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Seriously, AIX is Not Going Away

Often you'll see Linux featured in mainstream tech media, and seldom will you find much about AIX. But AIX is not going away.

In an illustration, a man with a spyglass stands on a larger arm, a finger pointing the direction he is looking.

Lately I've received a number of inquiries about the future of AIX. In a sense, I understand the fears. Sometimes we hear about companies migrating from AIX. Often you'll see Linux featured in mainstream tech media, and seldom will you find much about AIX. But AIX is not going away.

Don't take my word for it. Here are other views on the future of AIX. Hopefully the responses from these prominent folks will prove persuasive.

(Note: These comments contain minor edits.)

Joe Armstrong, Power Systems VUG (this is from a January email to user group members):

IBM is continuing to invest in the AIX operating system, and I have seen AIX roadmaps well into the future. Again, AIX is not going away. However, Linux is growing in the industry, and Power Systems are a superior platform to run Linux workloads. SAP HANA and the growing number of Machine Learning and AI workloads are a prime example of where IBM Power Systems shine....

In reality, the VUG sessions have always covered more than AIX. Power Systems VUG is a much more meaningful name, and I intend to continue providing the same informative webinars that you have enjoyed over the past ten years, and I will continue to cover AIX specific topics.

With the introduction of POWER9, new features, and updates to existing features, there is a lot to cover in the Power space. Rather than replacing AIX related webinars, I plan to offer some extra webinars, so you may see more than one per month....

Nigel Griffiths, IBM:

(An AIX user) asked me, "Do you think that AIX is dead for the future? There are fewer and fewer proposals from recruiters."

I answered with:

That is a truly bizarre conclusion to come to on that evidence. AIX is a multibillion-dollar business for IBM. Why would IBM stop that revenue? That would be bonkers!

AIX is running in the vast bulk of major companies in the world, and AIX is running their most vital workloads. IBM and AIX are here for the long term. There is no better UNIX on the planet and it is the OS that my bank account is held in! Sure the AIX guys don't make the same volume of noise as the Linux fanatics, as they are quietly running the core systems.

Don't get me wrong, Linux is great fun but when I run into critical to the business problems, I want to be on AIX... the AIX support team are second to none—and I know many of them personally (being in the same company for so many years). So claiming AIX is dead is IMHO rather silly.

Earl Jew, AIX performance expert, IBM:

AIX won't be fading for a long while, if ever. Do we still have a niche for IBM z mainframes? Do we still have a happy following of IBM i customers? Yes and yes. Likewise AIX will endure too. All that is happening now is... other IT niches are emerging, growing and evolving... For instance, Linux on Power has exploding opportunities with SAP HANA, AI, cloud and machine learning.

The "rise of the rest" doesn't mean AIX will fade and die. AIX will endure because the nature of AIX workloads is durable. Commercial enterprises will always need fast secure reliable processing of traditional structured data on systems of record. AIX is best for open systems that make money, mean money or are money. Such systems are thus long-lived; they tick along on AIX through decades as they spark, grow and evolve. AIX will also persist because AIX evolves while remaining essentially AIX through the decades. AIX evolves to better exploit POWER technologies and AIX evolves to better serve what runs on AIX—yet AIX is still AIX.

We learn AIX and keep it. We use AIX and love it. We port to AIX to stay. This is why AIX will not fade and die.

Shawn Bodily, an IBM Champion and former IBMer now with Clear Technologies:

When someone asks me why AIX, I often ask some of the following questions: Is security important to you? Do you like having one OS across all server sizes? Is RAS important to you?

That last question I ask with some fear of it being rhetorical and even a bit cliché. AIX is a mature enterprise class OS that, when combined with PowerVM and POWER processor, has among the highest uptime and least amount of security vulnerabilities. AIX offers some unique features that are not only unavailable in Linux, but not expected in Linux anytime soon. One example of that is Live Kernel Update. This key differentiating feature has come to fruition in just the last couple years. This is a testament to the continued development and long term viability of AIX....

Here's more from Nigel:

We also get another erroneous conclusion: People think that since IBM is not announcing AIX V8, then AIX is dead. IBM can put out massive new functions in the TL levels of AIX 7.2 without an AIX V8. AIX V8 would be disruptive, as it implies a slow overwrite install upgrade. People confuse version numbers with commitment to the product. I really don't get it....

I think technical people see themselves as AIX experts as they use AIX commands every day and they know AIX features very well. They are betting their careers on developing AIX skills. AIX is here on the screen in front of them "talking" to them. They don't think of themselves as POWER8 experts as the server is miles away in a dark room.

Again, IBM is still heavily invested in AIX, which runs critical workloads in large businesses the world over. As Nigel says, we do not need an AIX V8 to realize additional improvements in the operating system; enhancements arrive all the time.
One final thought: If you're truly concerned about the future of AIX, take action. Spread the word. Attend conferences and user group meetings. Share webinar replays with colleagues.

I've written about other things we could do, like interact on Slack or irc. There's also the AIX sub-Reddit and the AIX forum.

It's one thing to love the operating system, as we all do. But we should be proactive about it. If we don't help spread the word, people can easily convince themselves, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that AIX is going away. What are you doing to help dispel this perception?


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