentations over the past few months. I recently had a chat with them to get the juice.

There are many companies that sell hosting, many that sell hosting and call it cloud, and many that have true utility-style cloud computing. But there are indeed very few venerable system vendors that have years of experience building complete systems to run a variety of enterprise applications that have also built true cloud.

Big Blue, with its IBM Cloud of the same name, is one of those very few. And with its Power Virtual Server Cloud, IBM is offering metered pricing for compute, memory and storage for entry-level and enterprise Power Systems irons based on Power9 processors – and will soon be offering instances on Power10 systems. And these instances run the exact same PowerVM hypervisor and the exact same IBM i, AIX, and Linux operating systems that Power Systems shops use today to run their mission-critical applications.

IBM has taken a long time to bring Power Systems to its cloud, and many of us have been impatient since watching the rise of Amazon Web Services over the past decade and a half. But it’s just as fair to say that it has taken IBM i and AIX customers some time to embrace the idea of ​​cloud computing and storage and trusting a multi-tenant system that isn’t in their own data centers and is under their own care and support. Many IBM i workshops started with the System/3 in 1969, the System/38 in 1978, the AS/400 in 1988, or the iSeries in 2000, so they have long-established processes and practices. Moving to the cloud means changing many of these things, but moving to Power Virtual Server means many things don’t have to change.

“Power Virtual Server sits alongside the IBM Cloud and consists of the Power S922 and Power E980, each with its own storage and network,” explains Bastiaans. “We’re offering this as Infrastructure as a Service, and customers can start with a small chunk like a quarter of a Power9 core and scale up to 143 cores. We have machines in fifteen data centers around the world, including Washington and Dallas in the United States, Montreal and Toronto in Canada, Sao Paulo in Brazil, London in the United Kingdom, Frankfurt in Germany, Sydney in Australia, and Tokyo and Osaka in Japan. We’re seeing growing interest, a mix of customers large and small, AIX and IBM i customers, and we now have over 350 customers and a growing number of customers coming.”

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According to Bastiaans, there are a number of different use cases for early adopters of Power Virtual Server, and as usual, many customers are testing the cloud by offloading application development there and testing themselves. This is how many technologies, including virtualization itself, were first commercialized more than two decades ago. The reason developers and testers are moving to new approaches to infrastructure first is because it’s a low-risk entry that can also strain the cloud so customers can learn how to use it and how it works.

The second big use case for Power Virtual Server is of course disaster recovery and high availability, and that makes perfect sense too. For many years, disaster recovery services were available from IBM and other business partners, where a target machine was shared by many customers and used to back up data and applications for many customers. The likelihood of all customers having an outage at the same time was low, so this common model made economic sense for those who didn’t want to house their own replica machine in a second data center. Deploying HA/DR on the Power Virtual Server is a variation on this theme and is similar to the strategy adopted by customers running other platforms. The difference is that HA/DR is a lot simpler than it was two decades ago, and it doesn’t cost as much either.

And of course, there are also customers who want a hybrid compute model that mixes on-premises and cloud capacity to run applications and databases, and those who just want to move everything to the cloud and be done with it.

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“We see the same things,” says Ash Giddings. “There are very few conversations we have with customers that aren’t cloud related. And to reiterate what Tonny says, many customers start with dev/test first, dip their toe in the water and get to grips with latency and other issues before considering migrating from production applications.”

When they finally decide to port applications to Power Virtual Server — or any other cloud — they can do so in a variety of ways, Giddings says. One method that Maxava naturally prefers is to use a remote journaling data replication tool like Maxava HA or the service called Maxava Migrate Live to copy and sync data between the local Power Systems machine and the slice of a system on IBM’s Power Virtual Server offering. This can take some time, which is why in some cases when a lot of data needs to be moved quickly, some sort of physical media is used to move the data from on-premises to the cloud, and then the HA tools is used to move a small percentage to synchronize the data that has changed during the transport of that media and to keep it synchronized until the transition. A third way to move data to Power Virtual Server is to take IBM’s Backup Media and Recovery Services for i Tool (BRMS) and pair it with IBM Cloud Storage Solutions for i (5733-ICC), which does backups of the source partitions allows to be moved to virtual images and then transferred to cloud object storage.

“People’s approach really depends on how much data they have and whether or not they allow for downtime,” explains Giddings. “With Dev/Test, maybe you can just take a snapshot and not worry too much about the gap. But with production workloads, you really need to keep things in sync. Also, there is this misconception in the cloud that after a migration you no longer need HA and DR. You still need HA in the cloud, with increasing prevalence across regions and between different cloud providers. But if you already have HA, moving to the cloud is much easier.”

IBM has more than 50 data centers around the world connected to its own backbone and that is along with the Power Virtual Server and the ability to also integrate with an X86-based infrastructure running on the IBM Cloud another reason why Power Virtual Server is a natural choice for IBM i or AIX in the cloud.

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“We have the same business construct that customers are already familiar with,” says Bastiaans. “We use HMCs, PowerVC and VIOS, just like on-premises Power Systems. Cloud instances can be monitored in the same way as on-premises systems. So this is an environment they know and can trust.”

Maxava can help to span multiple clouds or create a hybrid cloud between on-premises and any of the public clouds running IBM i instances or other types of instances for that matter with its Mi8 monitoring tool.

“The great thing is that an LPAR in Power Virtual Server is just another LPAR,” says Giddings. “In terms of monitoring, really only the connectivity route changes. Mi8 is a cloud-centric solution that can monitor IBM i as well as AIX, Linux and Windows, and our open API allows you to query many other sources and trigger alerts based on what is returned. With Mi8 you can gain visibility into OS, hardware, application and security exceptions, with the vast majority of workload taking place in the cloud as data is sent via SSL directly from the VM to the Mi8 cloud console where rules are checked are carried out and associated actions are carried out. There is no on-premises console, so no internal battle over a VM, and there are no more multi-tenant VPNs to manage for MSPs.”

And Mi8 also has subscription-based pricing that brings in the same operational cost side of the budget as Power Virtual Server.

On September 15th, Ash Giddings and Tonny Bastiaans hosted their latest education-based webinar on Using the Cloud for IBM i Disaster Recovery. Here you can register for the repetition of the event.

This content is sponsored by Maxava.

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