IBM Power, at the service of people – Services

In October, CRN welcomed international visitor Jim Wasko, vice president of open systems development at IBM and a full expert on Linux and open standards. Wasko was in Australia to discuss some of the initiatives Big Blue has put in place to drive sales of its Power platform and foster a community around Linux on Power software developers.

There were three stops during the two-day tour – first a breakfast and lunch in Sydney and finally a roundtable in Melbourne (pictured). Local resellers and independent software vendors have had the opportunity to catch up on vendor plans.

Wasko spoke about IBM’s $ 1 billion investment in Linux on Power as well as the vendor’s share in the Open Power Foundation, a consortium of technology companies focused on developing above the platform. -form. He was joined by Wes McDonald, Managing Director, Systems and Technology Group at IBM Australia and New Zealand and other colleagues from IBM Australia and Avnet Technology Solutions.

The discussions lasted several hours of presentations and questions and answers, which we summarized in five key points.

IBM’s Linux journey

As a strong supporter of Linux and open source, Wasko has spent much of his career around the Linux community. He joined IBM when he acquired the company he worked for, Sequent Computers Systems, and immediately focused on IBM’s efforts for Linux.

“At the end of 1999, we made the strategic decision that Linux was not just a trendy operating system or a hobby, but was going to be a game-changer for the industry. This is when our Linux Technology Center was born, ”said Wasko.

He admitted that the vendor learned to work with the Linux community through trial and error. “We learned a lot, made a lot of mistakes, we joined some communities and said, ‘We’re here and we’re going to show you how to do this.’

“That was the first mistake and that’s not how you work in open source communities. You learn what their standards are, you learn what the rules are, then you join them and then you do the dirty work, fix the flaws, do the documentation.

“In the very early years, we made the printing subsystems work because they were pretty weak in the data center for Linux at the time. “

The perfect storm

This year, IBM sold its System X commodity servers business to Lenovo. Big Blue is now focusing on its Power platform. Wasko acknowledged that this was not the first time IBM had made its voice heard behind Linux on Power. But he stressed that this time around, there is “a perfect storm” in the market that should drive adoption.

It was an intersection of pull factors, with customers demanding open standards, and push factors as IBM puts its weight behind Linux on Power.

“If you’ve been watching IBM for a long time, people will say, ‘Didn’t you launch PowerLinux five years ago? And then three years ago? And now you’re starting over. What’s different this time? ‘

“What’s different is that the market is really looking for more choice. They are looking for a place to collaborate and we are now at the point where we are ready to do it now at the silicon level. So we’ve met this perfect storm, where we’re ready, the market is ready, and it’s a good collaborative sandbox.

McDonald agreed, “We are seeing profound changes in the global marketplace, to which IBM is reacting very aggressively with big games, big investments. We mentioned the billion dollar investment in Linux on Power. IBM is backing that up with an additional $ 3 billion investment in chip design and development, and we’re doing that fundamentally to help ISVs. [independent software vendors] embrace the technology we bring to market in a way that is open, available and ultimately delivers value to your customers.

“We believe that these investments, coupled with the success of the Power Platform and in particular the progress made around the adoption of Open Power and the Open Power Foundation, offer a veritable storm of opportunities from 2014 to 2015. for the market and for our ISV community.

“We believe the end result will be that Power becomes a mainstream Linux platform. We believe the market needs an alternative. We see this through a range of interactions and feedback from customers, the ISV community, throughout the entire ecosystem, ”added McDonald.

$ 1 billion investment

In September 2013, IBM revealed an initiative to commit $ 1 billion to growing the Linux ecosystem on IBM’s line of Power Systems servers.

During the Australian tour, Wasko explained how it was spent. IBM operates a global network of Power Systems Linux Centers, spaces for software developers to build and deploy applications based on open technology building blocks using Linux and the latest Power technology. The money also goes to the “Linux on Power development cloud”. ISVs, channel partners and customers can access this service free of charge, using it to prototype, build, port and test Linux applications on the Power platform.

Wasko explained, “We have five Power Systems Linux Centers around the world that help people migrate. Although the team I manage is actually the engineering and technology team, writing the kernel code that runs on Power, these people [at the Power Systems Linux Centres] go up one level, really in the application space.

“We have a Power Development Cloud for developers as well as for ISVs. We do the ISV work through our PartnerWorld portal. If you’re signed up through PartnerWorld, you can actually access a free instance and use your apps on it.

Avoid corrupted data and migrate from Intel

The only thing worse than losing data is corrupting the data, Wasko said. “When you lose it, you don’t trust it because it’s gone, but if it’s corrupted and you don’t know it, you can use that data and make a bad decision. So [corruption] is the worst thing you can do to data.

With Power 8, IBM has tried to eliminate developers’ concerns about data corruption when converting their applications from Intel to Power.

Wasko spoke of “Endianness,” which is “the byte order in which things are stored and memory on disk.”

“The Intel architecture has always been Little Endian, in which the least significant bit is stored first. Mainframes are all Big Endian architectures, where the most significant bit is what gets stored first. Why is this important? At the application level this usually isn’t the case, but if you have petabytes of data, how do you go about checking and verifying all that data to make sure it’s not Endian sensitive? How can you convert it and know when it’s done you haven’t missed a thing? The only thing worse than losing data is corrupting the data.

“Some people we approach were like, ‘This conversion is just too risky.’ From at least the power of 5, [Power] was a bi-Endian chip. It has the ability to run in Big Endian mode or in Little Endian mode – we’ve just never tapped the Little Endian. The only thing that ever touched this part of the circuit was a hardware exerciser.

“But as we were working with members of the Open Power Foundation, we asked, ‘How important is this to you? And it was very high. So my team went to convert Linux from Big Endian to Little Indian. Ubuntu 1404, which is on the market, is Little Endian only. Solaris 12, coming out this quarter, is Little Endian. So for those who cared about portage and Endianness, we removed that as a barrier, ”Wasko said.

Open Power Foundation and Google

IBM is a founding member of the Open Power Foundation, a technical community that enables “collaborative development and opportunity” around the Power platform.

Why did IBM launch the foundation? “A few years ago myself and a few members of our Power brand said, ‘We made a story for ourselves with high-end Unix in mainframes, then enterprise and x86 storage, but it There is this emerging space and we are not good with Power in Clouds in this type of evolving environment. We have to be good and we have to be good very quickly ”.

There are now over 50 foundation members, but Wasko mentioned one in particular as evidence of interest in Linux on Power – Google.

“If you think back to three years ago, I can’t think of a single instance where Google took the stage to support a vendor or a technology. They have always been very secretive about it. It’s just their MO. Real secret stuff, really cool tech, they don’t talk about it. But the industry reached a point, including them, where it felt limited by a single chip vendor and the lack of ability to influence that innovation.

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