I was recently invited to present in Oslo, Norway on this topic to not a very technical audience. Which was outside my regular comfort zone.
Other speakers were covering
- IBM i - the world's most modern platform
- HPC from Experience (Norway's universities are amongst world leaders in this area)
- and a client speaking on their experience migrating to Oracle to POWER9 (the S922 servers were faster than expected and they are now purchasing E950s).
My topic was the same as this Blog title but I added a few comments on AIX.
Here is what I came up with:
Power Systems: a safe choice for the future
Oxford English Dictionary: SAFE
- Not in Danger
- Not causing Harm
- Ignoring: definitions like “safe sex” and "safe deposit box" to keep your money & valuables (I don't recommend keeping your money inside a Power Server).
Power Systems are safe:
- Power Systems have not hurt a client for a long time
- When I first joined IBM 27 years ago, the "old timers" loved telling us nightmare stories from 30 years previously!
- You should read the Safety Documentation
- Lots of safety labels on the top of the POWER9 servers
- Electrical warnings.
- Radio interference.
- Noise levels - Fans can be loud, be careful and wear appropriate ear coverings.
- Heat & Humidity envelope = ASHRAE A2.
- Weight and lifting tools - new servers are heavy as they are packed full of technology these days, hence the recommended lifting tool.
Hmmm!! Perhaps, I have missed the point!
- Maybe this was not meant to be a Health and Safety session!
Is Power Systems a safe IT investment in your
computer room & for your people skills?
- Power Systems (an IBM division) making POWER Processors and the POWER range of Servers
- POWER (Processor chips) = Performance Optimised with Enhanced RISC
- RISC = Reduced Instruction Set Cycles - many this that should be C for Computer or CPUs. The point is a smaller instruction set means more focus on making the processor complete the instruction in the minimum number of CPU cycles.
So please spell them like this: Power Systems and POWER9 processors.
Is there a safe track record POWER Servers?
In the 1990 to 1995 period had two competing processor chips that were used in our UNIX servers but they were merged together making one stronger processor team. Here are the processor, the dates the servers using them arrived and some of the technology that arrived with them:
- POWER = 1990 (also RS64 chip)
- POWER2 = 1996
- POWER3 = 1998
- POWER4 = 2002
- LPAR + DLPAR - Logical Partition (one server many concurrent operating systems) + Dynamix Logical Partition (add/remove CPU, RAM and adapters)
- POWER5 = 2004
- VIOS + SMT2 - Virtual I/O Server for Virtual Net, disk & DVD,
- Simultaneous Multi-Threading = each CPU core running more than one program at the same time
- POWER6 = 2007
- LPM - Live Partition Mobility - jumping a running operating system and application from one server to another
- POWER7 = 2010
- CPU Pool for detailed CPU control and reduced software licensing prices
- SMT4 - four programs per CPU core
- POWER8 = 2014
- OpenPOWER - other companies can build systems with POWER9 processors + SMT8 - eight programs per CPU core
- POWER9 = 2017/8
- NVLink2 + GPUs for AI and HPC workload acceleration
- Much faster CPU core threads
- POWER10 = Current outlook is 2021 - this has been informally announced at conferences.
- Of course, "real techies" were expecting POWERA as we think in hexadecimal!
Nearly 30 years of roughly 3.5 years between new server ranges. IBM tries hard to keep that regular but only start shipping when the servers are actually ready and fully tested. Also, note it takes roughly a year for the top to the bottom of the range of servers to arrive. With POWER9 the AC922 (GPU engine for HPC and AI) arrived at the end of 2017 and the rest in 2018.
Computers have changed since I started at IBM in ‘92
Before my friends claim that was 1892 . . . it was actually 1992. I prepared the below information for a presentation on nmon (my claim to fame) and it makes the point the computer industry has made massive improvements over the years.
During the ‘nmon’ era starting 1997 - 2019:
- CPUs x 200,000 faster
- RAM x 1 million larger
- Network x 40,000 rate
- x 500,000 larger (spinning disks) - Did you know there are called Winchester disks because they were invented and IBM Hursley (1 mile outside Winchester town, UK). Not called Hursley disks as the IBM location was secret at the time - which was very odd as many lost visitors at the time, asked for directions at the local pub and told where it was !!
- x 10,000 faster (SSD/NVMe)
- AIX is the UNIX winner in Technology and Performance - IBM having out Researched and out Developed all the other UNIX servers from other vendors over this time
- Linux on POWER performance lead - POWER9 2+ times faster than Intel per core
- Accelerated AI and HPC Workloads on the AC922 give world class and the current number 1 and number 2 in the Top500 HPC computers List.
Examples of how IBM continues to do this:
As well as near doubling the transistor count between POWER8 and POWER9, the size of the transistors and tracks are one third smaller:
These are the size of the copper tracks between transistors (the thinnest parts inside the processor). We can at this tiny level start to count the atoms across the track width. But how small is 14 nm?
With the nearly 30 years of continual IBM Research and Development as a track record,
you can make up your own mind if Power Systems is a safe bet.
I think Power Systems has a safe processor Road Map
Faster Processors make faster Servers
Of course, processors don't make a server - with Power Systems IBM makes the servers too and we make sure new POWER processors are designed to make powerful servers by enhancing everything else too: memory, disks, adapters and all the interconnecting buses.
In the last 2+ years, we have also made the POWER8 and POWER9 processors available to anyone and the associated firmware to get them up and running via the OpenPOWER consortium. The current range from IBM looks like this - but there are other POWER9 servers available directly from other manufacturers now.
- AC922 the HPC and AI accelerator engine using multiple NVIDIA GPU for extreme parallel computation and using NVllink between POWER9 and GPUs for transferring the data in and out. Runs Linux
- LC922/LC921 - the workhorse for Cloud with high performance and low cost
- Scale-Out Servers S922/S924 with the full IBM Hypervisor support for dozen to 100's of virtual machines and mix of operating systems AIX, IBM i, RHEL and SLES
- Enterprise Servers E950/E980 the large scale, servers with the performance for 1000's of virtual machines and massive application and database
Let us next take a quick look at the performance jumps in the recent POWER Server ranges through the generations
From this track record, it is expected to see these amazing jumps in performance with each range coming to market.
I just liked this picture with the young lady doing all the most significant work :-)
IMHO Power Systems = Server Model Safe Road Map
Is IBM going to ditch POWER?
Are you "nuts"?
You have got to be joking, right?
- Power Systems is a large successful business.
- I am not allowed to detail the numbers of specific parts of IBM (some details are in the IBM Annual Statement) but shall we say it is in the many billions of dollars scale.
- IBM is not going to shut that down on a whim.
- A four years ago, I was asked by a worldwide banking client to audit a particular workload on POWER7+ as it was about to move to POWER8
- It was only ~ 25 CPU cores but lots of RAM and was running nicely but pretty busy.
- I was to predict how it would run on POWER8 and any recommended tuning changes.
- At lunchtime, the client visited my cubical to explain this was an important workload.
- If the workload server failed for an hour, it would seriously impact the bank's reputation.
- If it was not available for a whole day the world economy might not recover !!!
- "No pressure," she said as she walks back down the corridor laughing loudly!
- I started triple checking all my figures!
- This is the sort of workload clients insist on running POWER Servers- it has to fast and it has to be reliable.
- The server was actually running in a quadruple backup server arrangement and across countries.
- I am now working on a soak test for a High-Performance Cluster at a racing team (can't say more). The soak test involves taking the server to 100% busy for 10 days with a 2 day cooling down period in the middle. This, I think, is due to unreliable previous hardware. The client is moving to POWER9 for high performance and super high RAS = Reliability, Availability, Serviceability. It does not breakdown; if in the unlikely case of a break down it stay up running (disabling the fault components); then the faulty components can be replaced online or at a later convenient time). With Live Partition Mobility (LPM) running workloads can be moved while running to a different server. This is all normal for Power Systems.
These are just a few of many stories I have about Power Systems and the importance IBM and client place on these servers.
IBM has three arms:
- IBM Hardware
- Power Systems - POWER Servers and specific POWER software - PowerVM, HMC, PowerSC, etc.
- Mainframe - the Z servers
- Storages - SAN Volume Controller, Spectrum Scale (GPFS), small & large advanced disk subsystem and SSD / FlashSystems, etc.
- IBM Software
- For Power Systems, large software items ones are IBM DB2 and IBM WAS (Web Application Server)
- Many system software programs, applications for general purpose and specific industries.
- IBM Services
- Computer services
- Business Services
- The final third!! Is IBM Finance that can set up favourable Leasing terms.
For every POWER Server sale, there are lots of other sales of software and services making Power Systems even more valuable for IBM.
Is IBM going to ditch AIX due to the Red Hat thing?
I am assuming you have heard IBM is in the process of purchasing the Red Hat company - sometime in the second half of 2019.
This came as something of a shock to me too.
POWER Servers run lots of operating systems including the three enterprise Linux Distros.
The purchase of Red Hat does not affect that at all.
We ran Red Hat Enterprise Linux before the purchase and will continue to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux after the purchase.
Although the purchase feels like it should affect us Power Systems team - it really doesn't.
So why is this happening . . .
Key points from my point of view (I am not an IBM spokesperson):
- This move points out to the world that IBM is a key player in the Linux world - this has been true for decades but not many people know this. Just look at the contributions IBM techies have made to most of the top Open Source projects: Linux kernel, Apache, KVM, etc.
- I have no great insights into the business/company world but I have read a lot. Although it looks like a lot of money, it is a fair price given product, skills, talent and market presence of Red Hat.
- It comes as a shock that the purchase does not affect Power Systems much but IBM is looking more at the Cloud Leadership, HPC and AI Leadership features of Red Hat as the core technologies.
- Given the culture differences, IBM has stated, it will not absorb Red Hat.
- IBM can boost Red Hat access to IBM's many clients.
On AIX . . .
As the first speaker talked about IBM i, so I also got to say a few things about AIX. My favourite operating system.
A couple of years ago, I ran a project to remind clients that AIX is still going strong, still excellent technology and developing the vital new features for the future.
As a visual thinker, I represented this as 32 icon images and asked IBMers and clients to vote on their favourite AIX arts:
Here if the image:
After the votes were in these are the results:
I discounted nmon (my own personal project) - I suggest people voted for it as I was asking for votes.
But note - many of these features are a strength of AIX but are actually POWER Server features that apply to all of the supported Operating Systems, as below:
Comments for fun:
- nmon actually runs on AIX and Linux on POWER and Linux on other hardware (Mainframe, AMD64, ARM (Raspberry Pi) and x86)
- Please don't tell the Linux guys about the AIX secret weapon: smitty - a simple clean tool to accelerate system admin tasks (now called DevOps). Linux Distros are diverting away from each other and thus making the system admin (DevOps) tasks harder!
Yes AIX licenses are increasing - rather a shock to many people. Especially, ones emailing me and predicting the end of AIX. I humbly suggest these negative comments come from people that don't actually use AIX at all. Sorry but AIX is alive and well and growing.
Sorry Linux people - I still prefer using AIX - perhaps that is due to many years of practice using it but there are many features missing in Linux that AIX has had for decades.
AIX on POWER RAS also does well
Bit of an eye chart - it reads:
- IBM AIX on Power Systems = 0.11 (0.20 means 12 minutes unexcepted downtime per server a year)
- IBM RHEL/SUSE/Ubuntu on Power = 0.11
- This is 99.996% + reliability
- . . .
- Oh dear! Oracle Linux and Solaris are XXXXXXXX = IBM DOES NOT COMMENT ON THE COMPETITION
And it nice to Linux on POWER up near the top. Note this above slide is for UNIX and Linux - IBM i and Z/OS is not included.
A quick reminder AIX is being developed for ever faster Processors and larger machines. AIX can do 192 POWER9 CPU cores with 1536 CPU core threads and 32 TB of memory (Yes that is Terabytes). The AIX development team are busy continually adding all the features expected of a modern UNIX system.
AIX is having many "new age" functions and features developed plus bleeding edge new technology and large system scaling added to it. - Sorry, you might not be able to read this slide. Get to an IBM Technical University conference for many sessions on these topics.
Are Power Systems Safe from a Security viewpoint?
It seems to me every company has to have a major data breach before they take security seriously.
Assuming all the basic security features are in place, for example:
- Network security
- Encrypted “data at rest” = disks
- Normally via data storage units
- Operation System obvious bits:
- Complex managed password
- Secure Linux
- Trusted Execution (like Secure Linux for AIX)
- Encrypted Filesystems
Which are available on all Power Systems Servers.
There is an additional platform level of security with IBM's PowerSC
- Compliance Automation - AIX has the aixpert command for system hardening via applying hundreds of rules (these come as rule profiles prebuild for common standards like DoD, PCI, NERC, SOX-CORBIT, HIPA & GDRP). But if you have 100's or 1000's of Virtual Machines how can you set the rules and prove the rules are not broken? This is what the Compliance Automation tool always security officers to do via a GUI. For Linux there is the pscpert command - I think the Linux team would not enjoy typing aixpert :-)
- Real-Time alerts - the Kernel is aware of high-security files and if they are change fires of alert messages of when and who changed them. A lot better than waiting for the weekly audit results.
- Trusted Network Connect - A common exposure is having upgraded an Operating System 6 months later you reboot but it boots the old disk and OS version. You have just added numerous ways for a hacker to attack. This tool will block the OS reboot and report the issue. You could allow automatic updating (patching) of the OS to the required level as a quick mechanism to upgrading Virtual Machine to a new "standard" supported OS version.
- Trusted Boot stops hackers from meddling with your OS boot images. This is a particularly, nasty hack as you can't spot this from the operating system at all - its called a rootkit attack.
- Trusted Firewall is more of a performance tool but maintains firewall security too. It is normal for virtual machines to communicate between VLANs via the external network switch running a firewall. Trusted Firewall (using the common firewall setting syntax commands) always virtual machine to virtual machine networking.
- Trusted Logging transfers you system logs over memory to the VIOS. This stops a hacker editing the logs to remove traces of what they have been doing and thus you can see what happened and what to do about it.
You will have to make up your own mind but I think and have bet my career on Power Systems having a Safe Future:
There is also safety in numbers as IBM sells lots of Power System to many large companies:
It took me 30 minutes to cover this in Norway but it took 3 hours to create the Blog!
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