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AIX 7.3 Leverages Power10 Processor to Support Customers’ Hybrid Multicloud and AI Endeavors

AIX 7.3 features take advantage of the unique capabilities of the Power10 processor. Get insight on AIX 7.3 from IBM's Carl Burnett, Maria Ward, Petra Buehrer and Raj Krishnamurthy here.

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The new AIX 7.3 release brings customers new ways to integrate their mission critical infrastructure with new and enhanced capabilities. IBM designed AIX 7.3 in response to feedback from customers, particularly around extracting business value from data and supporting their hybrid multicloud strategies.
 
Its new features take advantage of the unique capabilities of the Power10 processor. Running this powerful combination, customers using AIX 7.3 will be able to respond faster to business demands, protect data from the core to the cloud, streamline insights and enhance the continuous computing capabilities they rely on to run core business workloads from small scale to the largest fortune 100 companies. The combination of AIX 7.3 and Power10 means IBM can support more cores and more hardware threads in a single LPAR than prior generations of the platform.

How AIX 7.3 Fits in the Broader AIX Roadmap 

The innovations in AIX 7.3 focus on further improving AIX’s core strengths customers depend on and exploits new Power10 hardware features, while evolving AIX to better take advantage of new and emerging technologies.
 
“As we continue to advance the OS, we have an extremely strong commitment to investment protection,” says Carl Burnett, Distinguished Engineer, AIX, IBM. “The investments our customers have made in AIX remain there in a compatible way, so they can get additional value out of the hardware without having to change code in their applications.”
 
This means that there is no change to the default behaviors of applications, features, APIs and other components of the OS. This binary compatibility is two-dimensional: AIX 7.3 is capable of running on POWER8, POWER9 and Power10 hardware, and customers who are running AIX 7.1 or AIX 7.2 can bring their applications to AIX 7.3 with no changes.
 
“AIX 7.3 extends the AIX roadmap beyond 2035 based on the typical lifecycle of the product,” says Maria Ward, product manager, AIX, IBM. “Clients can be assured that AIX is going to be around for a long time.”

AIX 7.3: New Features, New Possibilities 

“Customers run their mission-critical workloads on AIX because of its rock-solid quality. If you run it 10 times, it does what you want 10 times,” says Petra Buehrer, global IBM Power Systems sales leader (AIX and IBM i). “What made it into AIX 7.3 were the features or enhancements most requested by customers, ISVs, and partners.”
 
These features center around:

Streamlined business insights (enterprise AI) 

AIX 7.3 enables exploitation of the Matrix Math Accelerator (MMA) for AI on Power10, which allows integrated and faster decision making and inferencing within transactional workloads running on AIX 7.3.
 
Python is enabled out-of-the-box with AIX 7.3, which gives a foundation on which to run other open-source machine learning and inferencing tools based on Python, scikit-learn, NumPy and more.
 
The Engineering and Scientific Subroutine Library (ESSL) 7.1 is returning to AIX 7.3, along with the new OpenXL compiler. The ESSL library provides MMA-optimized subroutines for matrix math, while the OpenXL compiler for C or C++ allows developers to put built-in functions inside C or C++ programs and leverage MMA in applications on AIX 7.3. 
 
“The combination of the compiler and library allow developers and ISVs to develop applications faster,” says Raj Krishnamurthy, Chief Architect and program director for Enterprise AI at IBM. “You don’t have to write assembly code or matrix loops or routines by yourself. You can use that library, then invoke MMA to build applications for AI.”

Enhanced support for continuous computing

AIX 7.3 significantly improves customers’ ability to react to high availability/disaster recovery (HA/DR) scenarios and peak demand periods. It enables customers to reallocate resources to a standby system more quickly or spin up another LPAR and get their workloads running.
 
Power10’s capacity in the number of cores, expanded file systems and file sizes further improves scaling potential.

Increased security from core to cloud 

AIX 7.3 includes enhancements in IP security to protect data in motion, and data at rest with the on-chip accelerator for logical volume encryption.

Integration into existing environments 

IBM made use of open technology and tools for AIX 7.3, including the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform for AIX. This simplifies AIX and IBM Power environment management because Ansible works consistently across different environments. IBM also introduced Bash shell which is popular in the open-source community. These enablements allow customers to manage AIX and IBM Power similar to how they manage other platforms, across on- and off-premises.

Support for hybrid multicloud 

The integration of Python into the release helps customers maintain common tooling across their infrastructure. Improvements to IP security and a new transport algorithm in networking and TCP stacks help customers efficiently and securely move data between deployment environments.
 
IBM further optimized the create_ova tool that allows you to take an existing AIX environment, capture it in a so-called cloud deployment image, then quickly deploy that image into a new virtual machine in the cloud leveraging Power10 hardware compression.
 
Ansible comes into play by bringing different locations and deployment models together. This provides a framework both for automating environment migrations and for regular operational management of the AIX environment.
 
Furthermore, AIX 7.3 is available with subscription licensing, not tied to a specific system and thus customers can move their licensed version wherever it’s needed on or off premises.

A Closer Look at AI on AIX 7.3 

The combination of AIX 7.3 and Power10 helps clients support two broad AI use cases: 
  1. In-transaction workloads: You can perform real-time inferencing on an arriving transaction quickly to leverage predictive capabilities versus having to call another AI platform. This includes use cases like risk and fraud detection, or loan and claim pre-approvals—all on the same Power system, close to the data.
  2. Operational analytics: AIX 7.3 combined with MMA allows for more sophisticated AI processing on fresh data as it arrives, without having to move it to a different platform and losing the value of insights from newly arriving data. Two examples of this are dynamic price optimization and anomaly detection in a batch of sales orders.
In both cases, AIX 7.3 and Power10 help to meet SLAs around the speed of transactions and response time window with maximum security where you have to make a detection or decision.
 
There are three patterns for how AI will be consumed on AIX 7.3:
  1. Having a database within AIX, then running H2O Java Virtual Machine (JVM) based MOJO models directly in AIX for lower latency.
  2. Having another LPAR—known as a “sidecar”—next to AIX. This allows using data within AIX for inferencing and decision making with lower latency since you’re going through the shared memory of the platform. Linux or OpenShift can be used as the OS for the sidecar, e.g. to take IBM Cloud Pak for Data and put it inside the Linux sidecar, then use the data within AIX for AI using REST API calls.
  3. Using an AI sidecar as a frontend to get requests from, for example, x86 web clients elsewhere, then pulling data for inferencing out of the backend from databases on AIX.
 
IBM is also addressing clients’ concern around AI skill shortages through its Lab Services expertise and the partnership with the Center for Enterprise AI Exchange (CE-AIX) at the University of Oregon. This will bring businesses, students, researchers and IBM partners together to experiment with AI software, develop use cases, strengthen AI skills, and learn how to put databases, applications, and workflows together for enterpise AI.

Open Beta

IBM is emphasizing a community approach with the AIX 7.3 release. One example is providing the release in open beta. This gives clients and ISVs a head start on where they want to go with AIX 7.3. It even is available via IBM PowerVS off-premises for enterprises not having IBM Power infrastructure within their datacenter. ISVs will have a testing area in IBM Technology Zone if they don’t have IBM Power infrastructure to test their applications with the latest greatest AIX. Vendors and end customers can report problems and suggestions for IBM to address, so the open beta program is a win-win for IBM, clients, and vendors alike.
 
“Customers run their mission-critical workloads on AIX because of its rock-solid quality. If you run it 10 times, it does what you want 10 times,” says Buehrer. "What made it into AIX 7.3 were the features or enhancements most requested by customers, ISVs and partners. We've been working with key ISVs for many months to help them get their applications tested and certified on AIX 7.3."
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