IBM's beta testing of its AIX operating system no longer will be an invitational-only event.
The company Thursday announced that beginning immediately, AIX beta testing will be open to anyone who wants to download the latest upgrade, called AIX 6.
This is IBM's first "open beta" program for AIX, its version of Unix. IT workers are so used to downloading software via the Web for evaluation that "we just decided it made a lot of sense for AIX," said Scott Handy, vice president of worldwide marketing and strategy for IBM's System p server line, which runs both AIX and Linux.
Handy said that one goal of the open beta is to enable customers who are testing System p hardware under IBM's Try and Buy program to give AIX 6 a whirl as well. The Try and Buy option lets users run servers on a trial basis at no cost.
Tony Iams, an analyst at Ideas International in Rye Brook, N.Y., said the open beta on AIX "is really an effort to capture some of the best elements of what people are expecting now of open source" -- for instance, the ability to test new product releases as early and as often as possible. "It's a small step to take to involve more of the community in testing before [an upgrade's] release," Iams said.
But don't mistake the use of the word "open" as meaning open source. Handy said that by offering the open beta for AIX, which runs only on systems based on IBM's Power microprocessors, the company isn't telegraphing any open-source plans for the operating system.
"One of the ways we achieve reliability with AIX is by giving our customers very consistent release-to-release changes," Handy said. He added that for users who are interested in open-source technology, "we support them through Linux."
IBM plans to ship a commercial release of AIX 6 in this year's fourth quarter. Among the promised enhancements in the upgrade is an improved virtualization capability designed to give processing workloads the illusion that they're running on their own operating systems, when they're actually using a subset of AIX with their own root passwords and IP addresses.
Iams said that capability will provide some efficiency gains and, especially, some management benefits, because users will have to manage only one operating system while running applications as if they were on separate systems. The expanded virtualization features also will enable systems administrators to move workloads around a network in a way that preserves their existing operating state.