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Virtualization, Carpools and Marathons
Continuing this week's theme on the z10 EC mainframe being able to perform the workloadof hundreds or thousands of small 2-way x86 servers, I offer a simple analogy.
One car, one driver
If you wonder why so many companies subscribe to the notion that you should only runa single application per server, blame Sun, who I think helped promote this idea.Not to be out-done, Microsoft, HP and Dell think that it is a great idea too. Imaginethe convenience for operators to be able to switch off a single machine and impactonly a single application. Imagine how much this simplifies new application development,knowing that you are the only workload on a set of dedicated resources.
This is analogous to a single car, single driver, where the car helps get the personfrom "point A" to "point B" and the single driver represents the driver and solepassenger of the vehicle. If this were a single driver on a energy-efficient motorcycleor scooter, than would be reasonable, but people often drive alone much bigger vehicles,what Jeff Savit would call "over-provisioning". Chips have increased in processingpower much faster than individual applications have increased their requirements, so as a result,you have over-provisioning.
Carpooling - one bus, one driver, and many other passengers riding along
This is how z/OS operates. Yes, you could have up to 60 LPARs that you could individuallyturn on and off, but where z/OS gets most of its advantages is that you can run many applicationsin a single OS instance, through the use of "Address Spaces" which act as application containers.Of course, it is more difficult to write for this environment, because you have to be a good"z/OS citizen", share resources nicely, and be WLM-compliant to allow your application to beswapped out for others.
While you get efficiencies with this approach, when you bring the OS down, all the apps on that OS image haveto stop with it. For those who have "Parallel Sysplex" that is not an issue. For example, let's say youhave three mainframes, each running several LPARs of z/OS, and your various z/OS images all are able toprocess incoming transactions for a common shared DB2 database. Thanks to DB2 sharing technology, youcould take down an individual LPAR or z/OS image, and not disrupt transaction processing, because theIP spreader just sends them to the remaining LPARs. A "Coupling Facility" allows for smooth operationsif any of the OS images are lost from an unexpected disaster or disruption.
Needless to say, IBM does not give each z/OS developer his or her own mainframe. Instead, we get to run z/OS guest images under z/VM. It was even possible to emulate the next generation S/390 chipsetto allow us to test software on hardware that hasn't been created yet. With HiperSockets, we canhave virtual TCP/IP LAN connections between images, have virtual coupling facilities, have virtualdisk and virtual tape, and so on. It made development and test that much more efficient, which iswhy z/OS is recognized as one of the most rock-solid bullet-proof operating systems in existence.
The negatives of carpooling or taking the bus applies here as well. I have been on buses that havestopped working, and 50 people are stranded. And you don't need more than two people to make thelogistics of most carpools complicated. This feeds the fear that people want to have separatemanageable units one-car-one-driver than putting all of their eggs into one basket, having to scheduleoutages together, and so on.
(Disclaimer: From 1986 to 2001 I helped the development of z/OS and Linux on System z. Mostof my 17 patents are from that time of my career!)
Bicycle races and Marathons
The third computing model is the Supercomputer. Here we take a lot of one-way and two-way machines,and lash them together to form an incredible machine able to perform mathematical computations fasterthan any mainframe. The supercomputer that IBM built for Los Alamos National Laboratory just clockedin at 1,000,000,000,000,000 floating point operations per second. This is not a single operating system,but rather each machine runs its own OS, is given its primary objective, and tries to get it done.NetworkWorld has a nice article on this titled:[IBM, Los Alamos smash petaflop barrier, triple supercomputer speed record].If every person in the world was armed with a handheld calculator and performed one calculation per second, it would take us 46 years collectively to do everything this supercomputer can do in one day.
I originally thought of bicycle races as an analogy for this, but having listened to Lance Armstrong at the[IBM Pulse 2008] conference, I learned thatbiking is a team sport, and I wanted something that had the "every-man-for-himself" approach to computing.So, I changed this to marathons.
The marathon was named after a fabled greek soldier was sent as messenger from the [Battle of Marathon to the City of Athens],a distance that is now standardized to 26 miles and 385 yards, or 42.195 kilometers for my readersoutside the United States.
If you were given the task to get thousands of people from "point A" to "point B" 26 plus milesaway, would you chose thousands of cars, each with a lone driver? Conferences with a lot of people in a few hotels useshuttle buses instead. A few drivers, a few buses, and you can get thousands of people from a fewplaces to a few places. But the workloads that are sent to supercomputers have a single end point,so a dispatcher node gives a message to each "greek soldier" compute node, and has them run it on their own. Somemake it, some don't, but for a supercomputer that is OK. When the message is delivered, the calculation for thatlittle piece is done, and the compute node gives it another message to process. All of the computations areassembled to come up with the final result. Applications must be coded very speciallyto be able to handle this approach, but for the ones that are, amazing things happen.
So, how does "server virtualization" come into play?
IBM has had Logical Partitions for quite some time. A logical partition, or LPAR, can run its own OSimage, and can be turned on and off without impacting other LPARs. LPARs can have dedicated resources,or shared resources with other LPARs. The IBM z10 EC can have up to 60 LPARs. System p and System i,now merged into the new "POWER Systems" product line, also support LPARs in this manner. Depending onthe size of your LPAR, this could be for a single OS and application, or a single OS with lots of applications.
Address Spaces/Application Containers
This is the bus approach. You have a single OS, and that is shared by a set of application containers. z/OS does this with address spaces, all running under a single z/OS image, and for x86there are products like [Parallels Virtuozzo Containers] that can run hundred of Windows instances under a single Windows OS image, or a hundred Linux imagesunder a single Linux OS image. However, you cannot mix and match Windows with Linux, just as all theaddress spaces on z/OS all have to be coded for the same z/OS level on the LPAR they run in.
The term "guests" were chosen to model this after the way hotels are organized. Each guest has a roomwith its own lockable entrance and privacy, but shared lobby, and in some countries, shared bathroomson every hall. This approach is used by z/VM, VMware and others. The z/VM operating system can handle any S/390-chip operating system guest, so you could have a mix ofz/OS, TPF, z/VSE, Linux and OpenSolaris, and even other z/VM levels running as guests. Many z/VM developers runin this "second level" mode to develop new versions of the z/VM operating system!
As part of the One Laptop Per Child [OLPC] development team (yes, I ama member of their open source community, and now have developer keys to provide contributions), I havebeen experimenting with Linux KVM. This was [folded into the base Linux 2.6.20 kernel and availableto run Linux and Windows guest images. This is a nice write-up on[Wikipedia].
The key advantage of this approach is that you are back to one-car-one-driver simplistic mode of thinking. Each guest can be turned on and off without impacting otherapplications. Each guest has its own OS image, so you can mix different OS on the same server hardware.You can have your own customized kernel modules, levels of Java, etc.Externally, it looks like you are running dozens of applications on a single server, but internally,each application thinks it is the only one running on its own OS. This gives you simpler codingmodel to base your test and development with.
Jeff is correct that running less than 10 percent utilization average across your servers is a cryingshame, and that it could be managed in a manner that raises the utilization of the servers so that fewer areneeeded. Just as people could carpool, or could take the bus to work, it just doesn't happen, and data centersare full of single-application servers.
VMware has an architectural limit of 128 guests per machine, and IBM is able to reach this withits beefiest System x3850 M2 servers, but most of the x86 machines from HP, Dell and Sun are less powerful,and only run a dozen or so guests. In all cases, fewer servers means it is simpler to manage, so moreapplications per server is always the goal in mind.
VMware can soak up 30 to 40 percent of the cycles, meaning the most you can get from a VMware-basedsolution is 60 to 70 percent CPU utilization (which is still much better than the typical 5 to 10 percent average utilization we see today!) z/VM has been finely tuned to incur as little as 7 percent overhead,so IBM can achieve up to 93 percent utilization.
Jeff argues that since many of the z/OS technologies that allow customers to get over90 percent utilization don't apply to Linux guests under z/VM, then all of the numbers are wrong.My point is that there are two ways to achieve 90 percent utilization on the mainframe, one is throughz/OS running many applications on a single LPAR (the application container approach), and the other through z/VM supporting many Linux OS images, each with one (or a few) applications (the virtual guest approach).
I am still gathering more research on this topic, so I will try to have it ready later this week.