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A Brief History of AIX

Question & Answer


Ever wondered when key features of AIX arrived or what new features are available in a newer AIX release?
See what AIX release you are currently running by using the AIX command oslevel -s and review the details for each release below.


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Included below are key Infrastructure software such as:
  • PowerVC,
  • PowerSC,
  • Shared Storage Pools, and
  • Simplified Remote Restart
These features are not strictly speaking AIX features but they are important software that improves AIX.

Key Release Dates and End of Support
Release Number Release Date Regular Support Ended
AIX 4.1 - 4.3 12 Aug 1994 31 Dec 2003
AIX 5.1 -5.3 24 Oct 2001 30 April 2012
AIX 6.1 9 Nov 2007 30 April 2017
AIX 7.1 10 Sep 2010 30 April 2023
AIX 7.2 1 Dec 2015 Supported
AIX 7.3 10 Dec 2021 Supported
Note: When regular support ends, you may, for a period be able to purchase extended support, which often costs 2 or 3 times the regular support. Extended support is meant to be used to cover a short-term period until you upgrade to a supported release.
To use a car analogy: it is not sensible to purchase extra car insurance to avoid regular maintenance of your car brakes and lights!
Remember some features arrive over a few years or releases. The first release might be for technical evaluate (not production).
The following release is ready for production use with the basic features. Then, following releases includes enhancements and advanced feature.
Ignoring AIX release 1 and AIX release 2, which were for early UNIX hardware from IBM called IBM RT and IBM PS/2.
AIX 3.1-2 Starter pack
AIX 3 (1990) for Power based processor computers (initially RS/6000) based on UNIX AT&T System V.2 and V.3 with some added BSD 4.2 features plus IBM unique features in simplifying systems management:
  1. Systems Management menu interface: smit & smitty
  2. Network Installation Management (NIM)
  3. Journaling File System (JFS)
  4. Logical Volume Management (LVM)
  5. Make a bootable system backup (mksysb)
  6. High Availability Clusters (HACMP) - later called PowerHA
  7. Real-time computing infrastructure

AIX 4.1-3 What is New?
  1. AIX binary compatibility with AIX 3
  2. Symmetrical Multi-Processor (SMP) - A VERY BIG KERNEL CHANGE
  3. SMP hardware J30/R40 with 6 or 8 CPUs
  4. NIM Enhancements
  5. JFS greater than 2 GB 
  6. NFS v3
  7. 32-bit/64-bit applications at the same time
  8. Add 16 GB total memory support
  9. Alternate disk installation AIX upgrade
  10. Last release 4.3.3

AIX 5.1-3 What is New?
  1. AIX binary compatibility with AIX 4
  2. HMC and Hypervisor
  3. Virtualization of CPU & RAM
  4. Virtual disks + network = VIOS
  5. Live Partition Mobility (evaluation)
  6. Dynamic LPAR: CPU + memory
  7. Symmetric multithreading SMT
  9. Concurrent I/O for RDBMS
  10. NPIV SAN virtualization
  11. Workload Manager (process groups)
  12. JFS2 – extent-based space allocation
  13. First Failure Data Capture (FFDC)
  14. PowerSC
  15. NFS version 4
  16. Last release 5.3

AIX 6.1 What is New?
  1. AIX binary compatibility with AIX 5
  2. Live Partition Mobility (LPM) for production
  3. Workload Partition & Live Application Mobility (LAM)
  4. Versioned WPAR for AIX 5.2 & 5.3
  5. Role Based Access Control (RBAC)
  6. Encrypted JFS
  7. Trusted AIX
  8. AIXpert - system hardening by rules
  9. Kernel - Storage Keys for RAS
  10. Dynamic process tracing: ProbeVue
  11. Firmware assisted dump
  12. AES encryption for NFS v3 and v4
  13. Nigel’s performance monitor: nmon
  14. Last Release 6.1 TL9

AIX 7.1 What is New?
  1. AIX binary compatibility with AIX 6
  2. JFS2 Integrated Snapshots
  3. WPAR storage devices
  4. Role Based Access Control (RBAC)
  5. Encrypting JFS file system
  6. Trusted AIX and Trusted Execution
  7. Cluster Aware AIX (CAA)
  8. Snapshot of a JFS2 file system
  9. topas Multi-server
  10. JFS to JFS2
  11. Secure Shell (SSH) in base AIX
  12. Active Memory Expansion
  13. Transactional Memory
  14. Shared Storage Pool support
  15. PowerVC Support
  16. Last release 7.1 TL5 - functionally stabilized since AIX 7.2 arrived. Mostly bug and security fixes ever since.

AIX 7.2 What is New?
  1. AIX binary compatibility with AIX 7.1
  2. Live (Kernel) Update capability for Technology Levels, Service Packs, and Fixes.
  3. Active Memory Expansion 64k page
  4. LVM thin storage block reclamation
  5. AIX Open Source Toolbox Enhancements
  6. SMB 2.1 client and SMB 3.0.2 client
  7. Migration to Cloud ready - create_ova
  8. Flash Cache For Fibre Channel disks
  9. Includes Dynamic System Optimizer (DSO)
  10. External Interrupt Virtualization Engine (XIVE)
  11. Live Kernel Update LKU Enhancements
  12. POWER9 HW NX GZIP engine
  13. Ansible "Paybooks" released for AIX
  14. Scaling enhancements – larger LPARs
  15. Simplified Remote Restart Supported
  16. Application address space randomization
  17. LVM passive mirror enhancements for concurrent I/O applications
  18. NIM HTTP support for updates
  19. Shared memory communications over RDMA (SMCR)
  20. AIX installation from USB flash drive (also added to AIX 7.1 TL5)
  21. Enhanced multi-queue NPIV performance
  22. Fibre Channel: Congestion Notification, 32 Gb support, and NVMe over Fibre Channel
  23. 14 million open files per SRAD
  24. NVMe drive space reclaim
  25. GLVM HW assisted compression
  26. OpenSSH with Power HW GZIP compression
  27. OpenSSL version 3 via the AIX Web Download Pack
  28. BSI and NIAP common criteria certifications for AIX 7.2 TL5

AIX 7.3 What is New?
  1. AIX binary compatibility with AIX 7.2
  2. Power10 server support:
    1. Power10 support 240 cores & 1920 hardware threads per LPAR
    2. Matrix Maths Accelerator (MMA)
    3. OpenBLAS with MMA support, available from the AIX Toolbox
    4. Optimized memcpy instructions
    5. For new generation IBM OpenXL compilers
  3. Stronger default password rules and new default password algorithm (SSHA-256)
  4. telnet & ftp not in default installation (due to security risks)
  5. ”Out of the box” ready for POWER or Power10 hardware NX GZIP with "pigz" and create_ova supported
  6. New JFS2 file systems default to inline log
  7. Added Open Source bash 5.1 and Python 3.9
  8. AIX Open Source Toolbox that uses “dnf” & toolbox updated plus many extra packages
  9. Fast Dynamic LPAR resize CPU and memory
  10. Reduced LPAR boot times with large memory
  11. LVM Encryption for rootvg 
  12. 128 TB JFS2 file system and file size
  13. Oracle 19c support
  14. Virtual Persistent Memory (vPMem) can be configured as a hdisk
  15. Live update of AIX kernel tunables (no, vmo)
  16. New IPsec features (NAT-T, IKE fragmentation)
  17. Stronger default security for AIX trace channel 0
  18. Sendmail support for SASL authentication
  19. TCP Cubic support
  20. Increased fork and exec scaling
  21. Enhanced Async IO IOPs scaling
  22. NVME over fabrics with NPIV storage virtualization
  23. Fabric Device Management Interface (FDMI) support
  24. Install and boot from iSCSI attached storage
  25. Physical volume encryption, including internal SED drives
  26. OpenSSL version 3
  27. AIX dump exploitation of Power hardware GZIP
  28. Reduced alternate path fail-over times with 16 GB and faster fibre channel adapters
  29. NFS client support for files larger than 32 TB
  30. tar command support for the pax archive format
  • New features are added with technology level (TL) updates, which occurs once a year, typically in the fourth quarter.
This timeline shows Power-based Server releases compared with AIX Releases
  • The original information is spread across dozens of web pages that details the AIX version that were supported on every server dating back to POWER5: System to AIX maps
Mapping Power Servers with AIX Releases
  • The Power Modes are a setting on each LPAR or virtual machine.
  • Power Servers support their native mode and the previous two POWER processors.
  • Each AIX release supports limited Power Modes.
  • To change virtual machine Mode
    1. Shut down the virtual machine
    2. On the HMC, change virtual machine Processor Mode setting ready for the next reboot
    3. Restart the virtual machine
      • If you change mode but your AIX does not support that Mode, AIX halts during the boot sequence. For example, AIX 7.1 can run on Power10 Server, if the virtual machine is in P8 (POWER8) Mode.  AIX 7.1 in P7 Mode can't Live Partition Mobility (LPM) migrate to a Power10 Server because Power10 does not have a P7 Mode. AIX 7.1 in P8 Mode (on POWER8 or POWER9 or Power10 servers) can LPM migrate to or from Power10.

A few reminders of often forgotten details of AIX updates
IBM's AIX binary compatibility statement
  • See the IBM Statement here:
Amazing near secret 1:
  • With a few caveats*, AIX 5.3 or later application run on AIX 7.3 with zero changes.
    • * See the webpage for the rare cases unless the developer deliberately used HW features supports on particular chips
Amazing near secret 2:
  • If you are paying for AIX SWMA (software maintenance), then you are entitled to use ESS to download any newer AIX release and upgrade to it with no further fees.
Amazing near secret 3:
  • It is obvious you can upgrade from one AIX to the next through the releases to the latest.
  • But you can also jump from say AIX 6.1 straight to the current AIX 7.3 without touching AIX 7.1 or AIX 7.2.

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Document Information

Modified date:
08 June 2023