Advantages to Virtualizing I/O Using VIOS

Virtualization is something AS/400/iSeries/IBM i has been doing for a very long time. Work can be separated into various subsystems. Each workload can work with a different pool of memory. Jobs can run with different CPU priorities and time slices. Multiple libraries of the same name can exist when separated into multiple independent auxiliary storage pools. Along with all the job virtualization came the ability to virtualize the hardware; allowing you to have a hosting partition to share disk, network, tape, and optical. Then came a whole new operating system based on AIX designed with the sole purpose to virtualize the hardware. That operating system is Virtual I/O Server (VIOS).

There are many advantages to virtualizing I/O (a.k.a hardware – input/output devices) using VIOS.

The first one that jumps out is the cost savings. Licensing CPU for VIOS is significantly cheaper than IBM i, which allows you to get more bang for your buck on your IBM i partitions running your critical workload. With VIOS you can run it in a pair to allow for redundancy. This allows you to perform maintenance on VIOS without interrupting your client partitions, and should there be an I/O adapter failure on one of your VIOS partitions, the other partition is able to continue to carry the load until the failed adapter is replaced.

One more advantage I’ll mention is being able to present SAN disk from FlashSystems and DS8000 directly to client partitions – being able to virtualize fiber ports to create numerous partitions and not requiring each one to have a physical fiber adapter assigned to it.

With all the great stuff that comes with VIOS, the one big drawback is this: You have to learn a new operating system, all the commands that go with it, and how to upgrade/update the thing.

Many of you who are currently using VIOS for virtualization should be aware that if you are running any version of VIOS 2.2.6 or older, it has reached End of Service. IBM may give it their best effort to fix an issue, but they will not be creating any fix packs should one be needed to resolve your issue. You would be faced with upgrading VIOS to 3.1.2 (at this time of writing) in order to resolve a potentially crippling issue. We recommend that if you are currently running on any 2.2.x version of VIOS that you make plans now and get upgraded soon. If you need assistance getting this task done, please reach out us and we’ll be happy to talk.

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