PowerKVM provides hypervisor technology that is familiar to proprietary x86 virtualization users as well as committed Linux and KVM users.
You may have heard the news that IBM recently introduced the new POWER8 processor and next-generation scale-out Power Systems servers. Rolled into that release was also the launch of PowerKVM. This means that for the first time IBM is offering open hypervisor technology in addition to its proprietary PowerVM on Power.
The new Power Systems run Linux along with other operating system choices or run Linux-only. And, with this next generation, Kernel-based Virtualization (PowerKVM) is available on all POWER8-based systems that run Linux exclusively .
First discussed at Red Hat Summit 2013 by Arvind Krishna, GM Development and Manufacturing, IBM STG, the introduction of PowerKVM is an open alternative to IBM’s proprietary PowerVM technology which has been offered on Power systems. The addition serves the dual purpose of furthering IBM’s support of Linux and open source technologies, and also providing more choice to Power customers. With PowerKVM, Linux-centric administrators can very quickly get up to speed. If they know KVM or any kind of virtualization that is x86-focused, they can rapidly configure the system and administer it as if it were another Linux or KVM instance.
Making the Switch to Power Easier
This is a big change. Our goal with PowerKVM is to make it as simple as possible for someone that is non-Power-oriented to switch to Power and very easily pick up our systems, manage them and configure virtualization and get their Linux scale-out workloads running. The whole user experience has been very much aligned with what x86 provides from an administrator perspective. And, importantly, support for KVM allows users to select a single cross-platform virtualization technology, simplifying management.
If you are familiar with KVM running on x86 or System z or any other environment for that matter, this is just another KVM instance. This gives users the ability to potentially standardize on a hypervisor and manage it all either through IBM tools or any OpenStack, libvirt and open Linux tools from the community.
Support for the OpenPOWER Foundation
We have taken the total PowerKVM offering and made it completely open source – all the way down to the actual firmware that is required to run PowerKVM.
In keeping with this open approach, we are contributing the specifications back into the OpenPower Foundation, an industry foundation based on the POWER architecture, enabling an open community for development and opportunity for member differentiation and growth. We are opening up Power and we want people to have the facilities to understand what we are doing and make it an extensible infrastructure.
Exploiting the POWER8 Hardware
In addition to the well-known cost advantage of KVM virtualization – which is considerable – as well as being completely open, the new PowerKVM virtualization exploits the unique features of the new POWER8 servers. For example, it exploits POWER8’s symmetric multi-threading with up to 8 threads per core. By leveraging the unique capabilities of the POWER8 servers, we allow workloads to get the highest performance possible from the hardware.
Workloads that will have the most to gain from the multi-threaded architecture include heavy scientific workloads, traditional OLTP and database processing.. While we can provide these 8 threads to a particular workload, we can also split them up to support lots of tiny, varied workloads. The bottom line is that the virtualization is flexible enough to support massive workloads very effectively, but can also be optimized for a bunch of tiny workloads. This agility is built into the architecture, and the hardware and the virtualization can work together for effective resource allocation to accommodate a range of different scenarios.
Opening Power to More Users
Over time, we will add support for more devices and add new features, continuing IBM’s tradition of a commitment to open technologies that dates back to the late 1990s. With this initial introduction of PowerKVM, our goal is to provide the simplicity and ease of use that is familiar to x86 virtualization users as well as committed Linux users. This is just the beginning.
T. R. Bosworth, Offering Manager for Power Virtualization, IBM