AIX Turns 20
Users, developers and business partners reflect on AIX two decades after its inception.
In 1986, I was in seventh grade and thinking about ways to print banners and greeting cards from my classroom's Apple IIe computer. At IBM, a team of engineers and developers were putting the finishing touches on a commercial UNIX* OS.
What began as a research project for Carnegie Mellon in the early 1980s--called the Advanced Function Workstation--evolved into IBM's UNIX OS, AIX*. "Early on, the UNIX world was in a different camp," says IBM's Dennis Busch, who was on the original AIX development team. "When IBM got into UNIX computing, it was a turning point in the fact that up until that time, there was always that question of legitimacy. And to some degree, from a requirements standpoint, IBM drove UNIX operating systems to be more commercial, more available."
With proper testing and breakthrough development, the AIX OS took shape. "We tried to pull everything together, so we had efforts to get application programmers to put their applications on the UNIX platform," Busch says. "We realized you couldn't just put a workstation out there with no applications. We worked hard at getting applications, databases and network connectivity out there."
"Breakthrough" still describes the AIX 5L* OS today with its flexibility, virtualization capabilities and security features. To celebrate the OS's 20th birthday, IBM* Systems Magazine, Open Systems edition invited IBMers and industry partners to reflect on the AIX OS--how it started, where it's been and where it's heading.
Dennis Busch, original AIX team member, IBM
"I started working on what was the predecessor of the AIX OS back in 1983. IBM was really looking at developing a more high-function engineering workstation. Glenn Henry took the basis for the Carnegie Mellon research project, the Advanced Function Workstation prototype work, and said, 'We need to turn this into a commercial project/product.' Interactive Systems did our first port to the RTPC which ultimately was the hardware platform we went out on. And that was how we started the AIX OS; we turned it into a real product. "The AIX team really spearheaded our overall activity in dealing with the POSIX standards work, and we ultimately joined a group of UNIX standards people working in X/Open. We had to play in a bigger field of open systems.
"It started out as a single-user workstation with a single processor chip and has evolved into a very broad family of products that are essentially servers now that have multiuser, multiprocessor capabilities. We've taken a lot of the value proposition that IBM always had and translated that into a UNIX project."