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POWER9 Brings Changes to the HMC


The Hardware Management Console (HMC) is evolving, and you’ll need to adapt. IBM is moving away from the traditional x86-based hardware appliances and will only be selling POWER* processor-based 7063-CR1 HMC appliances going forward. One reason for the change is that some clients have concerns about running Lenovo hardware in their data centers, and as the supply of these appliances dwindles, we’ll no longer be able to order them. Others have always questioned why we were managing IBM Power Systems* hardware with x86 servers in the first place.

According to roadmaps I’ve seen, the 9.1.910 and 9.1.920 releases will be available sometime this year for both platforms. However, with the 9.2.930 release (expected in 2019), the code will be compiled for POWER only—not x86. As end of marketing and hardware support takes place, it will be time to migrate your data center away from x86 HMCs entirely.

Upgrades on the Horizon

Currently, you can choose from four different options to run your HMC. Of course, there’s the traditional x86-based HMC appliance that you’ve been using since the IBM POWER4 days. Alternatively, you can run a virtualized HMC (vHMC) image in either the VMware, KVM or Xen hypervisors on your own x86 hardware. Or you can run an HMC appliance that’s based on the POWER processor. Finally, you can run a vHMC image in an LPAR on POWER hardware. As with any other workload, the HMC code will be capable of utilizing the strengths of the POWER hardware—including additional threads, greater memory bandwidth and superior performance.

As you update the firmware on your POWER hardware, you’ll need to upgrade your HMC code. This is another area of change, as HMC code nomenclature will be different going forward. For instance, today’s HMC V8 R870 M1 denotes the version, release, maintenance level and any fixes. The version correlates to the POWER family, the release is the corresponding firmware, the maintenance is the service pack, and the fix is not used at this time. Starting with Version 9 of the HMC code, we’ll still have version, release, maintenance and fix, but now with—for example, V9.1.910—the version will be the POWER family and the release will only increment on major revisions, meaning you’ll see only infrequent updates. The maintenance will be the firmware release and the fix will be any PTFs. So rather than get new HMC releases, we’ll see new HMC maintenance levels.

To support these changes, IBM plans to regularly seek input from HMC clients. You’ll see your first survey 30 days after initial login; then you’ll receive new surveys every 180 days thereafter. The HMC team will carefully review the feedback and use this information to improve the tool.

Additional IBM PowerVM* virtualization simplification enhancements are also planned in support of the transition from the classic menus to the enhanced HMC GUI. For example, IBM intends to provide templates to simplify system deployments as well as integrate performance and capacity metrics. Efforts will also be made to simplify the process of partition provisioning. In training I recently attended, it was acknowledgment that the early beta releases of the enhanced GUI were less than stellar, but don’t let your first impressions tarnish your view. The performance and usability of the GUI has greatly improved.

Moving to POWER9

As you move to POWER9* and upgrade your HMC, consider:

  • The V9 HMC code will no longer allow you to manage any POWER6* hardware that might still be running in your data center. You’ll need the V9 R1.910 code to support the S914, S922 and S924 systems. And as new hardware models become available, you’ll need to update your HMC code to manage them.
  • Farther down the line, plans call for the HMC to be able to manage OpenPOWER hardware so you can manage all your IBM and non-IBM systems together. Note that not all functions will be supported initially; non-supported functions will be either inaccessible or will trigger error messages.

Adjusting to the New HMC

It’s time to get on board with the new HMC. While it can be frustrating to try and do things with the GUI that you could do in your sleep with the classic menus, myriad outlets are available for assistance.

The HMC is an integral part of how we manage our IBM Power Systems hardware. Keeping on top of these changes is an important part of maintaining the overall health of the systems we support.

Rob McNelly is a Senior AIX Solutions Architect for Meridian IT Inc. and a technical editor for IBM Systems Magazine. He is a former administrator for IBM. Rob can be reached at



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