IBM facelifts i/OS for midrange gear

Power system nip and tuck

Mobile application security vulnerability report

It might have come out with a slightly different name and a little later than expected, but Big Blue has tweaked its proprietary midrange operating system for Power-based systems with the i 6.1.1 release.

The word on the street a little more than a year ago was that Big Blue would be packaging up some feature enhancements and patches and would roll out an interim i 6.1.5 interim release of the venerable OS/400 operating system (now known simply as IBM i) sometime in the first half of 2009, maybe in May, to be followed up with an i 6.2 full release in early 2010, perhaps in January. This information came out of people attending the i variant of the Power Systems Technical University in Chicago in September 2009, and the rumors were reasonably credible.

The rumors also turned out to be untrue, inasmuch as a rumor can ever be said to be true until a vendor actually commits to a release schedule and naming convention.

As part of the Dynamic Infrastructure marketing blitz this month, when IBM had no Power Systems server announcements to speak of and which was not quite blitzy enough to get people to stop talking about the insider trading scandal that has caught Bob Moffat, formerly the general manager of IBM's System and Technology Group, Big Blue released a little something called i 6.1.1.

The i 6.1.1 operating system began shipping to customers on October 23. As was expected more than a year ago, the point release of the operating system included enhancements relating to the Virtual I/O Server, which as the name suggests is a program that runs in a logical partition that is used to virtualize the I/O that other logical partitions in a machine (the ones doing real work) makes use of to talk to disks and tapes attached to the physical server.

Virtual I/O Server, or VIOS for short, comes out of the AIX side of the Power Systems house and is basically alien to OS/400 shops. But if you want to run i 6.1 on a Power-based blade, you have to use VIOS as the virtualization layer to talk to disk and tape and networks because i 6.1, for whatever reason, was not ported natively to the J series of Power6 and Power6+ blade servers. Ditto for selected external disk arrays, which can only be attached to i 6.1 through VIOS.

IBM uses VIOS so it can take some shortcuts. The company writes a driver for VIOS to talk to a specific Fibre Channel interface card, and then puts a virtual interface card in an AIX, Linux, or i partition that communicates with the real Fibre Channel card, but does so in an emulated way. The thing is, this is great for IBM, because it cuts down on the work it needs to do, but not so for i shops that have paid the price because they are forced to use a piece of software that they have no familiarity with.

Ditto for business partners. Which is why a year ago, IBM started preconfiguring VIOS and i 6.1 on BladeCenter setups with Power-based JS12 and JS22 blades. As I said at the time, it had not occurred to me that IBM was not already pre-installing this software on the blades. I mean, isn't the "i" supposed to mean integration?

Anyway, here were are in October, and VIOS, which is technically a part of the PowerVM server virtualization hypervisor toolset, has indeed got some enhancements. With the i 6.1.1 update, IBM is allowing machines based on the Power6 and Power6+ processors to support redundant VIOS partitions. Apparently, not only were i shops cranky about having another layer of software standing between their i-based logical partitions and their physical I/O adapters, but they were complaining that VIOS represents a single point of failure. So now companies can set up redundant active-active mirroring of VIOS using two logical partitions. You have to be at VIOS 2.1.2 to do the mirroring.

In another related item, the PowerVM hypervisor now supports an industry standard called N_Port ID Virtualization, or NPIV. With this support, i 6.1.1 can link out through native Fibre Channel adapters in a Power Systems rack or tower server (but not a blade) and talk directly to storage area networks. The upshot now is that IBM's high-end DS8000 disk arrays and TS3100, TS3200, and TS3500 arrays can be linked directly to i 6.1.1 and their full feature sets are available to the i platform; they are not being emulated in any way.

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
prev story


Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.