technology preview: AS/400 to Support Logical Partitioning

As further proof that this really is a new and improved IBM, the AS/400 Brand is planning to deliver logical partitioning capabilities with the forthcoming release of OS/400 V4R4. This technology boils down from IBM’s S/390 Brand making high-end AS/400s even more of a competitor to that flagship IBM franchise.

“As we have increased the AS/400 into mainframe territory, the question becomes how do we manage that power,” says Ian Jarman, server consolidation marketing manager for the AS/400 Brand. While the AS/400 already supports 12-way symmetric multi-processing (SMP), future plans could include 16- and 32-way SMP.

“We are now in our fourth generation of 64-bit technology on the AS/400, we now need to optimize and grow the power of the AS/400,” he explains.

With logical partitioning, one physical AS/400 can be divided into multiple OS/400 operating environments. Each partition runs its own copy of the operating system and SLIC (Systems Licensed Internal Code) but has its own systems values and settings like a system name.

These “virtual” AS/400s can share the same hardware but be operated as independent machines. While the AS/400 must be an SMP machine, only one license of OS/400 is required. OS/400 V4R4 will be licensed at the machine level and a copy will need to be installed for each partition. However, all partitions share the same systems serial number.

Besides pushing the AS/400 further upstream, logical partitioning is also helping IBM execute one of its six stated technology initiatives – server consolidation.

“We brought our partitioning piece forward to further define our strategy for server consolidation,” Jarman says. Jarman points to the obvious cost benefits of using one large AS/400e to do the work of several smaller, in some cases, geographically dispersed machines. Besides AS/400 server consolidation, other areas of this effort include NT on the IPCS and Lotus Domino.

“Logical partitioning signals a change in our approach and it represents a huge benefit to our customers,” says Tom Jarosh, general manager of IBM’s AS/400 Brand. Other uses of this technology include the ability to do “in-place” software release testing and deployment of a high availability strategy.

One of the unknowns is how the AS/400 software vendor community will react to this capability. While no changes must be made to the software vendor’s application to support logical partitioning, will vendors charge for a system license or just for the partition used? “Our requirement is to keep the [software vendors] independent and not force any changes,” acknowledges Jarman.

OS/400 V4R4 is slated for release during the first half of 1999.