Evangelizing Mainframe
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Lessons Learned from Virtualization Using z/VM

I consider myself a proponent of virtualization technology and green computing. For the past three years, I’ve been working with the z/VM system. Having prior experience with VMware and Hyper V, the transition toward mainframe-based virtualization technology was not difficult, but it was a great learning process.

Working on the IBM z890 system, the best part was being involved in this virtualization project from its inception. Most of the installation process was preceded by extensive planning. Planning for future growth of the virtual machines, memory and DASD allocation, accordingly, required understanding what the overall infrastructure would look like.

“Measure twice, cut once” was a valid strategy in this case. The entire box was partitioned into three LPARs, each representing a unique system on which an independent system could be run. In this case, the first two LPARs were dedicated for z/VM 5.4, and the guest systems were SUSE Linux and z/OS.

Although the infrastructure was for an academic purpose, we had the LPARs set up for both development and testing environments. The test LPAR was used for testing new projects and installing new guest systems. The idea was to reduce the impact if the LPAR had to be brought offline immediately. On the other hand, the development LPAR required more attention and couldn’t be brought down whenever something went wrong.

Based on my experience, virtualization on z/VM is very transparent from an administrator’s point of view. Rolling out new guest VMs from a golden image can be done in a few minutes using automation. Servicing the images is also flexible. The performance toolkit included (but not enabled by default) can be configured to monitor the resource usage among guests.

Some case studies describe running thousands of Linux servers on a single z/VM system. I don’t have much direct knowledge about how cost effective it would be to have a Linux server farm running on z/VM without worrying about the Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) pricing that goes along with the IFL processors. So, from a business point of view, if the price were less, virtualization on z/VM would be a great option.

Niranjan Sharma recently graduated with a master’s degree in information systems from Illinois State University with specialization in enterprise systems. As a research assistant and z/VM infrastructure administrator at ISU, he led and managed projects on virtualization using z/VM and VMware. With diverse experience in operating systems and networks, he looks forward to base his career in cloud computing and virtualization.

Posted: 9/26/2011 9:56:34 AM by Niranjan Sharma

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