How to scale corporate IT systems with Linux

How to scale corporate IT systems with Linux

As successful organizations grow, they don’t want to find increasing workloads which means their IT systems are constrained by technical limitations. The challenge to integrate and analyze growing data volumes can be met by scaling servers running Linux, but it is important to choose a powerful and flexible hardware environment.

The proliferation of smartphones and social media applications demands a robust and flexible IT architecture to respond to the new ways of doing business.

Big data and analytics are playing an increasingly important role in spotting new revenue opportunities, improving customer experience and loyalty; and detecting fraud. Organizations that use Linux, and need to compute these intensive workloads, require a processor that can do the job effectively.

IBM has introduced a line of Linux-only scale-out servers that include the POWER8 processors, optimized for Linux. What this means is nearly seamless swapping of POWER8 into any infrastructure built on Linux.

Agile IT infrastructure
A report by Cabot Partners, sponsored by IBM, High value insights with Big data analytics on IBM Power Systems, highlights how organizations’ need a cost-effective, high-performance, reliable and agile IT infrastructure to leverage their data assets to deliver the best possible business outcomes.

An estimated 85% of data is unstructured and originates from sources such as audio, documents, emails, images, RFID, social media, video, web logs, and so on, but if the right architecture is installed then it is possible to mine this data for real insight. In 2018, about 4.3 exabytes of data is expected to be created daily – over 90% will be unstructured, according to figures from StorageServers.

The Cabot Partners report says that solutions based on the POWER8 processors can deliver this architecture. It recommends organizations of all sizes to consider the IBM Big Data Analytics portfolio of solutions optimized for Hadoop workloads. These solutions are anchored on the POWER8 processor that provides a cost-effective, open, scalable and innovative platform for big data analytics.

The massive scale and growth of mobile applications built around cloud architectures have driven the adoption of NoSQL databases for their scale, resiliency, and simplicity. The total cost of ownership for NoSQL databases has been very high due to relatively high cost of system memory and the number of scale-out nodes needed to hold the DRAM (dynamic access random memory). This high deployment cost has traditionally limited the adoption of NoSQL implementations to applications that have relatively small datasets, or to only those parts of the application that absolutely need super-fast performance.

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Scale out, cheaper
With Linux on Power it is possible to scale out and implement a much cheaper alternative to x86 servers which are often bought by habit, according to a whitepaper by Robert Frances Group, The IBM Power scale-out advantage.

Linux is employed on a significant and growing portion of these solutions as it is rapidly gaining market share due to its low cost, plethora of applications and development frameworks, and growing talent pool.

“IBM’s POWER8-based Power Systems solutions provide more performance per dollar, better availability and scalability characteristics, and deliver improved scale-out scenarios while occupying much less rack space than their competitors,” says the report.

Reduced cost is a major factor when scaling out with Linux on Power.

“The refresh costs are significantly different as IBM allows for upgrades to their Power Systems servers while the competitive x86 solutions require a whole new purchase,” says the report.

IT company, specializes in providing cloud and web development services, and it selected Linux on Power running the Ubuntu Linux operating system to support its new cloud services platform.

Burkhard Noltensmeier, CEO of, says: “We estimate that a physical Power Systems server can support twice as many virtual environments – and therefore double the number of client systems – as a physical x86 server. This translates into an excellent return on our infrastructure spend - a smaller server footprint, lower energy costs and a more environmentally friendly business.”


Application flexibility
Linux on Power also offers versatility and flexibility. Workloads such as Apache, ERP and PHP applications and databases such as MongoDB, MySQL and SQL are ideally suited for implementation on Power Systems servers. In addition to being cost competitive, they deliver better application mobility, improved scalability, increased virtualization performance, and less downtime, says the Robert Frances Group report.

It highlights that common practices should be reconsidered when scaling out and that putting new Linux applications on x86-based servers is short-sighted. A holistic, long-term view is required.

“Frequently missing from the initial infrastructure decision-making process is a multi-year operational outlook that addresses growth and performance. What may be a best practice for low-growth business-critical systems or a low-usage, non-critical application may fall far short of being a best practice when the application grows to encompass tens, hundreds, or thousands of servers and is business-critical,” says the report.

A scale-out x86 platform does not satisfy performance and utilization requirements - despite the use of current virtualization platforms and strategies.

Memory or channel utilization can impair performance. These bottlenecks and constraints greatly limit the number of applications and workloads that can be placed on an x86 server, making it necessary to scale out to multiple processors and endure the ensuing increases in complexity and costs.

SLLIN Consultants needed to improve service reliability and performance for its Hands in the Air music streaming application because x86 servers were not up to the job when it wanted to scale out. It chose Linux on Power servers and can now support twice the number of client systems per footprint of its x86 infrastructure and can serve clients better.

“The combination of Linux on IBM Power Systems gives us the performance and stability we need to stream media and support other enterprise applications,” says SL Ho, head of IT, SLLIN Consultants.

When scaling servers running Linux, IT chiefs should consider Linux on Power built on POWER8 chips. They provide twice the throughput compared to commodity Intel servers and a huge reduction in latency. Choosing Linux on Power reduces cost as organizations require fewer servers up front and there is an upgrade path removing a rip-and -replace approach to increased workloads. The servers also reduce datacenter sprawl, provide the capability to handle workload spikes, streamline costs and simplify management.