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IBM reveals new virtual Linux environment

IBM has today announced the availability of an open beta version of its virtual Linux environment to enable x86 Linux applications to run without modification on POWER processor-based IBM System p servers. Designed to reduce power, cooling and space by consolidating x86 Linux workloads on System p servers, it will eventually be released as the roles off the tongue ‘IBM System p Application Virtual Environment (System p AVE).’

With a 31.5% global revenue share during 2006, IBM hopes to build on System p UNIX success and extend firmly into the Linux marketplace. Considering there are almost 2,800 applications that already run natively on Linux on System p servers, the chances are good that it will succeed. System p AVE will allow most x86 Linux binaries to run unmodified as well, which will expand the x86 workloads that can be moved to a System p server. Everyone wants to get more out of their investment in IT, and moving Linux workloads to virtual server environments that allow the consolidation of multiple servers onto a single platform is a great way of achieving that aim. But a systems approach that maximizes system resource utilization, manageability and flexibility as well as provides ‘no excuses’ reliability and scalability is needed.

“System p customers have told me that technology that may have been 'good enough' for deploying one x86 server at a time is not 'good enough' when consolidating over 300 x86 servers spanning eight racks onto one rack of more powerful System p servers," Scott Handy, vice president, worldwide marketing and strategy, IBM System p told DaniWeb "these customers are choosing to trust System p products and our Advanced POWER Virtualization for those more mission critical points of consolidation and p AVE will expand the possibilities of what x86 workloads they can consolidate onto System p platforms to derive greater savings."

So what exactly is IBM System p AVE technology in a nutshell? Initial testing shows that clients should be able to easily install and run a wide range of x86 Linux applications on System p and BladeCenter JS20 and JS21 servers that are using a Linux operating system. These applications should run, without any change to the application and without having to predefine that application to the Linux on POWER operating system with p AVE installed. The system will "just know" the application is a Linux x86 binary at runtime and run it automatically in a p AVE environment. Behind the scenes, p AVE creates a virtual x86 environment and file structure, and executes x86 Linux applications by dynamically translating and mapping x86 instructions and system calls to a POWER Architecture processor-based system. It uses caching to optimize performance, so an application's performance can actually increase the longer it runs. Using p AVE, IBM expects ISVs that don't already have a native Linux on POWER product to be able to expand their addressable market to System p servers at minimal cost by allowing them to run their existing x86 Linux applications on these servers without having to recompile, release new media or documentation, or maintain a unique product offering for POWER technology.

IBM intends to leverage its successful Chiphopper program to help those ISVs support System p servers with the x86 Linux version of their application.