IBM OS Targets Intel Market, Linux Users

IBM Corp. this fall will release AIX 5L, a freshly minted and renamed version of AIX, combining extensive Linux support with performance-boosting features designed to appeal to IBM's more traditional high-end user base.

The operating system will be the first AIX version capable of running on both IBM Power-based systems and on Intel Corp.'s upcoming IA-64 architecture, according to IBM.

This will give existing Power-based AIX users another hardware platform on which to run their applications. And it will give Linux users a way to combine their applications with the high-end scalability and availability of AIX, said Dave Turek, an IBM vice president.

Linux support on AIX 5L will include source-code compatibility and a Linux "build-time" environment, with tools and utilities that provide a Linux "look and feel" development environment on AIX, IBM said.

Linux application programming interfaces will be rehosted and optimized for AIX, while standard AIX libraries will be enhanced to support Linux. Linux applications on IA-64 based systems will be able to run on IA-64 based AIX 5L systems with a simple recompilation of the source code, according to IBM.

This kind of integration will make it easier for users to tie AIX and Linux applications together, said Bill Claybrook, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston.

"What they are trying to do is make the case that applications can flow freely between AIX and Linux," at least on IA-64 platforms, Claybrook said.

In addition, major system vendors such as Unisys Corp. in Blue Bell, Pa., and Bull HN Information Systems Inc. in Brighton, Mass., will ship systems running AIX 5L on IA-64 architecture when it becomes available, Turek said.

IBM's moves are as much a testimony to its efforts to move AIX to mass-volume Intel platforms as it is to the growing popularity of Linux, said Brad Day, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

During the past two years, IBM has been working with The Santa Cruz Operation Inc. in Santa Cruz, Calif., and Sequent Computer Systems Inc. - now owned by IBM - to develop an AIX version for Intel.

"AIX 5L is the end result of that effort," Day said.

"What we are seeing here is the realization that Linux is really beginning to take root in a very lucrative manner," said Joyce Becknell, an Aberdeen analyst. "It's about IBM trying to extend AIX market share."

"Anything that enhances AIX share can only be a good thing" for users, said Bob Venable, manager of enterprise systems at Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Tennessee.

As a longtime user of AIX, Venable is more interested in some of the new high-end functionality in AIX 5L, such as its support for more processors and its ability to partition workloads, than in the new Linux support.

"AIX has excellent reliability and performance. . . . Those are the features we are most interested in" for the moment, Venable said.

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