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With the Emphasis on Serving Client Needs, AIX Upgrades Deliver Choice, Performance and Savings

AIX
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Whether you’re involved in breadmaking or banking, sporting goods or semiconductors, chances are your IT shop has its hands full. It supports external customers and internal clients. It supports transactions. It supports business analytics. It supports the development of new products and services. Even though it’s often viewed as a cost center, IT is essential to enabling your organization to bring in revenue. In return, it’s buffeted by a constantly changing list of demands: do more, do it faster, do it more flexibly, do it with less. IT supports the business, but who’s supporting IT? AIX* and IBM.

When IBM set out to develop AIX 7.2, the latest version of its workhorse Power Systems* OS, it didn’t start with planning meetings. Instead, the company initiated intense client engagement with the goal of discovering and addressing some of the biggest pain points. At the same time, it focused the AIX 7.1 upgrade on a set of smaller features clients could more easily absorb into their existing environment.

“We want to continue to drive value for our customers. We understand how important AIX is to our clients, and that makes it important to us.”
—Carl Burnett, Distinguished Engineer, Power Systems software development organization

This dual-stream approach is designed to give clients the best of both worlds. For those ready to exploit fresh innovations, AIX 7.2 brings new features designed to address pain points, boost application speed and improve networking performance. At the same time, clients happy with the performance of their workloads running on AIX 7.1 can leave them ticking along, enhanced by a moderate upgrade that offers a few Easter eggs of its own. “In AIX 7.2, we’re driving major innovation,” says Carl Burnett, Distinguished Engineer within the Power Systems software development organization. “AIX 7.1 is a mature release, so the features we’ve added are more incremental. The goal is to allow clients to install what’s best for their organization and their workloads. It also lets them establish a roadmap to access the latest options without perturbing established operations.”

Making AIX Better

For nearly 30 years, the AIX OS has supported mission-critical workloads in the enterprise data center. A broad swath of Fortune 500 companies depends on it to run transaction processing and business analytics. The development group that provides AIX also develops PowerVM*, PowerHA*, PowerVC*, Power* firmware and the HMC. This enables a top-to-bottom integration of firmware and software to fully optimize Power Systems performance, scalability, availability and security, which is essential for enterprise-class computing. In addition, the Power Systems hardware and software teams are co-located at the IBM Austin, Texas, facility, working together to ensure AIX evolves in concert with each Power Systems generation.

IBM typically releases a new major AIX version every three to four years. These versions encompass significant advances and innovations. In the case of AIX 7.2, they focused on:

  • Reducing planned downtime in the data center
  • Speeding up applications with expanded exploitation of flash storage
  • Improving virtual networking efficiency and adding new quality-of-service features

In addition, AIX 7.2 adheres to the AIX tradition of strong binary compatibility with past AIX releases, per IBM’s binary compatibility guarantee.

Availability is an issue often addressed in the context of protecting against unexpected system failure. Downtime is downtime, though, even when it’s planned. Shutdowns and outage windows are a particular problem for the type of essential functions clients deploy on Power Systems servers running AIX. As a result, IT shops typically go through significant effort to plan maintenance. They work to minimize the duration and show up in the wee hours of the morning to perform the upgrade, rebooting the system and crossing their fingers that everything will still work when it comes back up.

At least they did until now. One of the marquee features of AIX 7.2 is live update. With this functionality, the AIX kernel can be updated without requiring a system reboot or a shutdown of running applications.

Kristin Lewotsky is a freelance technology writer based in Amherst, N.H.


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