News Column

Patent Issued for Method and Device for Configuring Functional Capabilities in a Data Processing System

July 22, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Information Technology Newsweekly -- According to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by VerticalNews journalists, a patent by the inventors Axnix, Christine (Steinenbronn, DE); Birtles, John R. (Staatsburg, NY); Probst, Juergen (Wildberg, DE), filed on January 14, 2009, was published online on July 8, 2014.

The assignee for this patent, patent number 8775787, is International Business Machines Corporation (Armonk, NY).

Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention relates to the configuration of functional capabilities in a data processing system.

"An important feature of computer systems is the ability to adjust the provided processing and memory capacity depending on workload requirements, or to provide backup capacity for disaster recovery situations. Modern computer systems such as the IBM System z provide the capability to activate and deactivate additional processing capacity concurrently to normal system operation--i.e. the computer system does not have to be shut down or an operating system restarted to make use of the changed configuration. On Demand processor and memory capacity needs more physical capacity installed than enabled on computer systems. As long as there is dormant physical capacity available such capacity can be activated as the customer need demands. Additional processing capacity can be implemented using temporary processing resources that can be activated and deactivated as required on top of a permanent base configuration.

"To prevent unauthorized activation of dormant capacity the activation is usually protected by a control system utilizing encryption as well as further secure methods binding the entitlement data to a specific machine. For example, patent U.S. Pat. No. 5,982,899 describes a method utilizing an unchangeable unique identifier that may be located within an integrated circuit chip. Temporary resource activation can be under control of an encrypted certificate using this unchangeable unique identifier. The Capacity on Demand features of IBM System z are described in U.S. Pat. No. 7,194,616 and J. Probst et al. 'Flexible configuration and concurrent upgrade for the IBM eServer z900', IBM J. Res. & Dev., Vol. 46, No 4/5, July/September 2002, pp. 551-558. One major restriction of IBM's Capacity on Demand offerings is that each new temporary capacity offering requires additional firmware support. Also, the temporary capacity offerings are restricted in the number of times they could be activated.

"Further, only one temporary capacity offering can be active in a computer system at a time. After permanent model conversions, a temporary capacity record has to be exchanged because it may be no longer usable on top of the new permanent configuration for a number of reasons. Because temporary records become unusable when the permanent configuration changes, they can not stay active during the application of the permanent upgrade. That is, temporary capacity has to be removed prior to the permanent model change, resulting in performance impact for the customer."

In addition to obtaining background information on this patent, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide a method and a device for configuring functional capabilities in a data processing system that is improved over the prior art, and a corresponding computer program and computer program product, and a corresponding data processing system.

"This object is achieved by the invention as defined in the independent claims. Further advantageous embodiments of the present invention are defined in the dependant claims.

"The advantages of the present invention are achieved by a method for configuring functional capabilities in a data processing system comprising a first non-volatile storage for configuration data, said configuration data comprising permanent entitlement data specifying permanent and temporary entitlement data specifying temporary functional capabilities of said data processing system, wherein said temporary entitlement data is generated from temporary entitlement records received by said data processing system, the method comprising the steps of:

"a) when storing temporary entitlement data in said first non-volatile storage, generating an activation level record comprising the number of resources of said data processing system used for temporarily implementing functional capabilities according to the temporary entitlement data and storing the activation level record in a second non-volatile storage;

"b) when receiving a request to activate or deactivate temporary capacity for said data processing system, for every activation level record:

"b1) modifying the number of resources specified by all activation level records such that the overall sum of resources specified by all activation level records does not change;

"b2) activating all resources as specified by all activation level records.

"In a preferred embodiment of the invention, step b1) further comprises the steps of:

"b1a) determining if sufficient free resources are available to satisfy the specified number of resources in the activation level record;

"b1b) if not enough free resources are available, compensating this by reducing the number of resources of activation level records.

"The advantages of the invention are also achieved by a device for configuring functional capabilities in a data processing system comprising a first non-volatile storage for configuration data, said configuration data comprising permanent entitlement data specifying permanent and temporary entitlement data specifying temporary functional capabilities of said data processing system, wherein said temporary entitlement data is generated from temporary entitlement records received by said data processing system, the device comprising: generation means responsive to means storing temporary entitlement data in said first non-volatile storage, said generation means generating an activation level record comprising the number of resources of said data processing system used for temporarily implementing functional capabilities according to the temporary entitlement data and storing the activation level record in a second non-volatile storage; selection means responsive to receiving a request to activate or deactivate temporary capacity for said data processing system, said selection means using for every activation level record: modification means modifying the number of resources specified by all activation level records such that the overall sum of resources specified by all activation level records does not change; activation means responsive to said modification means, said activation means activating all resources as specified by all activation level records.

"The invention uses a temporary entitlement record, which contains a set of rules that can be combined in any order. These rules can be grouped in resource and time limits and token pools. They can specify entitlement rules and also specify which back-end processes need to be kicked off by the computer system firmware. An offering signature tells which rules are in effect and need to be enforced by the computer system. Temporary entitlement records can also contain general control flags that are understood by the computer system.

"A computer system comprising a device according to the invention understands all rules and enforces the specified limits by doing entitlement checking upfront and backend processing after activation of the resources as required. No terms and conditions are hard coded in the computer system firmware or specified by manual back-end processing or human intervention any more. The order system of the computer system manufacturer or even the computer system user can select the set of rules that are in effect for any given offering.

"It is possible to manage and activate multiple temporary entitlement records at the same time, independently of each other. This is accomplished by maintaining multiple control structures to hold the temporary entitlement records, their corresponding activation levels, a list of valid activation choices, and expiration timers.

"All temporary entitlement records operate on the same physical resource pool. The invention allows detecting and resolving conflicts in case not enough physical resources are available to fulfill all requests. Normally, an activation request is rejected if it can not be fully satisfied due to an insufficient amount of physical hardware resources or due to a target configuration which is not within the model structure of the computer system supported by the manufacturer and/or seller, and a retry mechanism is provided for the computer system user to retry with less requested resources.

"For ease of use, in one embodiment of the invention, computer system user guidance is provided as to what the activation possibilities for any given record are. This information is provided in form of a valid movements list, which contains the valid choices for activations and deactivations. This requires means to determine the list of possible activations for each temporary entitlement record, which is restricted by the certificate limits of the temporary entitlement record and by other temporary capacity active at any given time.

"For emergency situations where a retry is not appropriate, an option to force temporary capacity activation even if not enough resources are available can be provided in an embodiment of the invention, which includes automatic re-activation of pending resources as soon as more physical resources become available. In the preferred embodiment of this invention, this is accomplished by reducing the activation levels of the forced temporary capacity activation to a number which can be contained by the physical hardware configuration of the computer system, and maintaining the number of pending resources. If spare resources become available in the computer system, e.g. by deactivating resources belonging to another activation level, by changing the permanent system configuration, or by adding physical hardware components such as additional processor books, the activation levels of the forced activation are increased by the number of pending resources and those pending resources are automatically activated.

"In case when multiple temporary entitlement records are active at the same time, the invention allows to optimize the activation levels (which are associated to the requested resources) for each temporary entitlement record and automatically shifting activation levels from one temporary entitlement record to another in order to achieve the best possible cost structure for both the computer system user and the computer system manufacturer and/or seller, independent of the order in which the temporary entitlement records are activated. This is accomplished by assigning a separate activation level structure to each of the currently installed temporary entitlement records (offerings). These activation level structures reflect the amount of temporary resources that are active on behalf of this temporary entitlement record, and the amount of resources that the computer system user of this temporary entitlement record will be accounted for.

"After each activation or deactivation of temporary capacity, the computer system evaluates all activation levels of all temporary capacity records, and determines whether it should shift accountable resources from the activation level of one temporary entitlement record to the activation level of another temporary entitlement record. This is performed by subtracting the appropriate amount of resources from the activation level of the temporary entitlement record and adding the same amount of resources to the activation level of the other temporary entitlement record. Therefore, the overall sum of active resources stays the same; just the distribution of these resources across records is shifted.

"If, for example, resources from a pay-per-use temporary entitlement record are currently active, and then an insurance model (flat rate usage, independent of number of resources active on behalf of this temporary entitlement record) temporary entitlement record is activated, the computer system may decide to subtract some resources from the pay-per-use temporary entitlement record and add them to activation levels of the insurance type entitlement record.

"With respect to permanent model conversions, the computer system can optimize the distribution across permanent and temporary activation levels and convert temporary activation levels into a permanent configuration.

"If, for example, pay-per-use temporary capacity is active which has been used for workload peaks, and the computer system user decides to purchase this peak workload capacity permanently, the computer system reduces the activation levels of the pay-per-use temporary capacity record by the amount of additionally purchased permanent capacity.

"Similar optimization rules may be applied to manage the distribution of active computer system processors across the temporary entitlement records according to the computer system workload or environmental conditions (e.g., power consumption, temperature).

"In one embodiment, the invention provides a new approach to limit the temporary capacity entitlement. State of the art computer systems use fixed processor counts or capacity settings for the target configuration. The invention allows specifying a range of target configurations that is automatically adjusted when the permanent configuration changes.

"In one embodiment of the invention the temporary capacity entitlements can be limited and any portion of a temporary entitlement record can be activated. The computer system user decides at activation time how he wants to configure the offering, i.e. which portion of his entitlement as defined in the certificate (the temporary entitlement record) he is going to use. Previously, his only choice was to activate all or nothing. The list of valid movements guides the computer user to what his activation choices are for each installed temporary entitlement record.

"Therefore, there is no need to replace the temporary capacity entitlements after a permanent model change of the computer system, which means that temporary capacity can stay active during permanent model changes. This in turn allows to seamlessly converting temporary resources (e.g. pay-per-use resources) to permanent capacity which means that the charges for using temporary capacity automatically stop after these resources are converted to permanent. Again here, the computer system automatically adjusts the temporary capacity activation levels to achieve the best possible overall cost structure.

"In prior art solutions, the temporary capacity resources have to be deactivated first before the additional permanent capacity resources can be activated, which always results in a performance impact for the computer system user.

"In one embodiment of the invention, the asset protection of the usable temporary capacity data and the activation/deactivation history data is used. Activation/deactivation timestamps, billing information, and control data for residual tokens are stored by the computer system in a secure storage and protected via cryptographic techniques, e.g. via TDES (Triple Data Encryption Algorithm). The computer system needs the ability to decrypt this data during initial load time to ensure integrity of this data, and to encrypt this data again each time it is modified. The billing system needs the ability to decrypt the history data to ensure its integrity. Symmetric keys can be used. The symmetric key (e.g. the TDES key) could be generated by the computer system manufacturer or seller and securely transported to the computer system in an RSA (Rivest Shamir Adleman) encrypted temporary entitlement record. This ensures that the key can not be modified on the computer system. The same key is transported to the billing system on a secure path to ensure integrity of the history data used for billing.

"The temporary entitlement records can be refilled. Refill of capacity token pools is a known concept. Increasing the resource limits for temporary records while the corresponding resources are active (e.g. increasing the max number of resources that can be activated on behalf of this temporary entitlement record) is known from the IBM System z On/Off Capacity On Demand, but the invention allows a time limit replenishment while a temporary entitlement record is active. This provides the ability to extend the activation time of a temporary entitlement record while it is active, thus eliminating the risk for expiration and potentially forcing deactivation and removal of temporary resources by the computer system after the temporary entitlement record expires.

"The invention allows introducing a flexible entitlement structure suitable for all types of computer system offerings, which contain a set of entitlement and back-end processing rules that can be combined in any order and combination to specify the needed terms and conditions in the temporary entitlement record."

For more information, see this patent: Axnix, Christine; Birtles, John R.; Probst, Juergen. Method and Device for Configuring Functional Capabilities in a Data Processing System. U.S. Patent Number 8775787, filed January 14, 2009, and published online on July 8, 2014. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8775787.PN.&OS=PN/8775787RS=PN/8775787

Keywords for this news article include: Information Technology, Information and Data Processing, International Business Machines Corporation, Information and Data Encoding and Encryption.

Our reports deliver fact-based news of research and discoveries from around the world. Copyright 2014, NewsRx LLC


For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel



Source: Information Technology Newsweekly


Story Tools






HispanicBusiness.com Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters