IBM Power Systems & VMware; Why Not!

IBM and VMware made an announcement that many would never have anticipated.

On August 31, 2015 at VMware’s VMworld conference in San Francisco both IBM and VMware made an announcement that many would never have anticipated.  In support of private and hybrid clouds, VMware’s vRealize Automation is now able to provision and manage virtual machines (LPAR’s in traditional parlance) on IBM’s Power Systems.

Details are sparse as I write this, as well as what I have found from IBM and other online sources.  Here is a IBM blog with most of the details.  I won’t repeat what it says as it is not the focus of this article.

The focus of this blog is on why wouldn’t VMware want to do this and why shouldn’t the traditional VMware shop embrace this first step?  First, it is further evidence by both companies as they weave their unique products with open source OpenStack to deliver greater features with expanded capabilities to customers.  I am not very versed in vRealize so I’ll take the position of speaking about it in generalities. However, I am very well versed in IBM’s PowerVC which is based on the OpenStack framework.  This site management tool for Power Systems provides for image management (fancy talk for OS backup & provisioning), placement policies (aka affinity), full stack configuration of VM’s (ability to configure networking & storage), VM replication, Remote Restart (excellent VM recovery feature) and much, much more.

Because it is based on OpenStack, not only can it be enhanced to suit a customers environment via industry standard API, it can also be integrated into a customers management solution.  Enter VMware’s vRealize Automation product.  This is where the vRealize people say “yep, I know how that works” and where the people unfamiliar with vRealize “google it”.

This creates an expanded market for VMware for platform management.  We can speculate if this is all that IBM & VMware have up their sleeves OR if this is just the first of many future announcements – I don’t know but I’m erring on the side of this being the first of many future announcements.  It also gives them a bump in terms of promoting their cloud solution to customers by claiming it can support not just x86 technology but also  Big Iron like Power and System Z (yes, they announced support for it today as well but you will have to read a Z blog for more details on that).

For customers, this delivers a significant endorsement on the viability of IBM Power Systems. The x86 vendors have for years labeled RISC systems as legacy and dying. Although true for HP and SPARC Unix platforms (If I used RISC because of HP’s Itanium I would surely get criticized so I jumped to UNIX to avoid it) it has not been true for IBM.  That change happened during the Power6 to Power7 model change.  Power6 was the last of the Big Iron systems with the Big Iron mentality.  Power7 began to shift towards the new battlefront consisting of x86 based technologies.  With Power8 the shift by IBM to not only be competitive but a leader in many categories was firmly in place. Platform openness with hypervisor choice (PowerVM, PowerKVM, RHEV & Bare Metal) and OS flexibility using traditional Big Endian AIX, IBM i and Linux (RedHat v6.5 & v7.1 and SUSE 11) as well as Little Endian Linux (RedHat v7.1, SUSE 12 and Ubuntu 14). Systems management using PowerVC based on OpenStack abandoning its own and long in tooth Systems Director product.  Even using Nagio’s in IBM’s newest secure, converged and integrated PurePower ready to deploy cloud solution.  Additional features such as reliability, security, virtualization efficiency, serviceability, significant performance increases and cost competitiveness.  Add in their technology sharing with the 150+ member strong OpenPower Foundation delivering a open platform for the community to develop on and develop to solutions that Intel specifically has continued to close out.

Now with POWER8 delivering roughly 2X the performance per core running the same Linux byte ordering as what is available on x86 systems customers have a choice. Is ‘Good Enough’ good enough when I can get better for the same price with all of the features mentioned above with greater performance that can now be managed by my preferred management platform from VMware.  This doesn’t mean to imply that x86 is going away anytime soon or that Power will overtake the data center overnight.  It does mean to imply though that customers now have choices and it doesn’t have to be just one x86 vendor against another but also with a superior architecture.

Yes, this was very smart by VMware as they win no matter what the customer decides to do.  It was also very smart for IBM as it should mean increased adoption of their Power platform into shops that would otherwise avoid it for lack of integration into the VMware stack.  Both companies will then get the chance to introduce customers to other products in their portfolio which means they are already in the door….that is half the battle!

Author: powertheenterprise

Client Executive & Enterprise Architect

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