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IBM facelifts i/OS for midrange gear

Power system nip and tuck

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Invisible solid state storage

To use NPIV, customers have to link to a DS8000 from a rack or tower server using a Power6 or Power6+ processor, 8 Gb/sec Fibre Channel cards (features 5735, 8271, 8242, and 8240), and be running i 6.1.1. The tape libraries can link through the NPIV features from blades, racks, and towers, provided they have 8 Gb/sec Fibre Channel adapters linking out to disk and tape. Specifically, we're talking about the feature 5735 PCI-Express two-port 8 Gb/sec Fibre Channel adapter, the feature 8271 and 8242 QLogic 8 GB/sec Fibre Channel mezzanine card for BladeCenter blades, and the feature 8240 Emulex 8 Gb/sec Fibre Channel mezzanine card for the blades.

With the i 6.1.1 update, IBM is also offering the direct attachment of the midrange DS5100 and DS5300 disk arrays, which up until now have only been supported through VIOS on either rack or tower Power Systems or the J series of BladeCenter blades. The direct attachment requires a Smart IOA Fibre Adapter and will be available through a patch on December 4. IBM will be supporting the direct attachment of DS8700 disk arrays with i 6.1.1 with a patch that is due on November 12.

The DS8700s were already supported directly through Fibre Channel adapters on i5/OS V5R4, the prior release of the OS/400 operating system. This direct attachment for i 6.1.1 requires a feature 5749 Fibre Channel adapter (two port PCI-X with 4 GB/sec speed), or the more modern feature 5774 (a 4 Gb/sec card that plugs into a PCI-Express port) or feature 5735 (a PCI-Express card running at 8 Gb/sec).

On the solid state disk front, IBM has made some tweaks to make solid state storage a little more invisible to system administrators. With i 6.1.1, IBM is adding a feature called Disk Drainer, which moves data from one SSD to another inside of a Power Systems box. Another feature called Capacity Balancer does just what you would think it would do, which is balance the placement of application and data on one disk group in a system between the disk drives and SSDs in that group.

Most frequently used data ends up on the SSDs, which are orders of magnitude faster I/O than disk drives. IBM also says that the defragmenter used with i 6.1 - I didn't even know it had one, but of course it does - has been told to ignore the unscrambling of data on the SSDs and to just focus on the files on disk-based storage.

According to Craig Johnson, the i/OS product manager in the Power Systems division, IBM has tweaked the Storage Manager tool for i5/OS V5R4 and i 6.1 with new trace and balance commands to move hot data to the solid state disks in a Power Systems server. The tool has been tweaked and the DB2 for i database has been given an additional parameter (presumably as part of single-level storage) that allows DB2 objects to be placed on SSDs.

PTFs for i5/OS V5R4 and i 6.1 already allowed for SSDs inside of I/O drawers to be seen by the operating systems, and with i 6.1.1, the operating system can see SSDs out on SANs or under the control of VIOS partitions. This functionality will not be back ported, so if you need it, you need to move to i 6.1.1.

IBM is also providing i shops with a free SSD Analyzer Tool, which you can get here, that you run on your i5/OS V5R4 or i 6.1 system to simulate the effect that SSDs might have on the performance of your own applications.

Another neat new feature for i 6.1.1 is temporary file system support. Johnson says that lots of applications running on the i platform that make use of the Integrated File System have their performance degraded because the i/OS (like OS/400 before it) treats every object the same - as if you wanted to have it permanently stored. But for many applications, such as ERP systems, the applications are coded to make heavy use of temporary files rather than permanent ones because the overhead of making an object permanent on a system is heavy.

And so, IBM has created a temporary file system - technically a user-defined file system with temporary rather than permanent data attributes - within IFS. And in early tests done at IBM's Rochester Labs, the transaction throughput on some ERP systems has increased by between 70 and 80 per cent. The thing with this temporary file system is that the data stored in it will not survive a dismount or an IPL. You do that, and it is gone. This temporary file system can only be created in the System Auxiliary Storage Pool, by the way.

The i 6.1.1 rev also allows for a system to be upgraded from an image stored out on the network rather than from a local boot device on that system.

The i 6.1.1 update is supported Power Systems 520, 550, 560, 570, and 595 machines; System i 515, 520, 525, 550, 570, 595 machines; iSeries 800, 810, 825, 870, 890 machines; and BladeCenter JS12, JS22, JS23, and JS43 blade servers. Customers can upgrade directly from OS/400 V5R3, i5/OS V5R4, and i 6.1 to i 6.1.1, and the upgrade is free to customers who have software maintenance contracts if they have i 6.1 already. It is not clear what the upgrade fees are from prior releases to move to i 6.1.1. ®

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