When I first tried to dig in the details about the virtualization layer implementation for these systems I stumbled on different situations.
On one hand, with IBM PureFlex Systems you have tons of information available online based on what hypervisor you choose, but with IBM PureApplication Systems it’s a whole different story. This is due to the fact that IBM PureApplication Systems are designed as truly “black boxes” on which you just don´t have access to certain components.
But we´ll get into that later, first take a look at IBM PureFlex Systems.
On PureFlex systems, since you can choose which hypervisor you want to deploy (VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, Linux KVM, PowerVM) you will have total access to your virtualization infrastructure. However, there are certain management tasks that are not supported directly from the FSM console, this meaning that you will need to perform these particular tasks from the centralized administration console of your virtualization environment (vCenter Server when working in a VMware vSphere environment).
Following is a chart with the supported FSM management tasks per Hypervisor:
Taking a quick look at this chart makes evident that KVM is the option that is most integrated with the FSM console when it comes down to performing the most common tasks associated with a virtualized environment. However, please keep in mind that it means just that.
For example, VMware vSphere 5 has way much more advanced functionalities that KVM, it’s only that many of these functionalities are not integrated with the FSM console.
Another thing you should consider while choosing the right hypervisor for your IBM PureFlex System is if that hypervisor is supported by the computer nodes available on your PureFlex environment; however, it’s most likely that your choice of hypervisor will be supported (unless you are dealing with really primitive versions).
As mentioned before, your Hypervisor options under IBM PureFlex Systems are VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, Linux KVM, and PowerVM.
Of course each one of these vendors claims to out-perform the competition, but please don’t rush into the conclusion that three of them are just plain lying. I mention this because virtual machine performance and density are intimately related with the type of processor-based platform and the hypervisor you choose for supporting the workload.
Bearing this in mind, it’s no surprise then that PowerVM virtualization technology running on a POWER7 processor-based platform out-performs vSphere5 on a Sandy Bridge2-based ITE, offering 78 percent more throughput, and higher consolidation ratios.
Storage-wise, on either Intel-based or POWER7-based platforms, IBM PureFlex Systems exploits IBM Storwize V7000 to deliver up to 10 times the number of VMS per SSD than is possible using HDDs.
If you want to dig deeper, there is a very interesting and detailed white paper published by the Edison Group titled “Virtualization Performance on the IBM PureFlex System” which you can download.
IBM PureApplication Systems
When trying to understand what was inside the inexpugnable fortress of an IBM PureApplication System in terms of virtualization hypervisor, my first questions were answered laconically with phrases like “You don’t really need to know” or “If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you”.
Some time ago I had the opportunity to attend to a presentation chaired by the chief architect of this product, who enlightened me on this topic.
In a nutshell, the virtualization layer is provided by an isolated implementation of a VMware vSphere 5 environment (vSphere vCenter Server + ESXi 5 hosts) running on an Enterprise Plus license schema.
Neither the VMware vCenter Server or the VMware ESXi hosts are accessible by you, and believe me, in this particular case, it’s a good thing. This implementation is designed to provide exactly what the PureApplication needs in terms of virtualization and high availability. No more, no less.
Provisioning of VMs
For deploying a new virtual system instance you´ll need to use IBM Workload Deployer, using the pre-loaded image content (Virtual Images Catalog):
If you want to learn more about the deploying of Virtual System instances I recommend you to download the IBM Workload Deployer RedBook.
At VM level, each virtual server can be deployed from a virtual system pattern or directly from one of these pre-loaded image content:
- WebSphere Application Server
- WebSphere Application Server with Intelligent Management Pack enabled
- DB2 Enterprise
- DB2 Express
You have the option to configure your application servers to use an existing Oracle DB environment, but the DB2 engine is offered for free, so it might be a waste not to use it.
- WebSphere Message Queue
- WebSphere Message Broker
- IBM System image for AIX
Pre-loaded Virtual System Patterns:
A virtual system pattern is a topology of IBM middleware that can be deployed at once in a single step. Patterns use the available images in the catalog to deploy each component defined within the pattern.
Here are some examples of pre-loaded patterns:
- DB2 Enterprise
- DB2 Enterprise (PowerVM)
- DB2 Enterprise and WAS Highly Available cluster
- DB2 Enterprise and WAS Standalone
- DB2 Express
- DB2 Express and WAS Highly Available cluster
- WebsPhere MQ 220.127.116.11 Advanced (PowerVM)
- WebsPhere MQ 18.104.22.168 Basic (PowerVM)
- WebSphere Message Broker 22.214.171.124 (Advanced)
- WebSphere Message Broker 126.96.36.199 (Basic)
In addition to these pre-loaded patterns, you can create your own patterns, which is something that will be covered in my next post.
Well, that´s all for now. The intention of this blog was to shed some light on the virtualization basics behind these powerful beasts. I can’t deny, it wasn’t easy for me to put all the pieces together when I heard about these boxes for the first time, so I hope you’ll find this little “digest” useful.
Until next time!