IBM Expands Virtual Machines On The Mainframe

Marist College is running 600 Linux virtual machines for students on its z9 mainframe.

February 7, 2007

2 Min Read
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IBM, originator of computer virtualization, is upgrading the ability of virtualization to scale up on its z9 Series mainframes.

That's important, says a user at Marist College, because the school is relying on more virtual machines on its mainframe to supply computer science students with the environments they need. It is currently running 600 Linux virtual machines for students on its z9. Its two mainframes, an older z990 as well as a z9, manage both academic and administrative workloads.

"Students can have one virtual machine running Apache, another running MySQL, and do work with both," says Martha McConaghy, strategic planner and project manager for the college. "What they've done is expand the boundaries for virtualization on the mainframe past what they've traditionally been." The college started using Linux on the mainframe in 2000 when the school served "as a test bed" for the concept. Five years ago, it ran a dozen Linux virtual machines on its mainframe.

The z9 with the 5.3 release of its z/VM operating system can now run virtual machines on 32 CPUs, instead of the previous maximum of 24 CPUs. The z9 comes in versions with 1-54 CPUs.

The z/VM operating system also can create a virtual machine that uses up to 128 Gbytes of memory, or apply z/VM's abilities to manage memory for a set of virtual machines to a chunk that large. That allows z/VM to give its guest virtual machines more memory as their workload increases.McConaghy says she's not yet seen either an academic institution or an enterprise that was running a virtual machine with 128 Gbytes of memory, but she says the needs of her acquaintances at Nationwide, Bank of America, and other large corporations were constantly expanding their virtual machines workloads.

Kevin Leahy, IBM's director of virtualization solutions, says making that much memory available to a virtual machine can reduce the number of virtual machines that need to be created. VMs with very large memories can host larger workloads. The z9 may be equipped with up to 512 Gbytes of memory.

The z/VM operating system can manage up to 1,000 virtual machines on a mainframe in IBM's labs, which Leahy says is "the most in the industry" for a single instance of an operating system. The 5.3 release of z/VM becomes available June 29.

IBM's Tivoli Omegamon XE management tool can identify, isolate and correct problems in virtual machines on the mainframe.

IBM says it has enjoyed three consecutive quarters of increasing mainframe sales. The Butler Group, an analyst firm located in the U.K., says mainframe sales are increasing in China, India, and South America. One reason, it said in the report, "The King Is Dead; Long Live The Mainframe", is that it uses one-twelfth the power of distributed computing servers.As a result, virtualization is taking on a larger role in cutting power consumption and businesses are consolidating servers onto fewer pieces of hardware.

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