Mainframe Propeller Head

Sep 3 2008   5:50PM GMT

Obvious mainframe headline of the day

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

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Here it is: “Virtual Systems of Tomorrow Could Take Cues from Today’s Mainframes.” No way, you think? Seeing as the virtual systems of today took cues from yesterday’s mainframes, it makes sense that the trickle-down effect will continue.

This story, from Virtualization Review, basically outlines what most mainframers already know: that the mainframe had virtualization first, and that it continues to innovate server virtualization.

Those are the macro points, and they are obvious. But the story does do a good job delving into the micro points as well – the dirty details. Mainly with the help of Gordon Haff, a great analyst at Illuminata, the story’s author goes over several features of mainframe virtualization today that are either becoming, or will become, the x86 virtualization of tomorrow. Here’s a list:

  • Embedded hypervisors such as VMware’s ESXi and Citrix’s XenExpress are similar to Start Interpretive Execution (SIE), a specialized virtualization instruction that IBM “first enabled on its System/370 mainframes back in the early ’80s.”
  • The move in x86 server hardware toward larger, more highly virtualized systems with more and more processor cores is much like a large mainframe, which can host hundreds of virtual server images.
  • Virtualized Ethernet. Haff: “[L]arge numbers of Linux guests [running on z/VM] don’t need to communicate with each other over a standard network interface. Oh, they think that’s what they are doing. However…the traffic never enters any physical networking hardware.” It’s where x86 virtualization from VMware and XenServer are going, he added.

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