IBM Looks to Power Up Its Virtualization Offerings

Big Blue is adding more virtualization capabilities to its server portfolio and expanding the number of systems that support its new Power6 processor.

IBM is looking to bolster the virtualization capabilities of both its Power6 processor and its System p servers with an eye toward selling more systems to small businesses, while taking away customers from Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.

The Armonk, N.Y., company announced Jan. 29 a set of virtualization software applications called PowerVM, which works with the company's System p servers and its Power processor architecture. The virtualization software replaces IBM's Advanced Power Virtualization technology and adds some new features for small businesses and midmarket companies.

Big Blue also announced two new entry-level System p servers-the p520 and the p550-and the BladeCenter JS21 server, which support the Power6 processor, a dual-core chip with a top clock speed of 4.7GHz, first introduced in 2007. ( IBM has shipped about 4,100 Power6-based System p and System i servers since mid-2007.)

Since November, IBM has been talking up both its AIX Unix operating system and its System p portfolio as viable alternatives for smaller companies.

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At the same time, IBM is looking to move customers away from Sun, with its SPARC-based systems, and HP, with its line of servers powered by Intel's Itanium chips. To get customers to move away from its rivals in the Unix market, IBM is adding a new set of features to PowerVM, including Lx86, which allows Linux binaries to run on Power-based systems.

In addition, IBM is hoping that PowerVM, along with Live Partition Mobility, which uses Power6 and capabilities built into the firmware to allow users to move an operating system and application live from one Unix system to another without interruption, will also appeal to customers looking to consolidate x86 servers onto a single System p system.

IBM has divided PowerVM into three categories, including an Express edition that allows a physical server to hold three different virtual images. The other two versions -Standard and Enterprise-support up to 10 virtual environments per processing core.