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psergiu
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Home AIX Lab Server

Unread postby psergiu » Tue Jun 14, 2016 9:43 am

Hi everyone.

I need to get a Power server at home so i can learn and master AIX.

I know my HP-UX, my Linux, my Free & Open BSD and my OS X, I've dabbled with IRIX, Solaris and lots of other unices. But not so much with AIX.

But at my work i was just moved into a Senior AIX Admin position from a HP one. And they're expecting me to work on live production thousands-of-dollars-per-second-of-downtime AIX LPARs. Not only work, but improve and advise.

So i need to get at home a Second-hand IBM Power machine (The Tyan POWER8 ones don't run AIX) that is able to:
- Run AIX 7.1
- Can do LPARs and VIOS (at least 2 LPARs - i'm supposed to know how to know NIM and VIO)
- Don't break the bank.

What is your advice, o, IBM gurus.

Note to Admin/Moderator - not trying to buy/sell/trade commercial software - but i will need some advice on how to legally get the required licenses for second-hand hardware.

Thank you all !

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Re: Home AIX Lab Server

Unread postby ClassicHasClass » Tue Jun 14, 2016 3:26 pm

PIck up a POWER6. They'll run 7.1 very well and the cost is really dropping on those. A used p520 probably won't set you back much more than a couple large. Don't forget the matching HMC if you want to fiddle with LPARs.

The only downside is the Capacity on Demand bull**** which is only a factor if you want more than one physical core or more than 16GB of RAM. But you'd hit that with any vaguely modern IBM hardware anyway.
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:Indigo2IMP: purplehaze, 175MHz R10000, Solid IMPACT
probably posted from Image bruce, Quad 2.5GHz PowerPC 970MP, 16GB RAM, Mac OS X 10.4.11
plus IBM POWER6 p520 * Apple Network Server 500 * RDI PrecisionBook * BeBox * Solbourne S3000 * Commodore 128 * many more...

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Re: Home AIX Lab Server

Unread postby psergiu » Tue Jun 14, 2016 4:47 pm

Do the HMCs for POWER6 needs to run on special hardware ? I remeber a friend getting a power5 285 workstation and using a crappy old dell laptop as HMC.

What's the Capacity on Demand stuff ? I'm zero with the IBM stuff.

What about the licences ? If the box does not come from the factory with such and such enabled, is there a way to add it later ? Does IBM have a "home use" licencing program like other vendors do ?

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Re: Home AIX Lab Server

Unread postby japes » Tue Jun 14, 2016 8:29 pm

You should have access to AIX and HMC media downloads with your IBM support account, if not have the Admin who's controlling the support account grant you access. If you don't have a support account.... :<

Please tell me you have a test/dev system at work (though still production, at least it's internal customers). If you're thoughtful I think the HMC and LPARs are safe to explore in a test/dev system. If you have resources, make yourself a test LPAR. VIOS are probably best experienced from start to finish in a fresh environment. Great news, AIX is slow to install!

If you can get work to get another test box for admins have your reseller find a P710 with PowerVM. There are a couple on ebay now, one isn't too expensive but no idea if it would have PowerVM. You can add it to an existing HMC. When the employer I worked for moved to AIX we started with a prod machine and a dev/test box which was a LPAR on a machine that was supposed to have a another LPARs for backup software. I didn't get to go to training, but was able to pick the brain of the primary admin for those systems. When we added a DR site I setup that box, although single LPAR in that case. Fast forward a few years and we upgraded all the hardware so there was plenty of machines for 2 admins to have test boxes.

I wouldn't worry about getting a separate HMC for test unless your work is overly cautious or has $$$ to burn. The software is just a Linux appliance and installation isn't worth doing for experience. You can run redundant HMCs if you don't already and desire to upgrade.

I picked up a Power6 p520 for about $500 (I think) a year ago but it wasn't shipped properly. I switched focus and haven't spent as much time on it as I'd like. (I also found a p505, Power5 machine for cheap locally to play with - one day maybe it'll be my NIM). If you have time you might be able to get a deal like that, otherwise expect to pay a little more. For home I think the P6 p520 is probably still the right answer, careful though P520 was used for Power5 machines. You're looking for a 8203-A4E p520 Express. The p550 is going to be a harder on power and your credit card. While I suspect the p710 is going to be easier on power, it's still a little hard on your credit card. If you do need to add any Capaciy on Demand features maybe your reseller can help you out, but I wouldn't hold out a lot of hope.

Depends on the version of the HMC. You need a IBM 1u server that was sold as a HMC. If your google fu is strong you can figure out how to get it running on VirtualBox. I don't know, it might be possible to get it running on a random laptop/server. For me a VM seemed to make sense for home. Which leads to the next part - you'll want to find a Power Systems box that was sold with PowerVM enabled. Without that feature you can't create micropartitions or VIOS LPARs. I feel like you might be able to get more than one LPAR running, but you'd need separate disks, SAS controllers and NICs as you won't have a VIOS. At least that's what it looked like when I spent time with my p520. I just picked up a SAS controller and SCSI controller so maybe one day I'll pop those in and see if I can get a LPAR running from an external JBOD and one from the internal drives.

If you want to find a real HMC on the second hand market I'd go to your HMC (if it's physically on site) and check out what model it is. It might also show in the HMC software. Not just that it's a x3550 M5 or whatever, but what the specific XXXX-XXX code. You can also download the HMC software and check the release notes as some of the older ones are listed, but the newest software may not support them.
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Re: Home AIX Lab Server

Unread postby japes » Tue Jun 14, 2016 9:34 pm

One more thing. 3.5" drives that fit the p520 were dirt cheap a while ago. If you at least have the trays 3.5" SAS drives are dirt cheap, not sure about 2.5" trays, but the drives are getting cheap and are less power hungry. The p520 is available with either type of drive, survey the availability of drives if you find a machine with one size or the other - or be aware if you have a preference. Capacity is 6 3.5" drives, but it's 8 if you find the 2.5" drive rack.
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Re: Home AIX Lab Server

Unread postby psergiu » Tue Jun 14, 2016 9:54 pm

We have almost a hundred dev/test LPARs at my work ... for the applications.
It's a 100% ITIL shop with departments that bill each-other so i cannot create a LPAR just for me. And even if i get one created i'll need to schedule any reboot 5 days in advance with management approvals. So ... no. I must do it at home, on my own hardware.
I can get access to all the IBM downloads so that's not a worry.
Thanks for the info for the HMC - a VM sounds perfect :)

What's so bad about the Power5 p520s ? As i understood, if i find one with a VET 2c00 license i can install a VIOS that gets all the disks and ethernets then i can bring up to 10 LPARS per core. The Power6's are only bringing shared pools into the mix.

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Re: Home AIX Lab Server

Unread postby japes » Wed Jun 15, 2016 2:09 am

ITIL or not, having test system is a cost of operating. It's fun having a system at home too sometimes - but work should provide tools for you to be successful. Having a test system (metal hopefully, LPAR at minimum) is part of providing tools and training for employees. If they can't see the justification you need to find a better manager. They already showed they want to invest in you by moving you from HP to AIX groups, they know AIX isn't what you've been practicing recently so I doubt they can't see the need for you to have access to systems for the sysadmins to test - unless they like to test in prod. How about some training? Too late for TechU, that was last week in Boston, Edge is coming up in September in Vegas.</rant>

As far as POWER5, I was just typing from memory mostly. My previous employer started with POWER6 and moved to POWER7. I picked up the p505 box because I could get it for a bit over $100 so it was in the toy budget while I waited for a POWER6 machine to fit my budget. I picked up a p520 which was what I cut my teeth on at work, but mine doesn't have PowerVM so :(. A quick google just now makes me think it probably doesn't matter for a lab - and if you can get a POWER5 box cheaper it may well be the way to go.

If you're moving to AIX 7.2 you'll want to consider your strategy as that does require POWER7.

Now I'm going to go start watching for a p710 to be cheap so I can try AIX 7.2 (if I can find media). I want to try out live kernel upgrades.
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Re: Home AIX Lab Server

Unread postby dexter1 » Wed Jun 15, 2016 3:13 am

Congratz on your promotion, Psergiu. As japes stated, a refresh course on AIX sounds reasonable and should be within your reach.
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Re: Home AIX Lab Server

Unread postby psergiu » Wed Jun 15, 2016 7:29 am

<rant>
Welcome to the IT Services business.
Where all the servers either belong to the customers or are billed to the customer.
And there's no budget line for training 'cause that's not something that creates revenue.
And with 7+ levels of management (i really lost count) - it does not matter if you have an excellent direct manager, cause all decisions that cost money are made at the very top by financially-minded people.
And it's cheaper just to apply for a H1B visa for a new young employee than to pay for training a old one.
</rant>
Thus my tool shed with a a/c unit bolted on will become my datacenter :)

Reading some IBM docs i saw a mention that VIOS can use lvols or files for disk devices presented to the LPARs - does this works okay (for example if i want to try HACMP with 2 LPARs) or i should invest in some external storage ?

Besides The "VET" license, what others are interesting ?

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Re: Home AIX Lab Server

Unread postby Shiunbird » Wed Jun 15, 2016 7:43 am

psergiu wrote:Do the HMCs for POWER6 needs to run on special hardware ? I remeber a friend getting a power5 285 workstation and using a crappy old dell laptop as HMC.


+1 on that. And I have a 285 workstation with AIX 7.1.

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Re: Home AIX Lab Server

Unread postby ClassicHasClass » Wed Jun 15, 2016 8:02 am

What's so bad about the Power5 p520s ?


Nothing, per se, but they're less grunty and they won't be a whole lot less.
smit happens.

:Fuel: bigred, 900MHz R16K, 4GB RAM, V12 DCD, 6.5.30
:Indy: indy, 150MHz R4400SC, 256MB RAM, XL24, 6.5.10
:Indigo2IMP: purplehaze, 175MHz R10000, Solid IMPACT
probably posted from Image bruce, Quad 2.5GHz PowerPC 970MP, 16GB RAM, Mac OS X 10.4.11
plus IBM POWER6 p520 * Apple Network Server 500 * RDI PrecisionBook * BeBox * Solbourne S3000 * Commodore 128 * many more...

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Re: Home AIX Lab Server

Unread postby japes » Fri Jun 17, 2016 11:28 pm

I was looking at the stack of cards I was going to install in my p520 and ended up checking on slot availability. POWER6 520 uses SAS hard drives, 6 3.5 or 8 2.5; has 3 PCIe slots and 2 PCI-X slots. POWER5 520 has SCSI drives - I read 4, but it must have been an option to have 8 because nearly all the ones on ebay look like 8. POWER5 520 has 6 PCI-X slots.

Just to say, if you plan to add features, check availability of drive trays and any expansion cards you want.

Saw this one on ebay if POWER5 works for you: http://www.ebay.com/itm/401137107974 and it's cheap right now.
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Re: Home AIX Lab Server

Unread postby psergiu » Sat Jun 18, 2016 7:07 am

Thanks for the investigation ! Do you know if the P5 trays are for SCA80 drives or 68 pin ones ? Is the firmware or AIX itself complaining if the drives don't have IBM-branded firmware ?

Now that you posted the link to that P5 ( which i was already watching ) here, it might end not that cheap :)

Is there any chance a P5 will accept Non-IBM RAM sticks ? I had one PowerPC 601 pizza box rs/6k and it would not boot if anything else than gold-plated SIMM sticks with the IBM logo on them. The SGIs were happy with any ram stick that was up to specs.

Thanks a lot !

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Re: Home AIX Lab Server

Unread postby uunix » Sat Jun 18, 2016 8:47 am

psergiu wrote:Now that you posted the link to that P5 ( which i was already watching ) here, it might end not that cheap :)


Too right, I never saw it, now that I have, I will now bid, £6000 at the very least!!
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Re: Home AIX Lab Server

Unread postby ClassicHasClass » Sat Jun 18, 2016 8:48 am

psergiu wrote:Thanks for the investigation ! Do you know if the P5 trays are for SCA80 drives or 68 pin ones ? Is the firmware or AIX itself complaining if the drives don't have IBM-branded firmware ?

Now that you posted the link to that P5 ( which i was already watching ) here, it might end not that cheap :)

Is there any chance a P5 will accept Non-IBM RAM sticks ? I had one PowerPC 601 pizza box rs/6k and it would not boot if anything else than gold-plated SIMM sticks with the IBM logo on them. The SGIs were happy with any ram stick that was up to specs.

Thanks a lot !


Maybe? My POWER6 has Samsung RAM, but they're IBM OEM parts. They don't look especially specific, but that doesn't mean anything.
smit happens.

:Fuel: bigred, 900MHz R16K, 4GB RAM, V12 DCD, 6.5.30
:Indy: indy, 150MHz R4400SC, 256MB RAM, XL24, 6.5.10
:Indigo2IMP: purplehaze, 175MHz R10000, Solid IMPACT
probably posted from Image bruce, Quad 2.5GHz PowerPC 970MP, 16GB RAM, Mac OS X 10.4.11
plus IBM POWER6 p520 * Apple Network Server 500 * RDI PrecisionBook * BeBox * Solbourne S3000 * Commodore 128 * many more...


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