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AIX/VIOS Versioning Recommendations, a POWER9-Based HMC and the Evolution of IBM Certifications

Rob McNelly on why AIX has stood the test of time, the new POWER9-based HMC and how IBM certifications have evolved

Green, yellow and blue gears against a white background

I believe AIX has stood the test of time. This opinion is based in part on the fact that legacy AIX documentation is still relevant. For example, I recently downloaded two Redbooks, "IBM Certification Study Guide eServer p5 and pSeries Administration and Support for AIX 5L Version 5.3" and "IBM eServer Certification Study Guide - pSeries AIX System Support." Seeing "eServer" in the titles gives you an idea of how far back I went, but for the record, that admin and support doc was published in 2006, and last updated in 2010. The certification study guide came out at the end of 2001, and was updated in 2004.

Honestly, a lot of this information is still useful. Of course not everything translates to today's highly virtualized, flash storage-based environments, but so much does. This speaks to the design and the thought that's been put into the OS from the start. The commands and concepts have always been well thought out. That the system can be tuned to fit unique workloads is very impressive. And the value of IBM Support, which quickly diagnoses and helps resolve problems, is something I still take for granted.

Did you need to relearn everything when you went from AIX 6.1 to 7.1, or 5.3 to 6.1, or 4.3.3 to 5.1? No. Do the smitty menus and fastpaths look the same? Do your old scripts typically continue to run when you upgrade to a new version of the OS? Do you have LPARs that have actually migrated between multiple versions of the OS? And (as much as I hate to even ask), are those LPARs that are running unsupported versions still going strong? That would be yes, yes, yes and yes.

As we consider our next moves—whether it's patching and updating the OS or planning for cloud migration, the move to POWER10-based servers or an upgrade to AIX 7.3—we can be secure in knowing that the framework will remain the same.

Checking Your Current AIX/VIOS Versions

Nigel Griffiths has a great analogy about the AIX/VIOS versions you should be running: 

"You always get your cars brakes, shocks, tires & lights checked + updated every year, as you value your family + friends. The same goes for operating systems. Failing to update to current supported versions = you lose your job! Here is my take on the AIX/VIOS we all should be using."

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Use FLRT LITE to check for the current AIX and VIOS recommendations.

A New POWER9-Based HMC 

In case you missed it, IBM announced a newer HMC model based on the POWER9 processor: 

The Power HMC (7063-CR2) is a dedicated rack-mounted workstation that helps you to configure and manage system resources on Power servers using POWER7, POWER8, or POWER9 technology-based processors. The HMC connects to one or more managed systems to perform the following primary functions:
  • Provide a console for system administrators and service providers to manage server hardware
  • Deliver basic virtualization management through support for configuring logical partitions (LPARs) and dynamic resource allocation, including processor and memory settings
  • Detect, report, and store changes in hardware conditions
  • Act as a service focal point for service providers to determine an appropriate service strategy
  • Display operating system session terminals for each partition
  • Provide the call home focal point for managed servers
  • Display ASMI menus for managed servers
The announcement letter lists these standard hardware attributes:
  • 1U base configuration
  • POWER9 130W 6c CPU
  • 64 GB (4 x 16 GB) or 128 GB (4 x 32 GB) of DDR4 system memory
  • 2 x 1.8 TB SAS SFF 2.5-inch hard disk drive (HDD) RAID 1
  • Rail bracket option for round-hole rack mounts
  • Two USB 3.0 hub ports in the front of the server (option to remove)
  • Two USB 3.0 hub ports in the rear of the server
  • Redundant 900W power supplies
  • 4 x 1 Gb Ethernet ports
  • 2 x 10 Gb Ethernet Ports on optional PCI adapter
  • 1 x 1 Gb baseboard management controller (BMC) Ethernet port
To see it in action, check out this Nigel Griffiths video

Power Systems VUG Covers Recent Announcements, AIX Anniversary 

As noted, AIX turns 35 this year. The latest Power Systems Virtual User Group presentation acknowledges the anniversary and covers recent AIX announcements. View the PDF and listen to the replay.

Among other changes, expect to see new AIX certifications. An AIX Foundations exam is coming soon, and other AIX certifications (including advanced certifications) will follow.

Here's a post about the evolution of IBM certifications. Look for more granular levels of certification. IBM is calling them foundational skills, intermediate skills, and advanced skills. There are differences and distinctions between them:
  • Foundational activities are geared toward learners who are new to the subject matter and seeking to learn basic concepts and build foundational knowledge in support of efforts to gain a working knowledge of the topic. These credentials are typically issued to individuals with little or no prior knowledge and experience with the subject matter represented by the credential.
  • Intermediate level activities are geared toward learners who have acquired some degree of competence in the covered topic resulting from prior training, education and/or work experience. Intermediate level activities are for learners who seek to build upon foundational knowledge, refine and better hone their skills, and advance their understanding of the topic.
  • Advanced activities are tailored toward learners who have already achieved a higher degree of technical competence in the subject matter resulting from expanded training and supplemental work experience. Advanced level activities are for learners who wish to build upon intermediate knowledge and field experience toward the achievement of mastery in a specific technical area.
Other notes from this post:
  • Thought Leader credentials are earned by subject matter experts who are frequently consulted for their mastery level knowledge and skills. They are able to apply those skills in the most challenging situations and are highly effective at coaching and mentoring others in doing the same. A Thought Leader is an innovator and respected authority on the related subject matter. Thought Leader skill demonstration is typically validated by SME, board review, evidence submissions, and verified experiential activities.
  • IBM Certificate-Validation of knowledge, skills and abilities achieved through the aggregation of multiple learning experiences structured as a prescriptive learning pathway supporting skill development within a more comprehensive area of study.
  • IBM Professional Certification provides validation of IBM technology-oriented knowledge, skills and abilities for essential job roles through administration of proctored examination and/or performance-based testing. The certification assessment is independent of any specific educational event or related learning opportunities. Certification is also intended to measure or enhance continued competence through re-certification or renewal requirements. Re-certification may require mandatory continuing education hours, proctored reassessment, non-proctored reassessment or a combination thereof.
Disclosure: I did some volunteer work on the foundational test. Part of our discussion involved looking at past study guides.
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