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AIX 7.1 moves forward to Power7 iron

And backward to older Blue boxes

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Cranked-up core coverage

The other important change with AIX 7.1 is important for those high-end machines — the Power 770, 780, and 795 — which have lots of cores and threads: more core headroom.

The Power7 chip has eight cores and four threads per core, but AIX 5.3 and 6.1 topped out at supporting 64 cores and 128 threads, which is what the Power6-based Power 595 scaled to. AIX 6.1 was tweaked with patches so it could support 64 cores and 256 threads, which is what the Power 770 and 780 scale to, but AIX 6.1 is not being extended to run across the whole Power 795, with its 256 cores and 1,024 threads. If you want to run across an entire Power 795 as a single system image — or even break it into two 128-core, 512-thread machines — you have to move to AIX 7.1.

Other changes with AIX 7.1 include support for solid state disks in the AIX logical volume manager and JFS2 file system; terabyte-segment memory support for main memory; and built-in clustering for AIX 7.1 Standard and Enterprise Editions that is, in essence, a subset of the PowerHA SystemMirror clustering software embedded in the operating system. (IBM did a similar thing with OS/400 V4R4 back in 1998, just to show you how old the idea is. IBM chose code from HA partner Vision Solutions to embed in OS/400, and for AIX is using its own PowerHA code, formerly known as HACMP.)

AIX 7.1 Express Edition is the lowest-priced version of IBM's Unix, and it is intended to run on machines with four or fewer cores or within logical partitions with four or fewer cores; the machines or partitions top out at 8GB of main memory. The idea is to provide a cheap, basic AIX for infrastructure and application workloads. AIX 7.1 Express costs $300 per core on a small Power machine, $800 per core on a medium machine, and $1,500 per core on a large machine.

AIX 7.1 Standard Edition has no limits on how many cores or how much main memory it can span, and as such, it has a higher price. On a small machine, it costs $500 per core, while on a medium box it runs $1,400 per core and on a large box it costs $2,600 per core.

AIX 7.1 Enterprise Edition throws in extra goodies such as PowerVM Workload Partitions Manager (mentioned above), Systems Director Enterprise Edition (which has all of IBM's systems, virtualization, and power management smarts), Tivoli Monitoring, and Tivoli Application Dependency Discovery Manager. AIX 7.1 Enterprise Edition costs $790 per core on small boxes, $2,126 per core on medium boxes, and $4,052 per core on large boxes.

That's $1.03m for the top-end AIX 7.1 at list price on a Power 795 with all of its cores turned on and running AIX — even at 50 per cent off. And that's big money for relatively little work, and also explains, perhaps better than anything else, why Oracle bought Sun Microsystems.

PowerVM 2.2, which ships on September 10 along with AIX 7.1 and which supports IBM's I 6.1, 6.1.1, and 7.1 proprietary operating systems as well as Linuxes from Red Hat and Novell, can support as many as 80 LPARs on the new Power 710 and 720 servers, and 160 on Power 730, 740, 750, 770, and 780 boxes. The Power 795 currently tops out at 254 partitions (not 256 as you might expect). Sometime in 2011, IBM will boost the supported number of LPARs on the Power 770 and 780 to 640 and on the Power 795 to 1,000 (not 1,024 as you might expect).

AIX 7.1 has been in a public beta since mid-July, and this is only the second time in the 20 years IBM has been in the Unix racket that it did a public beta. More than 1,100 customers have downloaded the code and signed up to participate in the beta program, which ends in October. ®

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