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What to expect from AIX 7

Just when we finished mastering AIX 6, AIX 7 starts lurking around the corner. According to IBM, the new features of AIX 7 will revolve around the scalability, reliability and manageability of AIX, as well as the applications running on AIX. Exactly what does it contain, what do these features do for us and when is it coming?

Trailers Tease the Full Story

Based on a briefing from AIX Marketing Manager Jay Kruemcke, there are some of the topics I’ll be sharing in this article. Let’s dig right into the new feature/functionality enhancements:

Clustering infrastructure
AIX 7 (which some are calling Cluster Aware AIX) will be the first AIX release that will provide for built-in clustering. This promises to simplify high-availability application management with PowerHA SystemMirror.

It should be noted: This innovation isn’t being targeted as a replacement of PowerHA, but it’s supposed to change the way in which AIX integrates with it. Much of the PowerHA cluster functionality will now be available in the actual kernel. It’s simply designed to more easily construct and manage clusters for scale-out and high-availability applications.

Furthermore, AIX 7 will have features that will help reduce the time to discover failures, along with common device naming, to help systems administrators simplify cluster administration. It will also provide for event management and monitoring.

I am excited about this tighter integration between PowerHA and AIX, because anything that provides greater transparency between high-availability software and the OS further eases the burden of system administrators who architect, install and configure high-availability software.

Vertical Scalability
AIX 7 will allow you to scale up to 1,024 threads or 256 cores in a single partition. This is simply outstanding; No other Unix OS can come close to this.

Profile-Based Configuration Management
IBM Systems Director enhancements will simplify AIX systems-configuration management. IBM is calling this facility profile-based configuration management.

At a high level it’ll provide simplified discovery, application, update and AIX configuration-verification properties across multiple systems. It’ll be particularly helpful in terms of cloning out changes to ‘pools’ of systems. After populating a profile into a file (XML), it can then be deployed to the other servers in the pool (see Figure 1).

AIX 5.2 and WPARs
AIX 7 will now provide the capability to run AIX 5.2 inside of a Workload Partition (WPAR). This will allow for further IT consolidation and flexible deployment opportunities (such as moving up to the POWER7 architecture) to folks who are still on older AIX OSs. In an easy way, it also allows you to backup an existing environment and restore it inside an AIX 7 WPAR. Furthermore, it will allow you to do this through IBM Systems Director’s Workload Partitions Manager.

I’m particularly impressed with this feature. Most companies look to discontinue support for their older operating systems as soon as they can. On the other hand, IBM continues to listen to their customers and provide additional features to folks on older versions of their systems. For example, AIX 7 will also support older hardware, including POWER4 processor-based servers. While this type of compatibility is critical to those who want to take advantage of the feature/functionality improvements of AIX but can’t afford to upgrade their hardware, it should also be noted AIX 7 will include exploitation features that take full advantage of POWER7 processor-based servers. Additionally, AIX 7 will have full binary compatibility for application programs developed on prior versions of AIX—as long as these programs comply with reasonable programming standards.

When to Pop the Popcorn

So, when is AIX 7 really coming? IBM has been talking up mid 2010 and they are also planning on letting customers download beta versions of AIX 7 to play with in a confined sandbox environment. Through its Virtual Loaner Program (VLP), IBM intends to provide early access to AIX 7 via an Open Beta program later this year. For more information and late-breaking news check in to their VLP twitter page every so often or their website.

I found this very helpful when IBM first started doing this with AIX 6, and I am looking forward to playing once again! AIX 7 will also be released in conjunction with new releases of PowerVM and PowerHA SystemMirror. New PowerVM capabilities will include storage-virtualization technologies to simplify provisioning and managing virtual server environments for AIX. As for PowerHA SystemMirror: it’ll be further integrated into AIX to exploit the new clustering capabilities.

Don’t Wait for the DVD

What’s the bottom line? On the heels of the AIX silver anniversary, IBM continues to innovate and improve on what’s clearly the best Unix OS in existence today. A recent report issued by IDC last week shows AIX continues to be the leading Unix OS of choice—owning 4.4 percent of the Top 500 supercomputers deployed in the past year. The improvements discussed in this article further differentiate AIX from the rest of the pack and should allow it to keep its foothold as the number one Unix solution on the market for years to come.

Don’t Take My Word

Don’t take my word for it! AIX Marketing Manager Jay Kreumcke will be speaking about AIX 7.1 at the next AIX User Group meeting.

Ken Milberg, CATE, PMP, is a diverse IT Professional with 20+ years of experience. Ken is a technology writer and site expert for techtarget and has also been a frequent contributor of content for IBM developerWorks. Ken has also been a freelance writer for IBM Systems Magazine and is a former technical editor. He can be reached at

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