Advantages of IBM AIX
Stability and Manageability
Characteristics such as “stability” and “manageability” were repeatedly cited as strengths of AIX relative to Linux. Responses tended to overlap with those citing availability and security. In some cases, organizations reported system management capability as a key Power Systems and AIX advantage.
Power Systems and AIX were seen as easier to deploy, administer and support than Linux x86 servers, and as less likely to cause disruptions affecting users, IT staff, or both.
Throughout its history, AIX has gained a reputation as one of the most stable and manageable UNIX variants. This reputation reflects multiple factors, including availability strengths as well as inclusion of extensive system management tools and functions in successive AIX versions.
More broadly, the AIX reputation reflects the fact that stability and manageability have been core IBM design goals for this operating system for more than 20 years. High levels of integration, streamlined, high-productivity administrator interfaces, and rigorous pre-release testing and quality assurance have been consistently practiced, to a much greater extent than for Linux distributions.
For example, key AIX components such as the System Management Interface Tool (SMIT) and Logical Volume Manager (LVM) have been progressively enhanced since 1990. In recent versions of AIX, IBM has closely integrated firmware-based virtualization into the overall AIX system management architecture. The company has also drawn extensively upon the autonomic computing technologies to improve automation in such areas as system tuning, performance optimization and workload management.
Autonomic computing, meaning the application of artificial intelligence technologies to IT administration and optimization tasks, has been a major IBM research focus since the 1990s. The company is the recognized industry leader in this area. A browser-based interface allowing administrators to manage multiple systems is also provided in AIX 6 using the IBM Systems Director Console for AIX.
A number of users saw greater AIX predictability as a significant advantage. This view reflects the difference between the Linux “community development” model hundreds to thousands of individuals may participate in development and the IBM approach to AIX. Although
AIX development also involves thousands of people, definition of requirements, system design and coding are more closely coordinated. There are some points of convergence. For example, the Linux Standard Base (LSB) maintained by the Linux Foundation has played a useful role in improving consistency between Linux distributions.
The LSB is supported by Novell for SLES and Red Hat for RHEL. Conversely, in launching AIX 6 in 2007, IBM for the first time offered a “public” beta test. Users were invited to download and comment upon this version before its release. Generally, however, the development of AIX is more controlled than is the case for Linux distributions.
The company has consistently met schedules defined in successive AIX Roadmaps. The current Roadmap, which was released to coincide with the introduction of AIX 6, extends to 2015. It is expected that the Roadmap will be updated with the release of AIX 7 during 2010. The IBM practice is to ship updates in the form of Technology Levels, which provide cumulative service, new hardware support and in some cases new functionality.
Technology Levels are released twice yearly, and supported for two years. This approach enables users to remain at a particular Technology Level for a comparatively long period, and is less disruptive than would be the case for a more frequent patch cycle. Predictability provided tangible benefits. Organizations were better able to plan for updates, and risks that might cause interruption of service were reduced.
A number of organizations regarded AIX as offering better security than RHEL and SLES. This appears to be a common industry view. In principle, high levels of Linux security may be realized. RHEL and SLES have obtained many of the same security certifications as AIX, and a wide range of security and malware protection tools are available for these and other Linux distributions. There is also the option of employing Security-Enhanced Linux (SE Linux), which implements kernel extensions originally defined by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to improve access control. Despite which, security violations and malware infections are by wide margins more common for RHEL and SLES than for AIX.