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An executive guide to IBM’s strategy and roadmap for the AIX
Operating System on Power Systems
An IBM® White Paper
IBM AIX Strategy and Roadmap
Today’s IT Environment and AIX
Today’s IT organizations face challenges that are both immense and exciting. As more and more
devices connect to the Internet, the demand for computing capability, storage, and 7x24
availability continues to increase at a rapid rate. It is no longer about how many systems are
available but how efficiently they are being used and the Quality of Service they are delivering.
IBM Power Systems running AIX has been the choice of many organizations to run their
Systems of Record, such as the databases for warehousing and OLTP, web application servers
implementing business logic, and analysis tools such as Cognos. These systems have to step up
to the demand as the client devices, the Systems of Engagement, proliferate and drive higher
Power Systems with AIX are in a clear leadership position here to meet all these demands. The
strategic direction of IBM is to keep innovating, stay ahead of the curve, and keep delivering the
most reliable, flexible, high performing and secure IT environment to our customers.
Power and AIX Marketplace
The majority of the Fortune 500 companies run their most demanding mission-critical workloads
on AIX, the UNIX operating system for Power Systems. Consider the following statistics - 10
out of the world’s top 10 banks runs on Power, 10 out of the world’s top 10 telecommunication
companies runs on Power, 8 out of the top 10 retailers runs on Power, and 8 of the top 10
insurers runs on Power! The reason for this is simple, organizations generally choose server
platforms based on their evaluation of application performance, reliability & security, and the
support provided by the vendor, and AIX and Power Systems qualifies for these clients.
A recent ITIC survey1 shows Power and AIX leading all other platforms in these areas. A major
reason for this is that AIX and Power are designed for each other with the development teams
working together right from the concept stage. For the last 15 years, successive generations of
Power Systems with AIX have maintained per core performance leadership in the industry. AIX
is uniquely positioned to take advantage of all the Power processor chip technology advances
such as Simultaneous Multi-Threading (SMT), that increases system throughput; Active Memory
Expansion (AME), that increases effective memory footprint; and Memory Protection Keys, that
provides a deep level of security and reliability. These innovations and many others have driven
IBM's leadership in the Unix market share.
1 ITIC Reliability Survey - http://www-01.ibm.com/common/ssi/cgi- bin/ssialias?infotype=SA&subtype=WH&htmlfid=XSL03126USEN
AIX Strategy and Roadmap
AIX Software Roadmap
AIX's 30-year history of innovation is described in the AIX Strength To Strength document2.
As AIX has matured, IBM's release strategy has focused on delivering enhancements with the
least amount of disruption. The software and hardware roadmaps ensure a stable environment
ready to run the most demanding workloads. Every major AIX release has new game-changing
technology that helps IBM customers stay on top of new business requirements. Incremental
technology enhancements, called Technology Levels (TLs) happen more frequently so customers
can take advantage of new features without major disruption. Smaller iterations, called Service
Packs (SPs) are issued 2 to 3 times a year. SPs package up accumulated bug fixes and may also
include support for new Power Systems and I/O features so clients can move to new server and
I/O technology with confidence and minimal disruption.
With the announcement of AIX 7.2 in October, IBM has made some changes in the support
lifecycle for AIX versions currently in the market. The first change is an increase in the support
lifecycle timeframe for major releases, which will now have a 10-year support lifecycle with
extended support for the final TL now available for 3 to 5 years at additional cost. The standard
support timeline for an individual TLs moves from 3 to 4 years. New TLs for mature releases
will be delivered at 2-year intervals instead of the prior one-year release cycle. As an example,
AIX 7.2 TL0 was just announced in October 2015. TL1 and TL2 are planned for 4Q2016 and
4Q2017, while TL3 is planned for 4Q2019. This allows IBM to deliver new functionality
rapidly when a new AIX version is announced and then reduce churn as the innovation focus
shifts to the next major release.
The support lifecycle updates do not change the AIX binary compatibility guarantee, which
states that all well written applications adhering to the commonly practiced coding standards will
run on newer versions of AIX without recompilation or modification. This means that when
customers do move to a later version of AIX they can continue using their applications compiled
on previous releases with confidence.
With the introduction of AIX 7.2 in December 2015, new features are available that further
improve system reliability. The Live Update for iFixes feature allows a running AIX kernel to be
patched and take effect without reboot. IBM plans to further develop this capability to get to the
point where new Service Packs or TLs can be applied without a reboot.
IBM will continue investing in AIX to deliver technical innovations and maximize performance,
reliability, and security for the foreseeable future as the roadmap below demonstrates.
IBM AIX Strategy and Roadmap
AIX 6.1, AIX 7.1, and AIX 7.2 are currently supported releases
AIX Standard and Enterprise Editions
AIX 7.2 is available in Standard Edition and the Enterprise Edition. The Enterprise Edition
consists of the Standard Edition plus several other management solutions for enterprise
customers such as PowerVC (Virtualization Control/private cloud), PowerSC™ (Security
Compliance), Tivoli Monitoring, and IBM BigFix® Lifecycle. Enterprise Edition is less costly
than the combination of Standard Edition plus all of the individual components so enterprise
customers can implement advanced private cloud, security compliance, monitoring, and fix
management at a bundled price
6.1 TLs7.1 TLs7.2 TLs
2007 2010 2015
08 09 07 06 10 11 15 14 13 12 19 18 17 16 20 24 21 22 23
AIX Strategy and Roadmap
AIX and Open Source Software
Open Source technology has been an important part of AIX for many years. AIX uses open
source technology within its core functionality and in AIX based Power Systems facilities such
as the PowerVM® Virtual IO Server (VIOS). AIX also ships open source packages such as Perl,
OpenSSL, and OpenSSH as part of the AIX base distribution since they have become
mainstream tools and functions used by AIX administrators. Most recently, CloudInit was ported
to AIX, enabling a uniform means to customized VM deployment by setting the VM’s
personality (hostname, IP address, etc.). Additional open source packages are included in the
AIX expansion pack and can be downloaded from the AIX Linux toolbox download sites.
IBM is strongly committed to open source technology and open standards. IBM provides support
for timely resolution of issues with both AIX and the Open Source software distributed with it.
IBM support personnel work closely with the open source community to quickly resolve issues,
with particular focus on security issues
AIX Supporting Technologies
Server Virtualization and Cloud Technologies
Power Systems servers are designed with virtualization in mind. The PowerVM® hypervisor is
implemented in system firmware and runs natively on the Power cores. The native
implementation of the hypervisor enables very efficient and granular allocation of CPU, memory
and I/O to the various Logical Partitions while providing the greatest possible security. In fact,
as of the writing of this paper the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reports
that the PowerVM hypervisor has never been hacked.
PowerVM supports LPARs with small and large CPU allocations; as little as 1/20th of a core or
as many as 192 cores on the largest POWER8 E880 server. Whatever the CPU allocation,
LPARs designated as "uncapped" compete for CPU cycles that are not being used. Dynamic
allocation of these CPU cycles allows the busy LPARs to get more than 100% of their CPU
allotment on a given dispatch cycle and do more work. The uncapped LPARs get more cycles so
workloads can run faster. Stacking many LPARs onto a server allows higher utilization on the
Power Systems compared to other server technologies.
The figure below is from a customer machine showing average CPU busy of about 80% across a
business day on a 64-core system with 100 LPARs.
IBM AIX Strategy and Roadmap
AIX takes advantage of another POWER technology called Active Memory Expansion (AME).
AME allows a portion of an LPAR’s memory to be stored as compressed using a special
compression unit on the POWER processor chip, making the effective memory larger than it is.
For example, 16 GB of memory can be made to look like 20 GB by applying an AME
compression factor of 25%. AME along with the POWER8® hardware uses the on-chip
accelerator to speed compression and save main compute resources transparently.
AIX also supports a lightweight partitioning technology called Workload Partitions (WPARs).
WPARs divide up the resources allocated to an LPAR into work units that usually run a single
application. One use of WPARs might be to provide each developer with his/her own
environment with a consistent image. Customers can choose between the higher isolation of
LPARs and the lower isolation of WPARs based on their needs.
PowerVM virtualization provides the foundation for private clouds. Implementing a private
cloud in an enterprise can reduce the time to deploy new LPARs and provide a self-service menu
for authorized users to automatically provision short term LPARs within established limits.
PowerVC creates, destroys, and manipulates PowerVM LPARs with an easy to use GUI, even
incorporating non-IBM resources (SAN disk, for example) that can be managed with OpenStack
management tools. PowerVC improves compliance and reduces errors by standardizing
deployments and configurations while leveraging approval policies for oversight and optimal
AIX Strategy and Roadmap
performance. A private cloud built with PowerVM and PowerVC enables organizations to
reduce IT costs, improve service delivery and accelerate business innovation
Resiliency and High Availability
This is the area that IBM platforms have historically excelled in. IBM Power Systems made the
decision many years ago to bring IBM Mainframe reliability features to the Power servers. Key
innovations like First Failure Data Capture (FFDC), processor instruction retry, CPU de-
allocation, chipkill memory, and memory protection keys have consistently given Power and
AIX the best reliability record in the Unix/Linux/Windows marketplace. Annual customer
surveys by Information Technology Intelligence Consulting (ITIC) have shown Power and AIX
having the least amount of downtime and the shortest recovery time among the surveyed
The well-known high availability and disaster recovery (HA/DR) capabilities of Power servers
are delivered through PowerHA® SystemMirror software. This technology is deeply integrated
with AIX for reliably orchestrating the acquisition and release of cluster resources from one
system to another. As an example, PowerHA version 7.2 integrates with the new AIX 7.2 Live
Update feature in AIX 7.2 that allows the AIX kernel to be patched without application
Another technology that improve reliability are PowerVM Live Partition Mobility (LPM), which
moves a running partition from one physical server to another while the applications continue to
run. This helps in eliminating downtime when production systems need to be updated.
Power Systems has embraced the open source community to deliver enterprise solutions for
systems management based on open technologies like OpenStack. IBM's PowerVC product can
manage the offerings of other OpenStack members in addition to our own. OpenStack
membership provides the greatest speed for innovation and allows each vendor to contribute to
the support of the devices they know best.
AIX has been extended to fit into this new OpenStack systems management model, to allow
flexible and fast deployment of workloads in a private or hybrid cloud. AIX workloads can be
captured and redeployed within a cloud within seconds using PowerVC or IBM Cloud Manager
with OpenStack (both are based on OpenStack).
The key for the IT security of an enterprise is to use a variety of security and cryptographic
mechanisms to determine and maintain the trusted state of the systems and to ensure a safe and
IBM AIX Strategy and Roadmap
trusted execution environment. The operating system provides the foundation around which the
rest of the software stack can build its security structure. AIX historically has had an
exceptionally strong security foundation addressing a variety of different types of threats. An
example is the Trusted Execution. This ensures that known binaries are not altered in any way
that would allow malicious code to execute. When this is combined with the PowerSC Trusted
Boot capability the “root of trust” is ensured from the AIX kernel load process through the
execution of each AIX executable. This can be extended to the actual applications themselves if
that is so desired. This is truly unique in the industry.
Several options exist in AIX for customers to implement mechanisms to prevent unauthorized
access. AIX Security Expert is an AIX tool that standardizes security settings across a group of
servers or even throughout an entire enterprise.
AIX automatically takes advantage of the cryptographic hardware accelerators in POWER8®
based servers. The various AIX security libraries automatically detect hardware facilities and
then use them without any additional configuration.
AIX has supported mission critical workloads in a high performance, reliable, and secure manner
for decades, and is expected to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. The deep integration
of the Power Systems with AIX gives the platform an edge that is hard to match. This paper
highlights the keys areas of differentiation and innovation for our customers.
Some links to the reference pages on Power Systems and AIX are listed below.
There is a wide range of on-line resources available to the AIX community. A short sampling is
IBM AIX http://www-03.ibm.com/systems/power/software/aix/
IBM AIX service and support best practices http://www14.software.ibm.com/webapp/set2/sas/f/best/home.html
“IBM AIX Technology Forum” on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/grp/home?gid=8413155&trk=my_groups-tile-flipgrp