LinuxWorld: IBM debuts real-time partitioning

Editor's note: Due to a reporting error, this story contained an incorrect description of the server platform on which IBM's Live Partition Mobility runs. The story was corrected on Aug. 8, around 7:45 a.m. Computerworld regrets the error.

IBM is introducing a new feature of its recently released Power6 processor that's designed to make it possible to move a Unix-based computer workload from one server to another while it is running.

IBM calls the functionality Live Partition Mobility, and it's one of the innovations IBM is announcing at LinuxWorld Conference & Expo this week in San Francisco.

The first Power6 Unix-based processors were shipped in June, but IBM Monday shared more details with reporters of how Power6 works in its System p line of servers. Live Partition works in a virtualized environment by replicating memory pages from one partition to another and is transparent to the operating system and applications running. It can be used to migrate workloads running on AIX or Linux operating systems, including Red Hat and Novell SUSE Linux, and it also supports earlier AIX versions, AIX 5.2 and AIX 5.3.

IBM's Anton Blanchard provided a real-time demonstration of the Live Partition product as it moved an application from one server to another in just a few minutes.

Virtualization software company VMware has the same capability in its VMotion product, but IBM is the first to offer the capability on servers running Unix. The point of migrating workloads while the software is running is to avoid the downtime involved in stopping the program to move it, Blanchard said.

Live Partition Mobility helps multiple servers operate as one fluid pool of computing resources, according to a research report by The Sageza Group Inc. that IBM cited.

Live Partition Mobility is in beta testing and is scheduled for general availability later this year, said Scott Handy, vice president of worldwide marketing and strategy for IBM's System p line.

Power6 is a 64 bit, dual-core processor that can run at up to 4.7 GHz.

A new version of IBM's Unix-based operating system AIX 6, is also in beta testing and Handy said there have been about 2,500 downloads of AIX 6 so far.

The first of IBM's Power6-based servers on the market is the System p 570 model, and IBM is positioning it as a product that offers a way for customers to consolidate the number of servers in their data centers where, Handy said, only 15% to 20% of server capacity is actually used. One IBM customer, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., a power utility in Northern California, went from 30 Unix servers to one System p.

IBM also wants to use System p to stave off competing products like Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Integrity servers running on Itanium processors and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s SunFire servers running the UltraSparc T2 processor, also known as the Niagara 2 chip.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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