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Now With Server Virtualization Capabilities -- IBM Launches Open Beta for AIX 7

By Andy Patrizio (Send Email)
Posted Jul 15, 2010


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High-end Unix systems aren't usually given the beta treatment, but IBM is betting on a wide test for some new virtualization capabilities.

IBM today launched an open beta program for AIX 7, the company's Unix operating system for its System p servers running the Power processor, giving customers an early, hands-on look at what's to come.

The program, which is open to all System p customers, will run for several months at least, as IBM is hoping they can perform some heavy application compatibility testing while checking out new and improved features.

AIX 7 is a Unix System V R3-derivative for IBM's (NYSE: IBM) RISC processors running high-end, mission-critical systems. This will be the first release to support the new IBM Power 7 processor, which features improved power management, multithreading and virtualization.

Virtualization is a key component of AIX 7 and IBM wants its customers to focus on particular aspect for testing: AIX 5.2 containers with AIX 7. AIX 5.1 introduced the ability to dynamically increase or reduce memory or processor allocation without having to reboot the system, making it something of a sweet spot for customers, said Jay Kruemcke, marketing manager for AIX at IBM.

While AIX 6 and 7 are binary-compatible with 5.2, there are still issues like setting up the file system and containers, and customers haven't had the resources to move all of their AIX 5.2 systems forward. "So we have many customers with these islands of AIX 5.2 systems they would like to consolidate, and this will allow them to do that," Kruemcke told InternetNews.com.

Prior versions of AIX had virtualization support, but AIX 7 can run virtual containers that contain older versions of the OS, so companies still using AIX 5.2-era apps can deploy them on a Power 7 system with AIX and still run them in an AIX 5.2 container without having to make any changes.

AIX 7 also features support for very large workloads, up to 256 cores -- which translates to 1024 threads -- in a single AIX logical partition, which is four times larger than what AIX 6 supported. It also comes with built-in clustering to simplify configuration and management of multiple AIX systems as well as simpler AIX configuration management for pools of AIX systems.

While customers are not likely to have a spare System p server sitting around for testing, the new OS can operate in a small partition of an existing system with minimal impact on its performance, IBM added.

The company did its first open beta test for AIX with version 6.1 in 2007, and landed more than 1,000 beta testers, including many software vendors. The result proved beneficial for IBM in more ways than just getting the software tested.

"We had more third-party software on general availability date than the previous release did after an entire year on the market," he said. "We liked it so much that the No. 1 priority for AIX 7 was this beta program."

But IBM did do one thing differently than with the prior version. With 6.1, it had a few binary updates during the beta process as it added and improved functionality. With AIX 7, IBM waited until later in the test cycle before opening a beta, so this version is feature-complete and could be the only binary code it releases before the final product ships later this year or early next year.

More information on the beta program is available on the AIX 7 Open Beta Web page.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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