Introducing IBM AIX 7.2.1 Live Update

Apply any update with no reboot required

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Operating system updates are painful. My first experience with installing and updating IBM® AIX® was as an IBM new hire on my first project, developing the AIX 3.1 CD-ROM device driver for the first IBM RS/6000® system. In those days, installing AIX meant a walk down the hall to the build lab where I would check out a stack of more than 20 diskettes bundled together with a rubber band. I would then sit and feed them in one at a time, reboot, and be off and running. To update to the next week’s build meant another walk down the hall, and a fresh stack of diskettes.

AIX operating system updates have traditionally been a painful process. Until now that is. Introducing AIX 7.2.1 Live Update, which can be used for any type of update, including future service packs and technology levels with no reboot required.

Updates of the past

Thankfully, there have been numerous other enhancements over the years, such as, Network Installation Management (NIM) and alternate disk installation that greatly reduce the time it takes to do an update. But, the fact that a reboot is still required means the applications have to be stopped and started fresh again after the reboot. The traditional service window for performing these updates is constantly shrinking due to higher levels of consolidation and 24x7 work schedules. We can update system firmware with either a concurrent update or by using Live Partition Mobility (LPM) to evacuate the frame for the update. But with the operating system, the only option we had was hotpatch.

Updates of the present

Hotpatch is almost exactly what we needed. We introduced this in 2007 with AIX 6.1, and Linux® soon had a similar technology. With hotpatch on AIX, if you run into a kernel bug, you can request a concurrent update-enabled interim fix. This is a specially built interim fix that can replace a broken function with a corrected version, without stopping or rebooting the system. Amazing! The problem is sometimes when you request an interim fix, the service team can’t build you a concurrent update-enabled one because it is simply not possible for some fixes. And we’ll never be able to use hotpatch to apply a full service pack or technology level.

Updates of the future (and the future is now)

Several years ago, we started with a whole new approach known as Live Update. We released this in December 2015 with the introduction of AIX 7.2.0. With this approach, as part of an update (using NIM or the geninstall command), AIX can create a new partition, boot it with fixes already installed, then pause the running workload and move it (using checkpoint and restart technology) from the original partition to the new partition that is running the new kernel. Finally, we can remove the original partition to free up its resources. No reboot is required!

Figure 1. AIX 7.2.1 Live Update
Illustration showing how AIX 7.2.1 Live Update works by creating an identical LPAR that has all the fixes installed and moving the running processes from the original to the new LPAR.
Illustration showing how AIX 7.2.1 Live Update works by creating an identical LPAR that has all the fixes installed and moving the running processes from the original to the new LPAR.

In AIX 7.2.0, the updates were still limited to interim fixes, but with AIX 7.2.1, we are removing that restriction. Live Update can now be used for any type of update, including future service packs and technology levels.

AIX Live Update is designed to be transparent to the running applications. With AIX 7.2.1, there is an easy way to try it out with your own workload, without having to apply an update. Simply try geninstall –k –p (preview) to make sure that everything is okay with your configuration, and then use geninstall –k to do the Live Update operation without applying an update.

Install AIX 7.2.1 and let’s make a No Reboot Required world a reality!

Watch this video to learn more.


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