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How to Install Linux on Power Systems

With IBM’s $1 billion investment in new technologies and open source Linux for Power, it’s time to start looking at PowerLinux. In recent years, IBM has been beefing up the PowerLinux portfolio with new offerings and significant investments. Additionally, thousands of applications run on PowerLinux, including DB2, Oracle and SAP. First, let’s take a look at the lineup.

IBM PowerLinux Options

Similar to the Power 710 and 730, IBM has introduced the PowerLinux 7R1 and 7R2. These are both 2U servers updated to the POWER7+ chip. The 7R1 is a single-socket four-, six- or eight-core POWER7+ processor running at 3.6, 4.2 or 4.2 GHz, respectively. The 7R1 has up to 256GBs of Double Data Rate 3 (DDR3) memory, up to six small form factor (SFF) HDDs or SSDs, and five PCIe Gen2 adapters. If additional direct-attached storage is needed, the 7R1 (8246-L1T) can have an EXP24S drawer added. The 7R2 is a dual-socket 16-core POWER7+ processor running at 3.6 or 4.2 GHz. It can have up to 512GBs of DDR3 memory, up to six SFF HDDs or SSDs, and five PCIe Gen2 adapters. The 7R2 has additional I/O capabilities with the addition of a 12x expansion drawer (with or without disk capabilities) or an EXP24S drawer.

For workloads that need more horsepower, IBM recently released the 7R4, which is based on the IBM POWER7+ 750 and consumes 5U of rack space. It’s a quad socket server that uses the POWER7+ dual chip module (DCM). Four configurations are available that utilize two or four sockets, yielding 16 or 32 cores available at 3.5 or 4.0 GHz. The 7R4 can have a maximum of 1TB of DDR3 memory, up to six SFF HDDs or SSDs, and six PCIe Gen2 adapters. It has the same I/O expansion capabilities as the 750 with a maximum of two 12x loops and four expansion drawers (with or without disk capabilities).

For those utilizing IBM PureFlex Systems, a Linux-only node is available with the p24L. It’s based on the IBM POWER7 p260 node and consumes a single bay in the PureFlex chassis. The p24L is a dual socket 12- or 16-core POWER7 processor, running at 3.7 GHz in the 12-core version, and 3.2 or 3.5 GHz in the 16-core version. The p24L can have up to 512GBs of DDR3 memory when using SSDs or no HDDs, and up to 128GBs of DDR3 memory when using HDDs. It can populate up to two PCIe expansion slots.

In addition to the PowerLinux servers, any POWER5, POWER6 or POWER7 server is capable of running Linux. Also, IBM just announced Power Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL). The IFL program, available on POWER 770, 780 and 795, allows customers to activate capacity-on-demand resources specifically for Linux at a bundled cost.

Installing Linux on Power

Now, let’s walk through installation of Linux on Power:

Step 1: Download a version of Red Hat or SUSE Linux. Both vendors have a free POWER processor version available for a 60-day trial.

Step 2: Download the IBM Installation Toolkit for Linux at The toolkit provides an installation wizard and both a text-based and GUI-based environment. It can be used in both a manual DVD or network-based install. It also adds value with the option of installing IBM Advance Toolchain for PowerLinux, nmon and Electronic Service Agent.

Step 3: After download, you can burn the ISOs to DVD, upload them to a virtual I/O server and import into a virtual media repository or file-backed optical (FBO), or move the ISOs to the appropriate directory for network install. For beginners, I recommend a DVD or FBO install to reduce complexity. (From this point, instructions will be for installing using FBO.)

Step 4: Create a server profile on your system. The system type will be AIX/Linux. Remember, when using N-Port ID virtualization for the disks, you need a virtual SCSI device for the virtual DVD.

Step 5: Load the IBM Installation Toolkit for PowerLinux into the virtual DVD, and boot the partition into System Management Services mode. Choose to boot the partition from DVD. The partition will boot to the toolkit welcome screen. From here, choose wizard mode. Also, if there’s a DHCP server, the IP address is shown at the top of the screen.

Step 6: Once wizard mode is started, you’ll be presented with a license agreement screen. Here, you can use a browser to access the SSL GUI, however, you have to be on the same network segment as the partition to access the GUI. If you don’t have a DHCP server and there was no IP address on the Welcome screen, you must accept the license via the text-based console. Once accepted, you’ll have multiple options:

  1. Install Linux
  2. Update the firmware of the system
  3. Create in IBM Installation Toolkit bootable USB key
  4. Clone or restore systems
  5. Configure network
  6. Access documentation resources
  7. Register at IBM
  8. Monitor tasks

If you like to install via the GUI, choose “Configure network” and assign an IP address. Otherwise, choose “Install Linux.”

Step 7: The install wizard is fairly thorough, and instructions are available on each screen. Here is a brief description of each:

  1. Choose the Linux distribution and install profile.
  2. Choose a preconfigured workload to be installed on the server. These workload configurations are optional and will install software needed for the workload.
  3. Choose media location of Linux distro and Toolkit media.
  4. Further network configuration.
  5. Input, localization and security configuration.
  6. Repository enablement.
  7. Optional packages (Advanced Toolchain, java, nmon, etc.)
  8. IBM package licenses acceptance.
  9. Install summary.
  10. Change DVD media and start install.

Throughout the wizard, you’ll need to switch back and forth between the toolkit and distribution disk until Linux is installed. Once complete, you can log into your server and start customizing.

Test the Penguin

The install process can take between 20 minutes and two hours depending on how much time you take per screen or additional information you read. Overall, it’s a quick and easy process. Plus, many options are available for using existing or additional capacity to your environment. Now take the plunge and test the penguin.

Andrew Goade is an architect for Forsythe Technology Inc. He can be reached at



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