Four ways to get ready for Power Systems Virtual Servers in IBM Cloud

By | 4 minute read | June 24, 2020

Are you investigating running your AIX or IBM i workloads in the cloud, but don’t know where to start? IBM Power Systems Virtual Servers in IBM Cloud provide significant value as an addition to your on-premises IBM Power Systems environment. Running AIX or IBM i workloads in the cloud makes it easy to use a pay-as-you-go model, handle seasonal bursts in computing demand without standing up hardware first, and transition from old hardware requiring expensive maintenance contracts.

If you’re intrigued by Power Systems Virtual Servers and wondering how to get ready for it, here are four tips for a smooth start with this new technology.

1. Know the solution

Some of the most common questions I get from clients are:

  • How is IBM i or AIX running in the cloud?
  • What does it look like?
  • What is included, and what do I have access to?
  • Where’s the documentation?

How is IBM i or AIX running in the cloud? AIX and IBM i workloads in Power Systems Virtual Servers are running in VMs (LPARs) on POWER9 processor-based hardware in IBM Cloud (existing POWER8 servers in some locations will be upgraded to POWER9). Those POWER9 servers are managed by the PowerVM hypervisor, virtualized with dual Virtual I/O Servers and NPIV-connected to Fibre Channel-attached storage. In other words, they’re using the same best practices as Power servers on-premises, but with the latest technologies (as of the time of this writing).

What does it look like? The best way to get an introduction is in this video. I recommend watching the whole recording, but the demo starts about 30 minutes in.

What’s included, and what do I have access to? Power Systems Virtual Servers are an infrastructure-as-a-service offering. What’s included is uptime of the underlying infrastructure and the operating system (IBM i or AIX) in each VM/LPAR with certain licensed program products. For example, see here for IBM i. What you have access to is the IBM Cloud UI and APIs for managing the VMs and storage, as well as full access to the operating system within each VM. There’s no direct access to the Hardware Management Console (HMC), Virtual I/O Server or storage array.

Where’s the documentation? Start here and peruse all the topics in the “Learn” section on the left. Then proceed to the AIX- or IBM i-specific sections or the FAQ further down for specific answers.

2. Know your workloads

Consider the business criticality of your workloads, legal requirements and recovery point and time objectives (RPO and RTO). You want to start with applications that score lower in those categories. But let’s dig a little deeper. Power Systems Virtual Servers have minimum operating system (OS) levels for both IBM i and AIX (details here). You should create an inventory of likely migration candidates from a business standpoint and then compare them against the OS requirements. For those VMs/LPARs that don’t meet the requirements, it’s worth investigating the effect an OS upgrade would have on the applications running in those VMs. Last, consider the downtime available for each VM to migrate it, as some downtime will be required to save it on-premises, transfer it to and restore it in the cloud.

3. What about backups and HA/DR?

Appropriate backup and high availability/disaster recovery (HA/DR) options are must-haves for most AIX and IBM i workloads. Because backups are usually performed from within the OS, most of the options that exist on-premises are present in Power Systems Virtual Servers as well. However, the overall save and restore process has some differences and involves additional configuration and a bit of a learning curve. Keep in mind that physical tape drives or libraries are not available in the cloud. From an HA/DR standpoint, a key difference is that storage-based replication, which is the norm for many Power Systems clients, is not available with Power Systems Virtual Servers. HA/DR options for both IBM i and AIX involve logical or OS-based replication.

4. We have to talk about the network

How will these AIX or IBM i applications in the cloud be accessed? Do you need console-, interactive user- or application-level communication between your on-premises and Power Systems Virtual Server environments? Are you planning on using replication between your data center and the cloud for DR? These are all questions that will influence the network design and cost of your Power Systems Virtual Server solution. Multiple connectivity options exist. Finally, consider any non-Power Systems Virtual Server services or workloads you might want to use or have running in IBM Cloud. Having a complete multiplatform business solution in the cloud is one of the great benefits of Power Systems Virtual Servers, but it should also factor into your network planning.

Running IBM i and AIX in the IBM Cloud enables significant business opportunities for additional agility and growth. At the same time, it’s a new environment that carries a learning curve and requires thoughtful planning to use optimally. In this blog post, I’ve presented four areas of consideration to prepare you for making the most of Power Systems Virtual Servers. When you’re ready to get started, IBM Systems Lab Services is here to partner with you on this journey. Contact us today.