Power5 iSeries to get mainframe technology

An iSeries based on the Power5 chip will be the first to include the Virtualization Engine, mainframe-based technology that lets 10 servers operate as one.

IBM's much anticipated Power5 servers will be the first to include a significant new technology based on mainframe computing -- technology that is likely to change the dynamics of the IT infrastructure, say experts.

The new technology, announced Wednesday, is called "Virtualization Engine" and is a combination of software embedded into new hardware systems that enables computer systems to "clone" themselves.

Virtualization Engine technologies will appear first in IBM's new iSeries servers.

Virtualization is the pooling of servers, storage or other devices from multiple units into what appears to be a single system that is managed from a central console.

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By making one server act like 10, the Virtualization Engine (VE) multiplies the performance capabilities of a single server. This same premise has allowed mainframes, used in the world's most secure banking and institutional transaction environments, to maintain utilization rates in the range of 80% - compared with rates as low as 5% in UNIX and Windows environments -- providing customers with greater efficiency and dramatically lower operational costs.

Analyst Jonathan Eunice of Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata Inc., said VE is the basic bundling of a number of virtualization components into one package, which will presumably be easier to purchase, install, and use.

"While you can take 'single package = simpler' too far, it's a reasonable approach," he said, "especially given how new many of these components are, and how piecemeal they have been driven out to the market thus far."

Over time, unified packaging will evolve into more coordinated, unified, and seamless operation across all of the VE components, Eunice said. In that sense, this VE announcement is really just the initial platform launch.

"Eventually, you'll see fewer seams and tighter links among parts," he said.

As a point of comparison, HP has a similar name (Virtual Server Environment), but it's specific to HP-UX (rather than cross platform), and it's more a marketing umbrella rather than a single orderable package.

"Virtualization Engine is aimed at our clients' desire to focus less on individual operating systems and more on a complete operating environment with higher order impact and value," said Bill Zeitler, group executive and senior vice president, IBM Systems and Technology Group, in a statement.

In addition to leveraging mainframe technologies, IBM's VE, deploys basic provisioning and management tools from Tivoli, as well as open grid capabilities in the WebSphere runtime environment across a range of IBM systems.

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