AIX 25th Anniversary
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Twenty five years ago on January 21, 1986, IBM Austin launched a new operating system called IBM RT Personal Computer Advanced Interactive eXecutive -- better known as AIX--with a new system called the IBM RT PC. The system ran on a RISC processor codenamed “ROMP” (for Research Office Products Division MultiProcessor) and was originally marketed as an engineering workstation.
While the RT was an unremarkable hardware platform it did represent the first time that IBM really started to get serious about UNIX (AIX version 1 was OEMed and did not contain significant IBM content). AIX Version 2 was based almost entirely on AT&T System V UNIX and ran on top of a virtualization layer called Virtual Resource Manager (VRM) that provided the capability to run multiple operating systems on the RT (AIX, PICK and Academic OS).
The release of AIX version 3 in 1990 on the first RS/6000 POWER systems included many significant features that have come to typify “AIX” to most administrators including Systems Management Interface Tool (SMIT), the Logical Volume Manager (LVM), a dynamic kernel, Journaled Filesystem (JFS) and concepts like Object Data Manager (ODM) that were all big departures from the typical UNIX mainstream at the time. There were multiple releases of AIX Version 3 including 3.1, 3.2 and the very popular AIX 3.2.5 which also debuted support for the AIX N40 laptop.
AIX Version 4 was highlighted by the capability to support more than one processor in a symmetric multiprocessing system, the introduction of the Network Installation Manager (NIM) and a new graphical user interface based on the Common Desktop Environment (CDE).
Subsequent releases of AIX Version 4 added support for things like run time linking, disk striping, 64bit applications, NFS V3, DHCP, LDAP and a new administration tool, the Web-based Systems Manager.
AIX Version 5, known as AIX 5L, was a watershed release that changed AIX running in an LPAR in a virtualized environment instead of directly on the bare metal. AIX 5 also introduced a true 64 bit kernel to provide for future scalability and a new component, the AIX Workload Manager to allow finer resource control when consolidating multiple applications on a single AIX instance. The “L” in AIX 5L was, of course for “Linux” and AIX V5 included many Linux friendly application interfaces and a number of open source tools on the AIX Toolbox for Linux CD. AIX V5.0 was also available for Itanium processors as well as POWER processors, but disappointing market adoption of Itanium processors resulted in AIX V5.1 only being available for POWER processors.
AIX V5 had multiple releases including AIX 5.1 (LPARs), AIX 5.2 (Dynamic LPARs) and AIX 5.3 (MicroPartitions, Virtual I/O and Simultaneous Multithreading among other features) from 2000 through 2006.
AIX 6 was introduced in 2007 and included many new capabilities such as Workload Partitions, Role Based Access Control, and Encrypting Filesystems. AIX 6 was also the first AIX release to have an Open beta program.
The most recent release of AIX, AIX 7, was introduced in September 2010, built on AIX 6 capabilities to support a new capability to run an earlier version of AIX, AIX V5.2 inside of a Workload Partition and increased the size of the largest partition up to 256 cores with 1024 processing threads.
Of course AIX was not evolving alone – since that original release on the RT PC in 1986, the capabilities of Power processor and hardware grew from a single processor running at 5.9 MHz to today’s Power 795 running up to 256 POWER7 cores at 4.25 GHz. In the same period, the Power virtualization technology such as the hypervisor and Virtual I/O Server have moved us from servers with one workload on one AIX instance, to today’s environments with hundreds client workloads running on AIX virtual machines on a single physical server.
Throughout this evolution, the AIX and Power Systems market position has grown from a small fraction of the engineering workstation market to the market leader of the $16 billion enterprise UNIX server market.
Happy Anniversary AIX!