In today’s fast-paced digital world, disruption due to a system shutdown for updates or fixes can be a costly affair for an organization. According to the ITIC 2017–18 Global Server Hardware, Server OS Reliability Report, for more than 80 percent of surveyed enterprises, an hour of downtime can cost $300,000. For organizations running the IBM AIX operating system (OS) on IBM Power Systems, IBM has delivered a breakthrough technology: AIX 7.2 Live Kernel Update (LKU), which offers the promise of a reboot-free world.
Hot patches are used for concurrent updates on SUSE, Red Hat and AIX OS, with the limitation of being specific to a particular problem and incapable of scaling too largely at the OS level. AIX is a highly recognized OS in the industry with respect to availability and stability, and with many organizations running their critical enterprise workloads in AIX on IBM Power Systems, AIX developed a solution for this issue.
AIX 7.2 Live Kernel Update aims to achieve zero downtime while updating OS patches without the need to disrupt business-critical workloads. This can save organizations substantial costs and help them avoid a data breach in the event of critical security patches, which often happens due to not completing a maintenance window on time.
What is AIX 7.2 Live Kernel Update?
Starting with AIX Version 7.2, the AIX OS provides an inbuilt Live Update function without installing additional packages. AIX 7.2 Live Kernel Update can be triggered using a simple command from the OS, which updates the OS automatically, without manual intervention.
Previous releases of AIX required systems to be rebooted after an OS patch was applied to a running system, but AIX 7.2 Live Kernel Update eliminates the downtime associated with OS patching. This new feature allows workloads to remain active during a Live Update operation, and the OS can install OS patches without a reboot.
Please refer the IBM Knowledge Center for technical details on AIX 7.2 Live Kernel Update.
How did AIX 7.2 LKU evolve?
AIX 7.2 Live Kernel Update evolved starting from the year 2015 with AIX version 7.2 TL0 only for “ifix” updates.
The following is the snapshot of its enhancements since 2015:
What are the scenarios covered with enhancements in AIX 7.2 Live Kernel Update?
- Live Update Across Frames support
Scenario: Until AIX 7.2 TL2, one of the mandatory requirements for the adoption of Live Update was the availability of twice the processor and memory resources on the server that hosted the original LPAR. This caused a major issue if several Live Updates were run concurrently.
Solution: This issue was resolved in AIX 7.2 TL3, which provides a solution by performing Live Update using an alternate server that has sufficient processor and memory to accommodate both the original and the surrogate. Currently, Live Update Across Frames functionality is available only for the IBM PowerVC based Live Update. However, options for LPAR processor reduction with PowerVC and HMC are also available.
- Live Update with Power Enterprise Pools (PEP) Capacity on Demand
Scenario: With PEP, unlicensed cores or memory can be effectively used for Live Update.
Solution: Live Update with PEP Capacity on Demand is supported from AIX 7.2 TL2 onwards. It uses unlicensed cores or memory automatically to create the surrogate LPAR for Live Update, if LPAR is part of PEP. Once done, it returns resources back to PEP.
- PowerHA V7.2 Live Update Support
Scenario: Without impacting the running workload, PowerHA cluster node can be upgraded by using Live Update.
Solution: PowerHA V7.2 recognizes and supports Live Update on cluster member nodes by switching to an unmanaged mode during the Live Update operation. During Live Update, workload and storage activities continue to run without interruption.
Why Live Kernel Update is a smart choice for an enterprise?
For an existing enterprise or for a new enterprise on AIX 7.2, Live Update is the perfect choice due to its inbuilt feature of an OS that does not require any additional installation. Its ease of use enables a system administrator to effortlessly perform AIX updates on a live production system. No additional cost or license is required for Live Update setup. AIX 7.2 Live Kernel Update supports AIX Standard Edition. Additionally, business users benefit from having uninterrupted services, thereby increasing overall business productivity. Early adoption of Live Update technology is definitely a smart move for an enterprise.
Where to find support?
The best time to consider using Live Kernel Update is during a hardware refresh or AIX upgrade. Both require planning and validation with a proof of concept before deploying in production.
Please reach out to IBM Systems Lab Services for a Live Update proof of concept, or if you are looking for assistance to evaluate your existing IBM Power Systems environment workloads for Live Update.