AIX Is at the Center of Cloud Initiatives and AI
Artificial intelligence (AI) provides new tools to accelerate data processing and analysis to gain more insights. The AIX OS is at the vanguard of these innovations.
By Shirley S. Savage07/01/2018
Emerging workloads are opening up new opportunities. Cloud enables organizations to dynamically scale, work flexibly and integrate to meet growing demand. Artificial intelligence (AI) provides new tools to accelerate data processing and analysis to gain more insights. The AIX* OS is at the vanguard of these innovations.
For many years, clients have used AIX to run their traditional mission-critical environments, including their databases, which are their crown jewels and warrant protection accordingly. The OS provides a secure and highly available environment with great performance—attributes that only increase as the AIX OS is continually enhanced.
As modern data platforms like open-source databases have emerged, clients want to leverage their capabilities. Clients also want to deploy AI for more insights. And clients want to preserve their investments in their systems.
“Clients want to run these types of new workloads side by side on IBM Power Systems*, leveraging their existing infrastructure,” says Petra Bührer, offering manager, Power Systems Software. “IBM is innovating and modernizing AIX to handle cloud and AI,” she notes.
Cloud is a big focus for many organizations. Clients are looking to optimize their environment and deploy a more dynamic delivery of resources across the enterprise. Some organizations want to use cloud on-premises. Others want to save on capital expenses by using cloud service providers for some workloads.
“IBM is helping clients create cloud configurations that suit their needs. Our focus with AIX is to innovate in these areas,” says Corradino (Carl) Jones, director, Cognitive Systems Enterprise Software Development at IBM, which includes development of AIX and IBM PowerVM* virtualization, as well as Power Systems Software high availability (HA), security and platform management offerings.
The nature of cloud is evolving. A few years ago, public cloud was the main focus. And while public cloud remains a part of the ecosystem, organizations are looking to build private clouds, too. Hybrid cloud deployments, where some workloads run on-premises and some in public clouds, is the direction that most organizations are taking, says Joe Cropper, senior technical staff member, IBM Power Systems.
One of the cornerstones of that effort is IBM PowerVC* cloud manager. This offering provides enterprise virtualization and cloud management capabilities for AIX, as well as the entire Power Systems family. Using PowerVC software, AIX administrators can create their own image catalogs by deploying familiar applications such as WebSphere*, Db2*, Oracle and others. PowerVC cloud manager gives admins many operational benefits such as making server maintenance easier, improving resource optimization and simplifying network provisioning.
The cloud management edition of PowerVC software offers several advantages for clients. AIX administrators now have unprecedented abilities to allow users to provision their own workloads and applications. “It’s exciting to witness how clients transform their business,” says Cropper. This transformation is happening in all industries and all areas of the globe.
For instance, the UNIX* manager at a large U.S. financial institution faced a challenge. Her team was responsible for all of the AIX and WebSphere* applications for deployment within the entire organization, and was doing about 15 deployments per week. This deployment level wasn’t meeting the demands for new virtual machines and LPARs.
IBM worked with the team to implement solutions based on PowerVC that used open source-based Chef for configuration management, says Cropper. After the transformation, the team was able to produce 150 deployments each week. This achievement enabled the development team to innovate at a remarkable rate. “It’s not every day where you can see a 10x improvement by simply implementing a tool,” Cropper says.
“More insight from the data means better decision making for the enterprise.”—Hillery Hunter, director, Accelerated Cognitive Infrastructure, IBM
Another client used cloud to reduce the time it took an administrator to create and reload SAP databases. The client’s AIX administrators typically spent five hours manually creating and reloading the SAP databases for the QA team. IBM designed a new solution using PowerVC and cloud technology. This solution enabled the AIX admins to create an image with the SAP databases installed in two minutes, rather than the previous five hours. “Clients comment that they couldn’t have imagined their lives without a tool like PowerVC,” Cropper says.
As part of their digital transformation efforts, many AIX users are also exploring a new Platform as a Service offering called IBM Cloud* Private. It’s a reliable, flexible on-premises cloud and DevOps platform that leverages the industry-leading container orchestration framework, Kubernetes. Using IBM Cloud Private, developers can create new cloud-native applications using all of the latest DevOps toolchains on Power Systems, seamlessly integrating them with the data provided by their AIX workloads.
Data trends have changed, too. While big data remains a key focus, clients are now getting started with AI. AI is the ability to get more insight from data. “More insight from the data means better decision making for the enterprise,” says Hillery Hunter, director, Accelerated Cognitive Infrastructure at IBM.
The AIX OS is a natural fit for AI, as it holds a wealth of data on customer behavior and transactional information that could be further leveraged. When clients combine historical data with relevant incoming data from additional sources—like sensor data and weather data—they get new and deeper insights. In brief, AI is an open source-based process that uses data in the enterprise to create a model. When the model has been trained, it can be deployed against incoming data. The organization can monitor, analyze and remove risks, says Hunter.
With AI, clients can use analysis techniques such as machine learning and deep learning. Those techniques enable clients to find relationships in data, spot anomalies and discover correlations. The client’s bottom line benefits from improved understanding of market and customer behavior and the ability to spot transaction fraud or risk, Hunter notes.
AI is accessible and available to clients. To begin, a client needs to define an area where an existing process can be and needs to be improved. Next, a model is created and trained. The client deploys the AI model to reveal insights that lead to changes.
Many connection points are available into enterprise data such as Oracle and Db2 databases on AIX that are used for AI. Clients can connect these to the IBM Watson* data platform and add in other connections from Spark environments or machine and deep learning environments. These points enable data to be used in a productive AI environment to gain new insights. “The AIX OS has all of the plumbing that’s needed to get going with AI,” says Hunter. As organizations deploy more AI models, the OS will become increasingly important.
Cutting Edge Focus
IBM is leveraging partnerships to keep AIX in the lead and connected with new workloads. For private cloud, IBM is partnering with Nutanix, one of the leaders of on-premises hyperconverged systems. This partnership combines Nutanix’s cloud software with IBM Power Systems to deliver a hyperconverged infrastructure for critical workloads to simplify management of private cloud deployments. Clients can also reduce the cost and complexity of mixed environments by using Nutanix to manage Linux* and AIX workloads on POWER* side-by-side with x86.
“IBM looks forward to the on-premises ease of use that Nutanix will provide for clients,” says Jones. “This is the first time the AIX OS has supported another hypervisor other than PowerVM—which is a key thing to note as far as the investments we are making in AIX.”
AIX provides the same binary compatibility on Nutanix that exists on Power Systems models that support AIX on PowerVM. This compatibility allows applications developed for AIX 5 or greater to run unchanged and without recompilation.
IBM’s partnership with Skytap provides public cloud access for AIX users. Users can export AIX workloads running in their data center (on premises) cloud like Db2 to the public cloud for flexible deployment and on-demand scalability.
Turning to AI, IBM is helping clients gain better insights from their data. One way to do that is by using the inferencing and training engines found in PowerAI offerings. “Clients will see great value in the pairing of data and workloads on AIX with PowerAI,” says Jones.
When it comes to security, the PowerSC portfolio offers strong capabilities to raise the overall level of security, especially in cloud and virtualized environments. PowerSC security and compliance simplifies processes with real-time monitoring, alerting, reporting, compliance automation and patch management. The recent addition of IBM PowerSC Security and Compliance Multi-Factor Authentication provides stronger authentication protection for AIX systems.
Many clients are keen to leverage open-source tools. IBM is bringing open source-based automation tools like Chef, Ansible and Puppet to AIX. These tools provide flexibility and increased productivity for DevOps.
Clients that need HA support and disaster recovery (DR) can use IBM PowerHA* high availability and Geographically Dispersed Resiliency (GDR). PowerHA is designed for mission-critical cloud deployments requiring dedicated resources for HA. GDR is designed for DR environments in the cloud. Read “Building a Resilient Disaster Recovery Solution” on page 27 to learn more about GDR.
Because IBM is focused on ease of use, all of these offerings—PowerVC, PowerHA, and PowerSC—provide intuitive web-based user interfaces. IT admins don’t need to have specific, in-depth skills to manage AIX on POWER, notes Bührer.
Clients have a broad array of options for AI and Cloud. They can get started with AI and cloud technologies on their own or use IBM Lab Services to assist them in deploying these new technologies.
The AIX OS is here for the long term. IBM has enabled various features that are unique in the UNIX space and is constantly enhancing and broadening those—like AIX Live Update, which allows clients to apply updates concurrently, eliminating the workload downtime that’s associated with updates that would have previously required a restart/reboot.
Continuing success for AIX remains front and center for IBM. “IBM focuses on preserving a client’s investments,” notes Jones. “Clients can be confident traditional and new workloads will run on AIX,” he says.
Modernization is central to IBM’s plans for AIX. Enhancements like the support of additional hypervisors, integration into higher level cloud orchestrators like VMware vRealize, various cloud choices, as well as container management such as Kubernetes, gives AIX users a solid base for the future.
“Wherever the enterprise goes, AIX will be there,” Jones says.
- As more organizations move toward hybrid cloud, AIX helps clients create cloud configurations that suit their needs.
- IBM PowerVC cloud manager provides enterprise virtualization and cloud management capabilities for AIX.
- AIX helps organizations manage a wealth of data on customer behavior and transactional information that could be further leveraged with AI.
Shirley S. Savage is a writer and communications strategist. She's fascinated by tech, science, finance, energy and the way innovative people think. More →
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