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IBM rolls up (discounted) AIX Enterprise Edition

Datacenter Edition on the way?

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IBM is trying to make it easier for customers to manage complex, virtualized AIX servers and has therefore created a new variant of its AIX 6.1 platform - dubbed Enterprise Edition - that includes AIX add-ons and separately sold Tivoli systems management programs. It's all rolled up into a single instance - and with a discount too.

AIX 6.1 went into beta testing last May and started shipping in November 2007 on several current generations of Power and PowerPC iron and is more or less paired with the new Power6-based Power Systems family of machines, which rolled out from July 2007 through April 2008 in various shapes and sizes. This initial AIX 6.1 is now known as Standard Edition.

With AIX 6.1 Enterprise Edition, IBM is adding in the workload partition, or WPAR, virtual private server partitioning that made its debut with AIX. These WPARs are distinct from the logical partitions - LPARs, in the IBM lingo - in that they provide a virtual AIX instances that run on a shared kernel and file system, as opposed to logical partitions, which run atop the PowerVM hypervisor and have LPARs that contain entire and isolated instances of the AIX stack.

The key WPAR program that IBM is adding into the Enterprise Edition release is called Workload Partition Manager, which was previously an add-on product, and this is what allows AIX WPARs and their workloads to be teleported from one physical machine to another using what IBM calls Live Partition Mobility.

AIX 6.1 Enterprise Edition also includes Tivoli Application Dependency Discovery Manager, Tivoli Monitoring, and Usage and Accounting Manager Virtualization Edition for Power Systems - three products with, um, catchy Big Blue product names that are used by AIX shops to discover and manage the physical and virtual servers running atop Power gear.

Here's the upshot (at least as far as the budget is concerned): AIX 6.1 Standard Edition ranges in price from $95 per core on entry Power machines to as high as $2,499 per core on the biggest Power 595 iron. The Workload Partition Manager add-on for AIX 6.1 cost from $500 to $1,500 per core on top of that, and the three Tivoli programs cost even more.

The AIX 6.1 Enterprise Edition bundle costs $595 to $3,999 per core, depending on the Power Systems box - exactly the same price of AIX 6.1 Standard Edition plus the WPAR add-on. That means IBM is throwing in the Tivoli programs for free as part of this bundle. Upgrades from AIX 5.3 and AIX 6.1 are available.

Of course, the creation of an Enterprise Edition begs the question of what a Datacenter Edition of AIX might look like. To my way of thinking, IBM could do as it has done with its venerable AS/400 and successor product lines and embed the middleware and database inside the operating system and offer tighter integration as well as something the AS/400 crowd rarely sees: a discount. But Jay Kruemcke, the AIX program director at IBM, doesn't think this was a particularly good idea.

"There's always that thought," says Kruemcke. "But we find that our customers like to do their databases separately from the operating system."

Which is true enough. While DB2 has gained traction on AIX and other Unix platforms over the years, Oracle is the dominant database on AIX, as it is on all Unix platforms. ®

High performance access to file storage

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