IBM has announced that it is making available an open beta of AIX Version 6.1 – an upgrade to the currently available version of AIX. Now, the questions that immediately spring to mind are: is this a good thing? and why is IBM doing it?
Before I try to answer my own questions – or at least share my thoughts about those questions – let’s have a look at what AIX 6.1 has to offer. The big news is virtualization enhancements, with improved security also included. The IBM Web site tells us that workload partitions (WPARs) offer software-based virtualization that is designed to reduce the number of operating system images needing to be managed when consolidating workloads. The live application mobility feature allows users to move a workload partition from one server to another while the workload is running, which provides mainframe-like continuous availability. For security there is now role-based access control, which give administrators greater flexibility when granting user authorization and access control by role. There is also a new tool called the system director console, which provides access to the system management interface via a browser. The bad news for venturous adopters is that IBM is not providing any support – there’s just a Web forum for other users to share problems and possible solutions.
So, is it a good thing? The answer is (of course) a definite maybe! If lots of people pick up on the beta, and do thoroughly test it for IBM, then the final product, when it is released, will be very stable and not have any irritating teething problems. There could be thousands of beta testers rather than the usual small group of dedicated testers. Plus it could be tested on a whole range of hardware with almost every conceivable peripheral attached and third-party product run on it. And beta testers will get the benefit of the new virtualization features and security features.
Why is IBM doing it? Apart from getting their software beta tested for free, they also make it look like their version of Unix is part of the open source world. The reason I say that is because it is called an “open beta” – hence the verbal link with open source, which is perceived as being a good thing – rather than being called a public beta. To be clear, while some components of AIX are open source, the actual operating system isn’t open source.
AIX Version 6 is a completely new version – the current one is 5.3. The final version will probably be out in November. Announcing an open beta programme means that IBM can steal some limelight back from Unix rivals HP and Sun. All in all, it is good news for AIX users.