Top IBM Power Systems myths: “IBM AIX is dead and Unix isn’t relevant in today’s market” (part 1)

By | 3 minute read | September 13, 2019

Given the focus on cloud, Linux, AI, blockchain and other headline-grabbing topics today — plus IBM’s recent acquisition of Red Hat — it’s important to dispel the myth that IBM AIX and Unix are no longer relevant.

When a technology isn’t front-page news every day, especially if that technology is older, the tech media circuit assumes it to be dead or fading and of little value to companies that have a significant investment in it.

IBM Z offers a good illustration of why I disagree with that notion. Consider our mainframe technology: 55 years after it was introduced, it remains at the core of financial institutions, insurance companies, manufacturers and governments around the world. The recently announced z15 system adds to that legacy with features like encryption everywhere, instant recovery and cloud-native development environments, and positions these systems as solid investments for enterprises embracing a hybrid multicloud strategy.

We face a similar myth with workloads running AIX and IBM i on IBM Power Systems. Let’s start dispelling this myth by looking at Unix as it exists today and then focus on why AIX will continue to bring value and offer continued enhancements, as well as new innovation, to its users.

Reality – The Unix wars and the market today

When the Unix wars began in the mid-1980s, there were many companies that tried to compete, but Digital Equipment, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Silicon Graphics and Sun Microsystems were the main players with their own platforms and versions of Unix.

company, server, Unix OS

In addition to the Unix battles, another battle was going on — the one for the platform. The five microprocessor architectures mentioned above, along with Intel, were engaged in what became known as “the chip wars.”

A lot happened to this market over the years. The competition for Unix dominance and the platform was fierce. Questionable marketing decisions and self-inflicted wounds also hurt some of these companies. The IBM Migration Factory in IBM Systems Lab Services played a key role in the Unix wars, migrating hundreds of our competitors’ clients to IBM Power Systems running AIX — for good reason!

Today, Digital Equipment and Silicon Graphics are gone. Mips Technologies went through a series of acquisitions and is now owned by Wave Computing. HP decided to become a PC company, and Oracle’s acquisition of Sun has all but killed the Sparc/Solaris offering. PA-Risc is gone and Sparc’s future may be in the hands of Fujitsu.

IBM AIX won the Unix wars!

The chip wars continue between IBM Power and Intel.

Of course, the Unix market is different now than it was ten years ago but is still relevant, especially to the thousands of companies that rely on this technology to run important segments of their business today. Numerous companies continue to invest and expand their investment in AIX. There are also many companies still running HP-UX and Solaris that need to move to a new platform, and we regularly receive requests to help these companies migrate to AIX.

AIX is not a “legacy platform”

Too often I’ve seen articles that characterize AIX as a legacy platform. While AIX clients may run some applications that could be considered legacy, the vast majority of these systems run mission-critical applications that are integral to an organization’s business.

Consider these stories from Niagara Bottling, CenturyLink and Copel, all very cogent examples of how IBM Power Systems and AIX are helping clients around the world transform their businesses.

Who else trusts IBM Power Systems today?

  • Eight of the top 10 banking companies
  • Nine of the top 10 insurance companies
  • Eight of the top 10 healthcare companies
  • Eight of the top 10 retailers

These are companies with serious problems to solve and they aren’t going to put their businesses at risk by building them on an outdated operating system that has no future. Check out the updated IBM AIX Strategy Paper to learn more about our strategy, roadmap and long-term commitment to organizations running AIX on IBM Power Systems.

In part 2, we’ll look at how IBM AIX has evolved over the past few decades and how cloud computing is changing the game. Meanwhile, if you have questions or are looking for support on IBM Power Systems or AIX Unix, IBM Systems Lab Services has experts who can help. Contact us today.