Sunday, August 22, 2010

New Features in AIX Version 7

New Features in AIX Version 7

IBM announced AIX version 7.
Several new features were mentioned in the launch, but there were two new features that I found particularly interesting:

- AIX 5.2 WPARs for AIX 7
- Cluster Aware AIX

AIX 5.2 WPARs for AIX 7

In AIX version 7, administrators will now have the capability to create Workload Partitions (WPARs) that can run AIX 5.2, inside an AIX 7 operating system instance. This will be supported on the POWER7 server platform. This is pretty cool. IBM have done this to allow some customers, that are unable to migrate to later generations of AIX and Power, to move to POWER7 whilst keeping their legacy AIX 5.2 systems operational. So for those clients that MUST stay on AIX 5.2 (for various reasons such as Application support) but would like to run their systems on POWER7, this feature may be very attractive. It will help to reduce the effort required when consolidating older AIX 5.2 systems onto newer hardware. It may also reduce some of the risk associated with migrating applications from one version of the AIX operating system to another.

To migrate an existing AIX 5.2 system to an AIX 7 WPAR, administrators will first need to take a mksysb of the existing system. Then they can simply restore the mksysb image inside the AIX 7 WPAR. IBM will also offer limited defect and how-to support for the AIX 5.2 operating system in an AIX 7 WPAR. These WPARs can, of course, be managed via IBM Systems Director with the Workload Partitions Manager plug-in.

The following figure provides a visualization of how these AIX 5.2 systems will fit into an AIX 7 WPAR. The WPARs in blue are native AIX 7 WPARs, while the WPARs in orange are AIX 5.2 WPARs running in the same AIX 7 instance. Pretty amazing really!

Cluster Aware AIX

Another very interesting feature of AIX 7 is a new technology known as “Cluster Aware AIX”. Believe it or not, administrators will now be able to create a cluster of AIX systems using features of the new AIX 7 kernel. IBM have introduced this “in built” clustering to the AIX OS in order to simplify the configuration and management of highly available clusters. This new AIX clustering has been designed to allow for:

- The easy creation of clusters of AIX instances for scale-out computing or high availability.
- Significantly simplify cluster configuration, construction, and maintenance.- Improve availability by reducing the time to discover failures.
- Capabilities such as common device naming to help simplify administration.
- Built in event management and monitoring.
- A foundation for future AIX capabilities and the next generation of PowerHA SystemMirror.

This does not replace PowerHA but it does change the way in which AIX traditionally integrates with cluster software like HACMP and PowerHA. A lot of the HA cluster functionality is now available in the AIX 7 kernel itself. However, the mature RSCT technology is still a component of the AIX and PowerHA configuration. I’m looking forward to reading more about this new technology and it’s capabilities.

These are just two of the many features introduced in AIX 7. I’m eagerly looking forward to what these features and others mean for the future of the AIX operating system. It’s exciting to watch this operating system grow and strengthen over time. I can’t wait to get my hands on an AIX 7 system so that I can trial these new features.

And speaking of trialing AIX 7, there is good news. IBM plan on running another AIX Open Beta program for AIX 7 mid 2010. Just as they did with AIX Version 6, customers will be given the opportunity to download a beta version of AIX 7 and trial it on their own systems in their own environment. This is very exciting and I’m really looking forward to it.


Clustering infrastructureAIX 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 ScalabilityAIX 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 ManagementIBM 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 WPARsAIX 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.

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