AIX higher availability using SAN services


The support of these scenarios in which remapping, copying, and reuse of SAN disks is allowed and supported has never been officially documented. There have been some documents and IBM® Redbooks® that have claimed support for specific scenarios, but they do not list the specific steps or restrictions.

The scenarios detailed here guide systems administrators through the steps taken to achieve the specific environment desired. They also attempt to explain why the setup must be followed to achieve the desired results. If the steps are not followed, in some cases the system may not boot.

This article will also document further scenarios as they become supported.

IBM® Power Systems are designed to offer the highest stand-alone availability in the industry. Enterprises must occasionally restructure their infrastructure to meet new IT requirements and handle scheduled outages (such as power outages). Today, even the smallest of IBM Power Systems run logical partitions (LPARs) and there is a need to move the LPARs to other available systems to avoid application down time.

IBM Power Systems continue to introduce innovative technologies to help handle such scenarios and reduce downtime. Live Partition Mobility (LPM) allows moving logical partitions around such that previously disruptive operations on the machine can be performed when it bests suits you. LPM helps to meet increasingly stringent service-level agreements (SLAs) because it allows you to proactively move running partitions and applications from one server to another. LPM requires a specific hardware and microcode configuration that is currently only available on IBM POWER6® processor-based systems and later.

But, some customers using POWER5™-based systems want a solution to allow them to move their AIX environments from one physical server to another. This article explains scenarios in which a switch over of the SAN Disks (including the operating system) from a storage subsystem can be performed when using a PowerVM™ Virtual I/O server environment. This article also documents the use of 'flash-copy' services to create a backup disk to be used for system recovery.

It is very important to note although LPM supports active movement of logical partitions, the scenarios explained here support movement or backup of the AIX environment only after shutdown and hence involves some downtime. Care should be taken in environments that cannot afford any downtime. Technologies such as IBM PowerHA® should be considered in these situations to handle unplanned outages and to improve system availability by providing on demand failover.

PowerVM virtualization technology (previously called Advanced Power Virtualization) is a combination of hardware and software that supports and manages the virtual environments on POWER® systems. It contains major tools such as Virtual I/O Server (VIOS) to simplify and optimize your IT infrastructure.

Scenario 1. Switching AIX LPARs with SAN boot devices and VIOS

Figure 1. Test scenario setup
Test scenario                     setup
Test scenario setup

Figure 1 explains the test scenario setup using a Power5 system (CEC1).

  • On the Virtual I/O Server (VIOS) partition, vios_cec1, we have two fibre channel adapters.
  • Two LUNs from SAN storage are mapped to the two fibre channel adapters on the VIOS partition.
  • LUN1 is mapped to fcs0 and LUN2 is mapped to fcs1.
  • On VIOS, LUN1 is available as hdisk0, and LUN2 is available as hdisk1.
  • Two virtual SCSI server adapters (vhost0 and vhost1) are created on the VIOS lpar.
  • hdisk0 has been assigned as the backing device for vhost0 and hdisk1 as the backing device for vhost1. As a result, vtscsi0 and vtscsi1 is available on VIOS.

Please note this is only a sample configuration. A realistic configuration is nearly 80 LUNs per adapter.

An AIX partition is created and it has the two hdisks exported using VIOS and is available as hdisk0 and hdisk1. Networking is provided through the Shared Ethernet adapter. The physical Ethernet adapter (ent0) is used as a trunk adapter to provide bridging and Virtual Ethernet adapter (ent1) is used to create the Shared Ethernet adapter (ent2). Interface en2 is configured on top of ent2 and a valid IP address is assigned to en2. On the AIX partition, an interface (not shown in the figure 1) en0 can be created on top of the Virtual Ethernet adapter ent0 and a valid IP address can be assigned to it.

A situation could occur where a shutdown of the POWER system CEC1 is required, which would disrupt application availability. It is desirable to switch the AIX partition to another system that is available and hence the application running on the AIX partition can be made available to end users.

As shown in Figure 2, a system (CEC2) is connected to the same network and has a VIOS partition (vios_cec2) that has access to the same SAN disks that are accessed by the VIOS partition (vios_cec1). In this scenario, it is possible to shutdown the AIX partition on CEC1 and boot the AIX partition on CEC2. The whole process can be achieved within a few minutes, thereby enabling simple high availability. PowerHA has support statements for specific VSCSI configurations. You may want to access those support statements.

Figure 2. Switching LPAR using SAN boot device
Switching LPAR using                 SAN boot device
Switching LPAR using SAN boot device

Prerequisites and restrictions

The following prerequisites must be met before switching your AIX environment (including rootvg and other volume groups) from one CEC to another:

  • Ensure that the system processor type and modes on both the CECs are compatible. For example, both POWER5 and POWER6 can operate on 64-bit mode and are therefore compatible. If the AIX environment is using the 64-bit kernel on the original system, then the target system will need 64-bit processors.
  • Both the CECs are connected to the same the network or subnet. This is important because when you switch the rootvg over to another CEC, the network interface (IP address, etc) is retained and is restored when AIX is booted (after the switchover is complete). In the case of inappropriate configuration, problems can occur such as a boot failure, hang, or loss of system access.
  • The slot numbers of the virtual ethernet and virtual SCSI client adapters for the AIX client partition (on the partition profile) must match on both CECs. The virtual SCSI client and virtual SCSI server adapter mappings have to be the same on both CECs.
  • Virtual I/O server versions on the two CECs have to be the same.
  • Running all software on Virtual I/O servers at the same levels, for instance, SDDPCM or Powerpath.
  • All the disks that are visible on the AIX client partition have to be virtual disks (exported from VIOS using virtual SCSI). All the disks that are exported to the AIX client partition from VIOS have to be SAN disks. No internal disks should be exported to the client partition. No logical volume-based or file system backing devices should be exported to the client partition.
  • The SAN disks that are exported to the AIX client partition must be available to both the VIOS partitions on both the CECs. Any SAN zoning, LUN masking, or mapping that needs to be done on the storage subsystem needs to be done to make the same LUNs available to both the VIOS partitions. The VIOS itself can be installed on either the internal disk or SAN disk.
  • The attribute reserve_policy for all the SAN disks on VIOS should be set to no_reserve. If 'no_reserve' is not set, then VIOS on the original CEC should be shut down before the switch over is done.
  • On the Virtual I/O server, a Shared Ethernet Adapter has to be created so that layer-2 bridging is available for the virtual ethernet assigned to the AIX client partition.
  • Ensure VLAN configuration is done appropriately for VIOS partitions on both the CECs.
  • System clock on both the CECs should be set to same date/time.

Switching AIX environment from one CEC to another CEC

To switch an AIX environment from one CEC to another, go through the following steps:

  1. Make sure all the prerequisites are met. Do not perform a switch over if any of the prerequisites are not met.
  2. On CEC1, shut down all applications on the AIX partition. This ensures that the data volume groups and the file systems are consistent.
  3. Shut down the AIX partition.
  4. On CEC2, ensure the VIOS partition is up and running.
  5. On CEC2, boot the AIX partition.
  6. When AIX partition boots, the firmware may not recognize the boot disk. The boot device information is stored in NVRAM, so if the new system boots from a disk not installed using conventional installation methods on that system, the user needs to interact with the firmware System Management Services (SMS) menus in order to select the boot device. This can be accomplished through the SMS menus, which can be accessed from a virtual terminal on the Hardware Management Console (HMC).

As with any production environment, we recommend that your system setup, including the switchover process, be thoroughly tested and documented before it is applied in production.

Scenario 2. Switching AIX LPARs with redundant VIOS

Scenario 1 illustrates a switchover of an AIX environment using a single VIOS partition. However, many customers run two VIOS partitions to provide redundancy and fail-over to the AIX client partition. Multi-path I/O (MPIO) helps provide increased availability of virtual SCSI resources by providing redundant paths to the same resource (disk). For example, Figure 3 highlights a MPIO-based configuration for virtual disks (hdisk0 and hdisk1) on the AIX partition (aix_lpar1).

Figure 3. Multi-path I/O for AIX client partitions using redundant VIOS
Multi-path I/O for                     AIX client partitions using redundant VIOS
Multi-path I/O for AIX client partitions using redundant VIOS

The switchover process explained in this article works fine in this scenario and has been tested under lab conditions. You have to ensure this exact setup (including two VIOS partitions with matching virtual slot numbers) is available on another CEC before the switchover is performed. There could be additional MPIO configuration on the VIOS partition using AIX MPIO. Such MPIO configuration on the Virtual I/O server logical partition should not impact switching over the AIX environment. All the prerequisites and restrictions that are listed in the previous sections are applicable for the MPIO scenario. Best practices would not recommend MPIO and mirroring on the same system. Typically, mirroring is used on virtual clients when LVs are exported, rather than LUNs.

Figure 4. Multi-path I/O for AIX client partitions using redundant VIOS and SDDPCM MPIO on VIOS
Multi-path I/O for                     AIX client partitions using redundant VIOS and SDDPCM MPIO on VIOS
Multi-path I/O for AIX client partitions using redundant VIOS and SDDPCM MPIO on VIOS

Scenario 3. Using FlashCopy® for recovery

This scenario involves creating a copy of the AIX operating system environment to be used at a later time for recovery.

When using SAN-based boot devices, some environments require that a backup of AIX operating environment be performed. While there are many ways (for example, mksysb) to achieve backup of the AIX rootvg, a faster way to back up and restore rootvg using SAN devices is explained below.

Backup and recovery of AIX Environment using SAN devices

  1. Shut down the AIX LPAR to ensure that the file systems are quiesced.
  2. Use the FlashCopy feature to copy the rootvg LUN to a backup LUN. (see Figure 5.) It is not necessary to wait for the FlashCopy to complete. FlashCopy works in the background.
  3. Reboot the AIX LPAR using the HMC.
  4. In case there is a need to restore the backed-up rootvg, shut down the AIX LPAR. Use FlashCopy to copy the backed-up rootvg LUN (LUN B) to the original LUN (LUN A). (see Figure 6.) The copied disk is used for system recovery; therefore, removing or reconfiguring network or device configuration information is not necessary.
  5. Boot the AIX LPAR.

The Virtual I/O server is not required in this scenario. However, AIX client LPARs using virtual disks backed by LUNs from the Virtual I/O server can also follow these backup and recovery procedures.

Figure 5. Backing up rootvg
Backing up rootvg
Backing up rootvg
Figure 6. Restoring backed up rootvg
 Restoring backed up rootvg
Restoring backed up rootvg

Scenario 4 – Booting from a Binary Copy of rootvg created by SAN services

This scenario describes booting from a binary copy of rootvg created by SAN services without restoring the copy onto the original LUN. For example, referring to Figure 5, if LUN A were to go bad, LUN B could be mapped to the LPAR and booted. This scenario may be easier to support in a customer environment, since the primary and backup LUNs are always the same, but now the option to use the backup copy is available.
In this case, the LUNs contain a binary copy of the rootvg but may or may not have the same unique device identifier (UDID). An update was made to the configuration code (IZ82061, IZ82080 - 5.3 TL 11, IZ81634, IZ81633 - 5.3 TL 12, IZ83828, IZ79602 – 6.1 TL3, IZ76109, IZ77394 – 6.1 TL4, IZ83974, IZ78806 – 6.1 TL5, IZ76505, IZ73903 – 6.1 TL6) to allow booting a system with the same PVID but a different UDID. This will allow support for a PPRC or flash copy.

This scenario is meant as a more generic statement of support of using SAN services, such as PPRC, global mirror, or flash copy. AIX does not have control over SAN replication methods used by various storage vendors. It is recommended to contact your storage vendor regarding SAN replication methods supported by their storage subsystems.

Scenario 5 – Booting from a Binary Copy of rootvg created by SAN services on a different CEC or LPAR Many clients would like to be able to use a binary copy of rootvg from one CEC to boot an operating system image from either a different LPAR or a different CEC. This is especially true when designing disaster recovery processes with limitations on the available time to restore a large quantity of AIX rootvg images. Although AIX cannot issue a blanket statement of support for booting a binary copy of rootvg because of the sheer number of possible permutations, you may be able to design workable procedures for your environment. The sys0 ghostdev attribute was added to facilitate booting an AIX image from either a different LPAR or different CEC. By running “chdev –a ghostdev=1 –l sys0” prior to replicating the AIX image, the AIX ghostdev feature will be enabled. When ghostdev is enabled, it will trigger during AIX boot if the AIX image is detected as booting from either a different LPAR or CEC. When the ghostdev feature is triggered, the customized devices and customized attributes in ODM will be deleted, and new customized devices will be created. The new customized devices will be created with the default attribute values, and may have different logical device names. Enabling the ghostdev feature prior to booting the AIX from a different LPAR or CEC will reduce complexity by removing the Defined and Missing customize devices. LPM operations will not trigger the ghostdev feature. Middleware or applications that have a dependency on tracking the hardware on the system, may need to be configured again after moving the operating system image to a different CEC or LPAR. If you are using multi-path software besides AIX MPIO, then it is recommended you contact your multi-path software vendor prior to using ghostdev attribute. The ghostdev attribute requires a minimum AIX level of 6.1 TL 7 or 7.1 TL 1. If AIX 6.1 TL 7 is used, then it is recommended that APAR IV11039 is installed. If AIX 7.1 TL 1 is used, then it is recommended that APAR IV10982 is installed. AIX levels later than AIX 6.1 TL 7 and AIX 7.1 TL 1 do not require any additional APARs.

Listed below are potential issues with migrating rootvg from physical to physical or virtual environment. Keep these items in mind as you design a solution for your environment.

  1. Firmware doesn't recognize the boot disk. The boot device information is stored in NVRAM, so if the new system is to boot from a disk that was not installed using conventional installation methods on that system, then the user will need to interact with the firmware SMS menus in order to select the boot device. This can be accomplished through the SMS menus, which can be accessed from a vterm on the HMC.
  2. The console device may be lost and need to be reselected. If no one is there to respond to the console selection prompt on boot, then after some period of time the system will continue booting without a console. To the user this may "look" as though it is hung on boot.
  3. The rootvg must contain all of the required support for the new system. This includes device support for any new devices on the new system, as well as support for the model itself. If the level of AIX in the rootvg does not support the system or devices, problems may manifest themselves as boot failures or missing device support.
  4. The new system must be capable of running the AIX as installed in the rootvg. For example, if the rootvg is using the 64-bit kernel, then the new system needs 64-bit processors.
  5. Device names may change. The set of bus and adapter devices that are discovered in the new system most likely will not match the devices in the rootvg's ODM database. This will result in new device instances being created in ODM and the devices from the original system listed as "defined". For example, where the original system might have buses pci0 and pci1 and SCSI adapter scsi0, the new system will list them in the defined state with new devices pci2, pci3, and scsi1 for the PCI buses and SCSI adapter. This is true even when the new system appears to be identical with the original system. The disk devices, including those in the rootvg as well as external SAN disks, usually will be assigned the same names as on the original system. However, if a disk does not have unique identifier support and does not have a PVID assigned, then it may be given a new name. Almost all other devices will be given new names.
  6. There may be possible error log inconsistencies. Error log entries with a timestamp prior to moving the rootvg may now appear incorrect. This may be in part due to device name changes as previously described, as well as the fact that failing hardware is no longer present.
  7. Inappropriate system-specific configuration information may be applied to the new system, for example, TCP/IP hostnames and IP addresses. The route attributes of the inet0 device will be applied to the new system, and if inappropriate, could manifest itself as a boot failure, hang, or loss of system access.
  8. Network Interface device configuration will not be applied to the new system. Network interfaces are associated with specific network adapters. If the adapter names change, as previously described, then a new network interface will also be created with default configuration settings. This could manifest itself as a boot failure, hang, or loss of system access.
  9. There may be disk reservation conflicts. When the rootvg is booted in another system, it is now a different host than it was previously. This may prevent it from accessing some of the disks it could access in the old LPAR. If the rootvg is affected by this, the new system will not boot. But this should be something that can be fixed using defined procedures for the disk subsystem.
  10. iSCSI configuration problems - If iSCSI disks are being used, they may not be recognized in the new system. If accessed using an iSCSI TOE adapter, the new iSCSI TOE adapter instance may need to be configured using information from the prior adapter. If accessed using software iSCSI, then network configuration issues may need to be resolved first.
  11. iSCSI-specific boot problems - If the rootvg resides on an iSCSI disk, the new system may fail to boot even after selecting the correct boot device using the firmware SMS menus as previously described. This is due to the same configuration problems as previously described. Because the system does not boot, the configuration problems cannot be resolved. The solution here is to boot into maintenance mode to correct the configuration problems.
  12. There may be additional problems besides those enumerated above. These may or may not be resolvable.


This article explains some simple approaches to achieve higher availability for AIX logical partitions by:

  • Switching over SAN boot devices using virtualized devices.
  • Using FlashCopy to back up and recover the AIX environment.

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Zone=AIX and UNIX
ArticleTitle=AIX higher availability using SAN services