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IBM Makes Your Linux Run

All Linux x86 applications will now run on IBM's Power processor-based System p servers.

The new capability dramatically expands the application availability for IBM's Power by enabling x86 Linux apps to run without modification through a new technology IBM is calling System p Application Virtual Environment (System p AVE).

"We have a lot of Linux on Power apps -- some 2,800 native ones -- but a lot of times when customers do a server consolidation, it's not just the main applications that need to run," Scott Handy, vice president of worldwide marketing and strategy for System p, told internetnews.com.

"We expect the main workloads will all fit in the 2,800 apps we already have, but it's all the other apps that need to work, too."

The way that p AVE works, according to Handy, is entirely seamless to end users. The system will automatically determine what is native and what is virtual without user intervention or setup.

So you could have an Apache Web server running as native Linux on Power, and then if you run some other Linux x86 binary, the OS would realize it's not native Power and would then pass it to p AVE, which would then run it in the p AVE environment.

Not all Linux applications should necessarily be run on p AVE, though. Handy noted there is a performance trade off with p AVE as opposed to running an application natively on Power.

"The performance characteristics will depend on the types of workloads. We expect Java to perform well, but with certain applications, the performance hit could be in the range of 10 percent," Handy said. "If the application is a heavily performance-oriented application, it's probably not the best candidate for p AVE."

For those applications that are resource hungry, Handy suggests that they should just take advantage of IBM's Chiphopper program and port their apps to Power. In Handy's view, it's not too difficult, as all that is required is a recompile of code targeted for Power.

IBM currently works with Novell and Red Hat for its Linux on Power efforts. According to Handy the companies have agreed to include their x86 libraries as part of their Power versions once the p AVE technology become generally available.

Currently IBM has had a private beta, which is now expanding into an open beta for system p users. The final full release is not expected until later this year.

The p AVE technology will not be a direct-revenue generator for IBM. Handy explained that IBM will not charge system p users extra for the technology but will instead just consider it to be part of the overall value proposition.

"It's really nice to just tell customers that no matter what the app is it'll work."