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The Great Debate: AIX Versus Linux

AIX Vs. Linux

Device handling is a breeze on AIX. In Linux you have to echo values and edit files, whereas in AIX you just chdev a device. To discover something new, you run cfgmgr. To list attributes you run lsattr. Things are just easier and more consistent.

Wojnarek’s presentation isn’t an AIX love fest, however. He does discuss what he dislikes about the OS, and there’s a good discussion toward the end with the user group members. I recommend you watch the replay.

Some other advantages of AIX that weren’t in the presentation include the ability to use alt_disk_copy and alt_disk_upgrade to have online copies of your rootvg and to actually upgrade your running OS, which you can activate the next time you reboot. If you run into problems, you just reboot from the original set of disks.

Moreover, AIX has the advantage of having IBM PowerHA high availability software integrated into the OS at the kernel level and mainframe heritage virtualization baked into the hardware, not as an add-on hypervisor. AIX on enterprise hardware has built-in error reporting and diagnostics, and when call home is enabled, we might find an IBM CE dispatched to fix a problem before we even knew anything about it.

Consider Your Needs

Instead of all the arguing about which OS is better, sometimes it is worth stepping back and thinking about who is using it and why. Why do they want uptime and reliability? Why is it worth paying for hardware and software, compared to getting commodity hardware and a virtualization solution?

I’ve heard some great analogies over the years, including this one: Both a kayak and a container ship are seafaring vessels. One is better suited for taking large amounts of cargo across long distances. The smaller solution might get the job done, but you want to find and use the method that is suitable to the job at hand. Nobody would balk at spending more money on a container ship if that was the best solution. The same should hold true in the computer room.

Of course, there are some disadvantages with AIX. Perhaps you want to run the same flavor of Linux on your desktop and server—you can’t do that with AIX. Or maybe you want to learn AIX, but you don’t have access to education or hardware. The IBM Academic Initiative helps to fill the education void, but access to hardware is a legitimate barrier to those that want to learn more about the platform.

It can seem harder for someone to learn ksh if all they ever knew was a Windows or MacOS GUI and bash on Linux. There’s a learning curve with AIX, but that’s true of any OS—it takes time to become proficient.

I know the world loves Linux, but there are still many of us out here who love AIX. Linux users would be well-served to objectively listen to the key points in this never-ending debate to see if the advantages that AIX users take for granted might benefit their environments.

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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The Great Debate: AIX Versus Linux

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