Evaluate PowerVS for a streamlined hybrid cloud environment

For organizations that want to extend their PowerVM workloads to the cloud, PowerVS provides a straightforward path to a hybrid cloud implementation. But IT teams must understand how PowerVS works and what it can offer before committing to the service.

Power Systems Virtual Server, or PowerVS, is an IBM infrastructure as a service (IaaS) that allows power systems customers to extend their on-premises environments to the cloud. PowerVS is built on power systems servers running the PowerVM virtualization platform, providing a hosted infrastructure that integrates seamlessly with on-premises systems.

What is a power systems virtual server?

Power Systems servers that support PowerVS are located in the IBM data center but are kept separate from the IBM Cloud servers. PowerVS servers are located on their own fenced networks with directly attached storage, an architecture similar to that of certified local power systems. PowerVS provides a secure environment for deploying virtual servers – also known as logical partitions (LPARs) – which integrate the reliability, availability, and serviceability features inherent in the Power Systems Platform.

With PowerVS, customers can quickly deploy one or more virtual servers, each running an AIX, IBM i or Linux OS. PowerVS provides AIX and IBM i cached images, but customers must provide their own Linux images, which must comply with the Open Virtual Appliance format. PowerVS supports both Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for Linux images. Customers can also bring their own custom AIX or IBM i images.

When administrators set up virtual servers, they must choose the data center where the virtual servers will be located. IBM offers data centers in multiple locations around the world. Customers must also select Power Systems devices – the type of device – to host the virtual servers from the following selection:

  • IBM E880 Power System (9119-MHE)
  • IBM E980 Power System (9080-M9S)
  • IBM S922 Power System (9009-22A)

The data center location determines which hardware is available. For example, a Washington, D.C. data center supports E980 and S922 power systems, and a Dallas data center supports E880 and S922 power systems.

Power Virtual Server and IBM Cloud

Since PowerVS is a cloud service, administrators can quickly deploy one or more virtual servers through the IBM Cloud catalog. When setting up a virtual environment, they can choose the number of virtual server instances, the number of cores, the amount of memory, network interfaces, and data size sizes and types. Administrators manage guest operating systems and any middleware, runtime, data, and applications they want to run on those virtual servers. IBM manages the core network, storage, and server resources, as well as the PowerVM environment.

PowerVS automatically restarts virtual servers on a different host if hardware failure occurs. IBM also offers optional services to increase availability or support disaster recovery. For example, customers can choose PowerHA SystemMirror for AIX or Geographic Logical Volume Manager Replication. Additionally, customers can choose to install a virtual server or install a virtual server on the host. Soft install increases availability but may not be possible due to licensing limitations.

PowerVS provides identity and access management services that enable clients to control access to virtual server resources. Customers can also set affinity and anti-convergence policies to control the placement of new volumes.

Since PowerVS is an IaaS offering, users receive many of the same benefits they would get from other cloud offerings. They can avoid the capital expenditures associated with on-premises infrastructure and reduce the time IT teams spend implementing and maintaining the infrastructure. In addition, customers can easily migrate workloads from their on-premises power system servers to virtual PowerVS servers because PowerVS is built on the same foundation.

This consistency across environments also means that PowerVS customers access the same IBM services that they use on their on-premises systems. In addition, PowerVS supports the Red Hat OpenShift container system, which makes it possible to provision the OpenShift cluster on virtual server instances. PowerVS is also a certified off-site power system solution for SAP HANA and SAP NetWeaver workloads.

Introducing PowerVM

PowerVM is a virtualization platform built into power systems servers. The Power Systems Virtual Server platform provides the foundation to support virtual servers running AIX, IBM i or Linux workloads. PowerVM consists of hardware, firmware, and software components that together enable IT administrators to virtualize the central processing unit (CPU), storage, and network resources. The Power Hypervisor is at the heart of the platform, which provides an abstraction layer between LPARs and physical hardware resources.

LPARs are standalone operating environments that are similar to virtual machines supported by other hypervisors. A Power Systems server can support up to 1,000 LPARs. Administrators can assign processor, memory, and I/O device resources to each LPAR at a precise level. PowerVM also includes Virtual I/O Server, which is a software component that enables multiple LPARs on the server to share physical I/O resources.

PowerVM integrates seamlessly with the power systems platform, providing a secure environment to protect the integrity of workloads, while enabling IT administrators to use server resources effectively. IT teams can scale or scale their virtual deployments without incurring performance penalties. PowerVM also provides Active Memory Sharing (AMS), which makes it possible to reallocate memory from one LPAR to another. In addition, PowerVM supports direct partition mobility to migrate LPARs between systems, helping to simplify upgrades and system balancing.

PowerVM also provides a number of other important features:

  • Micro-segmentation technology to allocate portions of processing resources to LPARs;
  • Several coprocessor combinations to automatically balance processing power across LPARs;
  • PowerSC’s suite of security components, including trusted boot, trusted logging, and a trusted firewall;
  • Single-root I/O virtualization, which provides improved I/O virtualization within network adapter hardware;
  • Dynamic logical partitioning to dynamically transfer processor, memory, and I/O resources between LPARs;
  • Active memory deduplication, which reduces memory consumption for AMS configurations; And the
  • Shared storage pools to optimize resource consumption.

PowerVS is a full IaaS offering, while PowerVM is strictly a virtualized platform, whether implemented on premises or as part of PowerVS. If organizations implement PowerVM on premises, they deploy and maintain the platform, as well as the underlying infrastructure that supports it.

PowerVS vs. PowerVM on premises

Organizations committed to a power systems platform in their on-premises data centers can use PowerVM to virtualize workloads, improve server resource consumption, and simplify infrastructure management. They can also deploy their workloads to Power Virtual Server, which uses PowerVM to create and maintain virtual servers. Most importantly, PowerVS enables the enterprise to implement a hybrid cloud that extends its on-premises environments to PowerVS. In fact, PowerVS is primarily designed to support this scenario.

For most power system customers, the choice is not between PowerVM and PowerVS, but between a local deployment and a hybrid deployment that extends their virtual workloads to PowerVS:

  • With the on-premise offering, customers retain complete control of their environments and avoid long-term subscription fees – which add up quickly – but they also face the initial capital expenditures commensurate with acquiring the equipment, along with the time and costs of ongoing maintenance.
  • With hybrid deployment, customers can easily extend their environments to the cloud, deploy workloads to multiple global data centers and reduce capital and maintenance expenses. However, these customers still have to maintain their own on-premises infrastructure with the addition of cloud subscription fees.

Customers can use PowerVS exclusively and forego their local power systems infrastructure. Like any cloud service, this setup has its advantages and disadvantages.

In either scenario, customers lock themselves into the power systems platform. Although this can simplify licensing, administration, and workload integration, it has limitations – such as the inability to run Windows on virtual servers. Customers must also pay and track ongoing subscription fees if they are using PowerVS alone or in a hybrid configuration.

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