AIX Gives IBM Servers a Virtual Look

AIX 5L 5.2 enables IBM eServer pSeries systems to divide into smaller "virtual" servers running Unix or Linux.

IBM on Tuesday will unveil AIX 5L Version 5.2, an upgrade to its Unix server operating system that will enable new and existing IBM eServer pSeries systems to divide into smaller "virtual" servers running either Unix or Linux.

The new software will allow administrators to create virtual servers on dynamic partitions that are as small as a single processor and have 250MB of memory. "The smaller the partition, the more efficient the resource allocation, and potentially, the lower the total cost of ownership," Mike Harrell, manager for the pSeries, told eWEEK. "The benefits of this are improvement to system utilization, a lowering of administration costs, the ability to add resources on the fly and the capability to manage servers with twice the precision of competing vendors."

IBM is extending this virtual server capability, which already exists in the mainframe world, to all pSeries Unix servers, and AIX Version 5.2 will run on all Power-4 based pSeries systems, he said.

But dont expect an Intel version. Earlier this year, IBM officials said AIX would continue to run only on IBMs own eServer Power product family. "There will not be an Intel version of it," Jim McGaughan, director of eServer marketing, told eWEEK at that time. "While we produced a version of AIX that ran well on the first-generation [Intel] Itanium platform, we no longer build an AIX version for Itanium. We have withdrawn from that program and have no plans to rejoin."

Asked what sets the IBM offering apart from the other "virtual" server solutions available from companies such as SWsoft, VMware and even Sun Microsystems Inc., Harrell said the differentiator is its dynamic logical partitioning, which allows a "finer granularity of control extending to a single processor, single adapter and 256MB of memory, independent of where those resources are installed in a system."

The software allows users of IBM pSeries systems to shift workloads and change resources transparently. IBM has also implemented dynamic Logical Partitioning (LPAR) in Version 5.2, which allows system resources--including processors, memory and other components--to be assigned to independent partitions, without rebooting the system, he said.

The latest version of AIX also features Capacity Upgrade on Demand, which, with dynamic LPAR, helps system administrators adapt to changing workloads and rapid growth without an interruption in service. "If an IBM eServer pSeries system has a failing processor, a new processor could be automatically brought online with no interruption in service or performance degradation, using these technologies," Harrell said.

Users could also add new processors in pairs to meet increased workloads without interrupting operations, he said.

Also included in AIX 5.2 is an updated AIX Toolbox for Linux Applications; improvements to the Web-based System Manager interface in the AIX Workload Manager, including features that give administrators greater control over system resources assigned to applications; and networking and security additions that extend network connectivity, availability and manageability.

IBM will also announce on Tuesday the first software package for managing mixed clusters of Unix and Linux servers. Clustered Systems Management (CSM) Version 1.3 provides a single point of control for installing, configuring, maintaining and updating IBM eServer xSeries servers running Linux and IBM eServer pSeries servers, or their logical partitions, running AIX.

In addition, IBM is offering pre-packaged cluster offerings to support more systems. The IBM eServer Cluster 1600 will be expanded to support as many as 128 specified IBM eServer pSeries servers running the AIX 5L operating system.

The IBM eServer Cluster 1350 will also be expanded to support up to 512 managed IBM eServer xSeries systems running the Linux operating system. CSM availability for both is Oct. 25, while support for the increased number of servers is due Dec. 13.

IBM also plans to introduce new pSeries servers in the last quarter of 2002 and the first quarter of 2003, designed to run Linux. The introduction of these servers will make IBM the only major Unix vendor to offer a complete product line capable of running Linux natively.

AIX 5L Version 5.2 is available to pSeries systems at no additional charge, while CSM costs $200 per CPU. Looking forward, Harrell said IBM intends to extend mainframe-type technologies to its entire pSeries line over time.