IBM PURE systems networking

To start off I’ll cut past some of the marketing and state that PURE Systems are IBM BladeCenters with some predefined hardware configurations that support both x86 and POWER work loads.

With that being said the advantage to the PURE architecture is the software that IBM has assembled to orchestrate deployments of workloads across all of the integrated platforms. The orchestrator is named Flex System Manager (FSM). The FSM plugs into VMWare for x86, HMC for Power systems and other management system for virtualization platforms. The FSM will use these connections to automate deployment of systems and monitoring of the hardware, physical and virtual systems within the PURE System.

There are many details about the hardware I will not cover but one of the details IBM discusses is the increased speeds and feeds. This is accomplished by interconnections between the Nodes and the I/O Bays, each Node has multiple connection to the I/O Bays. The number of paths grow or shrink by the number of licenses, or as IBM says Pay as you Grow.

IBM Blade to IOM connectivity


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The portfolio of IO Modules is similar to any BladeCenter you may have seen in the past, with options for in Network Switches (BNT Switches, some supporting OpenFlow 1.0), Fiber Channel switches and passthrough modules (All the options can be found here:

Where I see the need for great improvement is the POWER Series networking. POWER utilizes a Virtual IO Server (VIOS) to connect the LPARs to each other and the outside world. Essentially the VIOS is a AIX server that acts as a layer 2 bridge. The VIOS lacks the ability most network switches have had to do private VLAN configurations and layer 3 inspection. There also currently is no support at this time for next generation such as OpenFlow, IBM DOVE, or VXLAN.

IBM PURE Block Diagram


This brings many complications in a multi-hypervisor environment. For example locating an IBM LPAR next to a VMWare workload you will need glue it together with VLANs and legacy networking. This will require networking teams maintain network controls separately from how you may treat the rest of your virtualized work loads on the VMWare platform.

Even though I have a bit of a beef with the VIOS, the PURE system is a good approach for IBM shops to consolidate their workloads into a single Private Cloud style configuration.