IBM tries to boost AIX through open beta

IBM is trying to promote the next version of its Unix operating system variant by opening up the beta testing program to any customer or developer who wants to kick the tires.

AIX 6 is not expected until the fourth quarter of this year, but IBM has already received hundreds of responses to its open beta for the product earlier this week. Big Blue traditionally limited the beta for AIX to a couple of dozen participants. Jay Kruemcke, IBM’s AIX program director, said AIX 6 will be binary compatible with version 5, and despite several planned additional features, he said it could have been labelled as a point release.

“We primarily (called it AIX 6) for marketing purposes. We decided it was the first time to rev the version, let clients know that the future is assured,” he said, adding that the product will remain proprietary despite the beta program. “It’s not open source. We just mean that anybody can go to the Web site, click to accept the licence and have the ability to download the code.”

IBM has become one of the more vocal proponents of the Linux operating system among enterprise customers over the last few years, but Kruemcke said there is still a difference between open source and AIX users.

“Clients are choosing AIX because they really want to get the investment in reliability and scalability that it provides,” he said, adding that AIX allows for up to 128 threads in a single partition. “That’s a lot higher than the Linux environments can do. Not that the Linux guys couldn’t figure out how to do that, but the market hasn’t pushed them in that direction.”

AIX also focuses on several near-continuous availability, Kruemcke said, including concurrent updates, dynamic tracing and first-failure capture, or the ability to identify problems as they happen.

When it comes out later this year, AIX 6 will feature workload partitions, a virtualization tool for IT managers to carve out a region within an instance of the OS where they can run their applications independently of the other workloads on a given system.

Kruemcke said workload partitions would probably be popular in testing environments as well as reducing the number of OS images an administrator would have to maintain. AIX 6 will come with a separate product called Workloads Partition Manager that would help handle that kind of an environment.

Bram Kivenko, CEO of Toronto-based development firm Kivco Consulting Inc., said his firm used to do a considerable amount of AIX work, but the platform has been on the wane for some time.

“AIX is quite limited. . . it’s just going the way of the Dodo,” he said. “People are using it for legacy systems that they can’t change.”

Tarun Bhasin, a server analyst with Toronto-based IDC Canada, disagreed, estimating that 90 per cent of IBM’s System p server shipments run on AIX.

“Generally speaking it’s still the strongest for that product line,” he said, adding that the virtualization features of AIX 6 might resonate with customers. “Virtualization is a hot topic right now. There are a number of organizations that are planning to use it. It has gone up in Canada tremendously.”

Because this is the first public beta for AIX, Kruemcke said his group partnered with IBM’s software division, which has ran similar programs for products like WebSphere.

Interested participants can visit, follow links to the beta, accept the agreement and download images and resource publications. IBM has also set up a forum to deal with questions or problems. “We’re not doing one-on-one type support,” Kruemcke said.

AIX 6 is also expected to offer what IBM calls live application mobility, which lets users move a workload partition from one server to another while it is still running.

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