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IBM preps Power6 by putting AIX 5.3 on life support

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IBM's Power6 push began this week with a tweak to AIX support.

In a letter to customers, IBM vowed to support future updates to AIX 5.3 for an additional two years. This appears to be IBM's Power6 concession, since the vendor, according to our sources, will announce Power6 systems this month and ship them in the middle of the year but won't have AIX 5.4 available for months. Normally, IBM would like to have a new major release of AIX ready for its new processors and have customers upgrade accordingly. No such luck.

"IBM intends to enhance the release and service strategy for the AIX 5L operating system by extending the service life of future Technology Levels (aka upgrades) for up to two years," IBM said in the note to customers. "Clients with a valid Software Maintenance Agreement for AIX 5L V5.3 will be able to contact IBM support for support during that two year period without having to move up to the latest Technology Level."

The AIX delay adds to a number of software issues accompanying Power6.

Most notably, IBM has shifted from an out of order design with Power5's integer units to an in order design with Power6. Such a drastic change will require first AIX 5.4 and then a full software recompile should customers want to see maximum performance. IBM has yet to say anything at all about the efforts underway to deal with this issue.

The performance problem could be lessened if Power6 comes in as speedy as hoped. We've heard consistent speculation that a manufacturing issue has crippled IBM's ability to produce Power6 chips above 3.5GHz. Customers, however, were promised that the initial Power6-based systems will indeed come in above 4.0GHz, during the recent IBM ParterWorld event in St. Louis.

Timothy Prickett Morgan has done a fine job summing up the state of IBM's Power6 roll out here. ®

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