System P

The more I learn about IBM’s P-Series UNIX systems, the more impressed I am. I’ve been a very harsh critic of them in the past, but that may have just been my ignorance of the platform. The P is, no doubt, expensive… however, when you look at what it can do, and at how many x86 systems you’d need to do the same thing, the P begins to justify its cost.

As an example, we are looking at building a new web hosting environment off of WebSphere. To accomplish this, we are looking at four database servers (DB2), and between six and eight application servers. The total cost for the project, not including the F5 switch, I’d imagine to be somewhere around $100,000. With that money, we could purchase one P-Series that would do everything we need one one box. That equates to less cabling, less administration, less network overhead, and a smaller footprint for the PCI auditors. One box, maybe four Logical Partitions (LPARs), and that’s it.

AIX, IBM’s version of UNIX, is another big win for the P-Series. Creating a m ksysb creates a bootable DVD clone from a running system. So, you can clone an LPAR and install it along with all the applications you have installed on a new P-Series. Very impressive, and I wish more systems had this feature built in. AIX has is peculiarities. SMITTY, the administration interface, is confusing and difficult to navigate, and expanding a logical volume on the fly requires more steps than I think should be necessary. Many of the shortcomings of AIX can be solved by installing the AIX Toolbox for Linux, which includes a lot of the basic Linux tools compiled for AIX. Like bash… I can’t live without my tab- completion and vi keyboard bindings! On the whole, AIX is an extremely stable operating system. Configuration is more complex than other systems, but once it’s set up, you can let it run for years without intervention.

I’ll be getting more in-depth with the a P550, P561, P570, and one more I’m not sure of the model number of. The next couple of months should be interesting.