IBM is said to be working hard to get the next release of its Unix operating system, AIX 5L V5.2, ready to roll by October of this year, and is expected to deliver the kicker to this release sometime in the second half of 2003,
Historically, IBM puts out a major update to AIX once every two years or so. The annual releases for AIX 5L V5.2 in 2002 and V5.3 in 2003 do not represent IBM ramping up its rate of release on AIX - IBM is cutting in half what it would have delivered by 2003 and doing it in two steps rather than one.
These releases seem to be timed with future Power4-II servers due in late 2002 and Power5 servers, due sometime in the second half of 2003.
Much of the inner plumbing of AIX was replaced with AIX 5L 5.1, which was known under the code-name of Project Monterey until IBM branded it AIX 5L in January 2001.
The L in AIX 5L stands for Linux affinity, which means that many of the Linux APIs are supported within AIX so applications written for Linux can be recompiled to run natively on PowerPC and Power4 processors. IBM had originally intended to offer the ability to run Linux binaries compiled for Intel processors on AIX 5L, but this part of the operating system never got off the ground because of the performance penalties involved with running emulated X86 instructions on the IBM Power chip architecture.
AIX 5l V5.1 includes support for Power4 processors, 32-way symmetric multiprocessing, rudimentary static logical partitions, 256Gb of main memory, and 64-bit AIX kernel and drivers. The prior AIX 4.3 releases supported 24-way SMP and 96Gb of main memory and had support for some 64-bit APIs.
According to sources familiar with IBM's plans, AIX 5L V5.2 will have support for dynamic logical partitions - presumably only on Power4-based pSeries 690 servers, but perhaps also on S-Star PowerPC-based pSeries 680 servers.
These S-Star servers have the electronics that allow dynamic OS/400 and Linux logical partitions on IBM's iSeries (formerly AS/400) line, so it seems possible that IBM could offer dynamic partitions on these machines as well. For all anyone knows, the entire pSeries line running S-Star processors has been given electronics to support dynamic logical partitions. IBM has been mum on this.
AIX 5L V5.2 will also include performance enhancements and tuning specifically for the Power4 processors and will support multipath I/O, something that the iSeries line also has already. AIX 5L V5.2 will also include a new workload manager and various eLiza self-healing enhancements. The October 2002 release of AIX will be limited to 32-way SMP support, which suggests that IBM will not deliver the 64-way Power5 servers until AIX 5L V5.3 begins shipping sometime in the second half of 2003.
AIX 5L V5.3 is expected to coincide with the initial Power5-based servers, which will support 64-way SMP and up to 512Gb of main memory.
It is unclear whether AIX 5L V5.2 or V5.3 will provide NUMA clustering that expands beyond the 32-way or 64-way SMP clustering of the base operating system to provide a single system image for very large databases and application sets.
But one of these two releases is expected to offer such capabilities. The limits of this NUMA clustering are also unknown, but it seems likely that IBM will allow 8, 16, or 32 giant pSeries servers to be clustered in a NUMA configuration for customers who need such capabilities, particularly to support datawarehousing needs.
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