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IBM looks to gain an edge with Unix virtualization features

Quoting ComputerWorld

An upgrade to IBM's Unix server operating system promises enhanced security and virtualization features, while providing continuous application availability during planned down times.

AIX 6, announced last week, is the first version of AIX to be released in a public beta, a move IBM said demonstrates its desire to win customers away from competitors Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

AIX 6 shows IBM is still serious about Unix because it's not a mere "dot release," said Tony Iams, an analyst at Ideas International Inc. While new features related to security and management simply let IBM keep pace with HP and Sun, IBM has broken new ground in the area of virtualization, Iams said.

IBM said its new Workload Partitions feature is a "software-based virtualization technology that reduces the number of operating system images that have to be managed when consolidating workloads."

A related upgrade is called Live Application Mobility, which allows users to move a workload partition from one server to another even while the workload is running, providing continuous availability similar to a mainframe.

"This gives you a very powerful way to migrate workloads from one server to another," he said. "Not just an application, but an entire workload, consisting of several applications and middleware."

While AIX 6 won't have quite the same capabilities of a mainframe, Iams said it's notable that IBM is willing to give Unix servers mainframe-like functions even as the company touts the viability of the mainframe.

IBM expects the final version to come out in November. Pricing will remain the same, at $750 per blade server, including one year of support. Existing customers get a free upgrade to AIX 6.

One security feature IBM touts is role-based access control, which can already be found in HP and Sun products, Iams said. This feature allows businesses to define access controls by role, rather than by user name, said Scott Handy, IBM vice president of worldwide marketing and strategy for System p servers. That way, database administrators can have one level of access, while system administrators are given a different level of access and users have still another.

The addition of this feature and several others related to security and management are mostly about catching up to the competition and making sure IBM remains relevant in the Unix market, according to Iams.

AIX 6 runs on IBM systems based on Power4, PowerPC 970, Power5 and Power6 processors. Handy said IBM wants to clear up one misconception: AIX 6 is compatible with previous releases, he said, so customers can migrate applications written for AIX 5.3 and 5.2 to the new operating system without extra code work.

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Published Tuesday, July 17, 2007 10:00 PM by David Marshall
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