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AIX at 35 and the Layered Significance of AIX 7.3

Rob McNelly on AIX and Power hardware improvements, and where the AIX roadmap might lead beyond 2023

Illustrated multicolored number 35

AIX turns 35 this year. While it's fun to look back (here's the IBM announcement letter from 1986), there's also ample reason to look ahead, especially since IBM recently stated that it intends to release AIX 7.3 before the end of this year. 

Previous AIX releases have included an open beta program, and it's my understanding that this will be the case with 7.3 as well. Expect to see additional open-source packages bundled and supported with the base OS out of the box. The new release will run on POWER8 processors and later, so it may be time to consider migrating from any POWER7 or older hardware that's still running in your environment.
 
I love AIX, to the point that I almost feel protective of it. I've said for years—most recently in 2018—that AIX isn't going anywhere. Still, some pushback persists, so I feel like I need to continue to remind everyone that this OS runs critical workloads throughout the business world. For instance, I'll get asked, "When is the next release coming?" even though people should understand that new capabilities are being brought to AIX on an ongoing basis through the application of service packs (SPs) and the release of new technology levels (TLs).
 
It's a matter of aesthetics, but had IBM opted to call this release 8.1, that stamp of newness would have provided doubters with additional reassurance. Of course there's a flip side, too. The leaps from AIX 5.3 to 6.1 and AIX 6.1 to 7.1 made some clients and ISVs skittish. From this perspective, the steps from 7.1 to 7.2 to 7.3 seem less urgent.
 
In any event, there is intrinsic value in knowing that a new release is on the way. Consider the tone of this piece from The Register: "While IBM has promised years more support for AIX, news of an update will be welcome as a sign of ongoing commitment and because the last major drop of the OS 2015's version 7.2."
 
However you're looking at this, keep in mind that IBM's plans for AIX go far beyond 2021. The AIX lifecycle currently extends to 2023. For some though, a two-year window isn't much reassurance. "What will happen in 2024?" I hear. To that, I encourage people to check out this AIX Executive Strategy paper. This document includes a roadmap that takes AIX beyond 2030. You'll need an IBM ID to download it, but it's worth your while. You'll find nuggets throughout that illustrate the value of our favorite OS. For instance:
 
“AIX is deployed across a variety of industries such as finance, manufacturing, retail, telecommunications, healthcare, travel and government, along with many others. … As IT infrastructure expands into new workloads, the ability of Power Systems and PowerVM virtualization allows AIX, IBM i and Linux to run side by side for efficient consolidation and optimization of data exchange and processing between these different environments. Power Systems is unique in its capabilities to host this wide range of solutions efficiently”
 
And, as has been the case for years, IBM provides "binary compatibility guarantees to ensure that clients can run their workloads on new AIX releases such as 7.3, on the latest Power platform without having to worry about recompiling or rewriting applications."
 
So, to sum up: The capabilities of AIX are continually being improved. Power hardware is capable of running multiple operating systems on the same frame, and, as always, AIX is running mission critical applications in multiple industries around the world. Does that sound like a dying OS and ecosystem to you?
 
There's other recent IBM news of interest to AIX users. Brandon Pederson notes that IBM is encouraging clients to upgrade to POWER9 now by allowing them to lock in a price for POWER10:
 
"After announcing the next generation POWER processor, we often hear from clients, “oh, I’ll just wait to upgrade my infrastructure until then!” But why wait? There are immediate performance, availability and security benefits to be had by upgrading to POWER9 now. So, to help put clients on the path to POWER10 but also take advantage of POWER9 right away, we are announcing a special offering for our scale-out servers. Available starting today, the IBM Power Systems Flexible Trade Up Offer for the S922 and S924 will help clients upgrade now to POWER9 and then to POWER10 when available at a predictable price."
 
Anyway, now is a good time to reflect on all the reasons you love AIX. To that end, Nigel Griffiths has a link to some of the AIX "Best Bits," where he highlights key parts of the OS and ecosystem that are often taken for granted. And Prenessa Lowery tells us what to expect as IBM officially marks the 35-year anniversary:
 
“You will have the opportunity to hear from IBM executives, SMEs, AIX influencers, AIX customers and more as they share their AIX story! Also, you will get a chance to gain more insights on how AIX will prepare clients for the future.”
 
So there's a whole lot going on with AIX, now and well into the future. As we take the time to celebrate where we came from, we should also be excited for what's ahead. Hopefully the knowledge that AIX 7.3 and POWER10 are on the horizon are compelling reasons to help convince you that your favorite operating system is alive and well and worth your continued attention.
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