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Understanding the benefits of Linux on Power

Linux on Power

Understanding the benefits of Linux on Power Systems

There are certain assumptions that are generally held within the world of IT that don’t always hold up to deeper scrutiny. One example is the idea that x86-based systems are the only logical choice for running Linux workloads. For years, most IT leaders have simply assumed that x86 commodity hardware is good enough to support their Linux workloads, and that investing in IBM Power Systems for Linux would not only be too expensive, but unnecessary as well. Well, things have changed quite a bit.

In this blog three-part series, I’lll aim to show the error in this line of thinking. Not only does Linux on IBM Power offer a better experience than x86 for things like flexibility, reliability and performance, it also offers competitive pricing and a streamlined migration process. If you’ve never seriously considered Linux on Power as an option, I hope these posts will show you why now might be a good time to start.


From a virtualization perspective, the capabilities of PowerVM greatly outpace those offered through VMware on x86-based systems. For instance, PowerVM users are able to add or remove memory and VMs dynamically. In addition, the only limit on the number of processors per virtual machine that an organization can run with PowerVM is the number of available cores on the physical server. This makes Linux on Power the optimum choice for organizations that frequently experience fluctuations in demand.

By contrast, x86 systems running VMware-based virtualization capabilities are limited in their ability to add or remove resources quickly, and are strictly limited to 32 virtual processors per socket. This is just one illustration that demonstrates how organizations running Linux on Power have the flexibility to design and run the system that meets their needs, while those running Linux on x86 just have to settle for the system they can run.


Of course, the ability to ensure maximum uptime is an important priority for IT administrators, and Power Systems delivers in this regard as well. In fact, in the recent ITIC Global Server Hardware and Server OS Reliability Survey, IBM servers were found to be the most reliable of any vendor for the sixth consecutive year. Specifically, the survey results showed that Power Systems offerings averaged only 13 minutes of unscheduled downtime per server per year.

In addition, IBM POWER8 provides built-in predictive heuristics that help IT administrators identify conditions that are likely to lead to system failure. By identifying potential sources of failure before they actually cause an issue, IT administrators are empowered to avoid the failure in the first place. In so doing, they also remove the potential for unplanned downtime and data loss.


Finally, the performance benefits of Power Systems over x86 make it especially attractive, particularly for organizations running big data and high performance computing workloads. One example of such a benefit can be found in IBM POWER8’s support for simultaneous multithreading with eight threads per core (SMT-8).

Since x86 systems are limited to SMT-2, the per-core performance of Linux on Power will be significantly higher right from the start. This factor can help IT organizations consolidate their server footprint in a smaller space and run a more efficient operation.

In addition to baseline performance that’s up to 2.5 higher than equivalent x86 systems, Power Systems are also able to offer higher memory capacity, higher memory bandwidth, and a larger cache size.

Check back soon for the next post in our series, where I’ll be exploring more of what makes IBM Power Systems such a good choice for Linux workloads.

All the best,