IBM's new virtual environment has been under development for more than 18 months and in private beta with approximately 25 customers for six weeks, according to the company. Although a final release date has not been set, IBM says it plans to make the extension available sometime this summer at no charge to current and future System p AVE customers.
Although approximately 2,800 Linux-based applications run on IBM's POWER processor-based System p servers, there are tens of thousands which will run only on less advanced x86 servers. Without the ability to run a full range of applications using System p, many businesses are forced to spread workloads over several servers, which decreases efficiency and detracts from the purpose of virtualization.
Transitive, the company responsible for developing the technology that allows Apple's PowerPC-based applications to run on Intel-based Macs, approached IBM three years ago to suggest similar technology, and the idea for System p AVE was born.
"We've always known our customers want this," says Scott Handy, IBM's vice president of marketing and strategy for System p. "When Transitive approached us and said, 'We can do this,' I looked at it and said, 'Now there's an interesting idea.'
"The technology sounds a little like magic, but it's a lot like what Transitive developed for Apple. It's created down at a chip level, and applications don't know they're in a new environment. They think they're on x86, and as a result, the apps 'just run.'"
Handy says the benefits of consolidating x86 workloads are enormous. Customers are reporting as much as a 66% reduction in power, increased cooling efficiency, and an 80% savings in floor space; all without sacrificing quality.
"We're finding that customers understand the mathematical benefits of doing this," he says. "One of the attractive things about x86 was the cost, so customers said it was all right if the quality of the technology was just 'good enough.' But if you're going to consolidate 300 servers, you want a higher level of quality, and suddenly 'good enough' isn't good enough. The p AVE technology shows we are very serious about quality."
Egil Fujikawa Nes, sales and marketing manager of WebDeal Hosting, says his company was impressed with p AVE during the three weeks they tested it. The company, which manages Web projects for small to medium-sized businesses, says at least 80% of its clients have issues with applications that refuse to run on anything but x86 systems.
"From our point of view, this is a great advantage," he says. "It's a good solution with good scalability, lots of possibilities, and good performance. PHP is especially well supported."
Fujikawa Nes says the best thing about System p AVE is the ability consolidate servers effectively. "Now instead of having multiple boxes running the things our clients need, we can build everything into one box. It's great."
Handy says IBM hopes that System p AVE will help the company continue to gain a foothold in the virtualization market, where it currently holds a 32% revenue share worldwide. The bottom line, he says, is that System p AVE "opens up server consolidation for a lot of customers. We're reuniting Unix and Linux."