Linux can learn valuable lessons from its elder cousins in the enterprise, the proprietary Unixes from the likes of IBM, Sun, and HP. Those operating systems, in turn, can learn some lessons from Linux. Comparing the features of the more enterprise-ready Linux distros with AIX, one of the leading proprietary Unixes, helps identify some.
Comparing Linux and AIX
2004-07-22 Unix 17 Comments
I’m not big on UNIX anymore, but AIX rules. Linux afinity, partitioning, SMIT, LVM, PPC. Nuff said.
I have to agree, Beavis. AIX does rule. It’s vastly underappreciated. IBM has wisely used it to sell its advanced hardware to the world. Maybe someday IBM will allow it to be released for the tiny x86 mini-itx computers that we can buy for $200+. One of my dreams, and I’m not the only one dreaming that. The work was done long ago.
Back in 95-96 we had the glorious graphical SMIT & NIT that the article speaks of, when the CPU was 66 Mhz and the hard drive capacity was 540 Mb. Oh how I wish that we could buy x86 AIX. Only those of us who have used it know how great it was, even then. AIX had features and ease of use then, in versions 4.x that Linux does not even strive for these days.
If anyone wants to know how good proprietary software can be they should visit the world of AIX. Suddenly you find yourself surrounded not by CPUs but by symmetrical multiprocessing clusters that can be managed by a ten-year-old sitting at his kitchen table. Yowza.
C’mon, IBM, release AIX to the world, already. Show us all, not just those of us who can afford your hardware, what you’ve got. Think outside the box.
The LVM in AIX is still lightyears ahead of Linux/BSD equivalents. And why isn’t there an effort to duplicate the System Resource Controller instead of yet another wm ? Anyone who has used smitty will tell you just how great it is.
But I think my favorite thing about AIX is the sensible names for administraive commands, they (mostly) all follow the same naming convention : rm* ls* mk* ch* (e.g rmdev,lsdev,chdev,mkdev)
One thing that really seperates AIX is the level of documentation … I tried to find a good book, the only one I got SUCKED really badly, that was before I found IBM’s redbooks – redbooks.ibm.com I think.
It pretty much has all you wanted to know, free in pdf format.
Cloning / Migrating a server couln’t be easier – take a backup tape (from mksysb), and the install CD – at boot tell it to install the OS from scratch, but keep all settings config and user files from the tape and off it goes.
Couldn’t be simpler.
seems like i’m the only one. i’m sure aix is a capable unix, however i don’t like it (i don’t use it anymore at work, but we used 4.x at one time).
I just didn’t like the fact how smit was forced on you, make it an option! Indeed it looks like ibm tried to make a unix for dummies or something, i disliked that as well. anyway, i’m more of a solaris/linux guy and it is always hard to switch ‘sides’ so, don’t believe me, try aix out and make up your own mind
Everything you can do from smit you can do from the command line.
I think it was F6 that would show you what it was doing – which made smit a great learning tool.
Everything smit did was std commands, or scripts which you can call outside of smit
You can also run smitty instead of smit if you prefer that text-only look…or if you’re running remotely via ssh/telnet.
The greates thing about the AIX LVM stuff is you could do it…in realtime on all disks. Is your / partition full? Expand it – nobody’ll notice. There’s no impact at all, except the partition gets bigger.
You can do this to any partition, any time. Very, very handy, especially since /tmp and /var are so small by default.
The smit installer will also grow a partition if necessary, if you like. Installing a package and there’s no room? No problem – the installer will grow the appropriate partitions.
What’s weird is there doesn’t seem to be any runtime impact to this stuff. A volume can be spread across multiple disks, or across parts of the same disk, and it doesn’t seem to be slower than if it was one big contiguous chunk. Go figure.
In the past IBM has almost given AIX away, making money from the hardware and services instead of the operating system software.
Exactly! Kinda takes away from the single advantage that linux has over commercial Unix, Linux being free that is. So it begs the question why run Linux instead of AIX if the cost of the OS is not a factor?
FYI You can substitute HP-UX and Solaris in the article where you see AIX too. For serious mission critical open-systems tasks commercial Unix is the only choice.
A (simple for AIX) command of: chfs -a size=+50 /usr is so incredibly awesome… Especially when a customer is on the phone, has a 100% full filesystem, is trying to print and can’t… You type a bit and tell them to “try again” and it works. Priceless…. Does the Linux LVM/JFS implementation have this yet or anything similar or is it on the horizon?
“So it begs the question why run Linux instead of AIX if the cost of the OS is not a factor?
you think cost is the only factor. ?.thats incorrect. cost is just one of the factor. thats why ibm itself is porting linux to various mainframes. if ibm owns aix and aix can be given free why are they porting linux. think sco. think sysv. think freedom. think market hype. so on
what people have in mind when saying something is “lightyears” ahead…
After taking a job where I was managing a AIX 4.3.3 server from where I had been doing mostly work with *BSD and Linux, I have to say AIX is quite amazing in its coherency and stability. Plus I have to love cfgmgr for allowing you to hotplug almost any device and have it detected on the fly. LVM rocks too, its very hard to go back to the slices model. Also we did a nim migration install from 4.3.3 to 5.2, which was really neat, cloning the rootvg and then upgrading the clone and rebooting to the new set of disks, wow! Almost no downtime. The package manager also shows up just about anything out there that I have seen. Drool. I need to get myself a workstation (150 would be okay) but the license for AIX costs more than the machine would! Also IBM tech support for AIX/hardware is the best I’ve seen.
you think cost is the only factor. ?.thats incorrect. cost is just one of the factor. thats why ibm itself is porting linux to various mainframes. if ibm owns aix and aix can be given free why are they porting linux.
Mainly becasue of hype and pseudo customer demand. IBM selling hardware and support for it is the focus. Ultimately the customer decides what the machine will do. I also think that once companies want to move to something a little more robust and mature that is the “in” to say hey try AIX.
I also think that once companies want to move to something a little more robust and mature that is the “in” to say hey try AIX.
ya sure. i will wait for that. meanwhile people will continue to use linux in production and ibm will continue to profit from it
Not that I don’t appreciate all that IBM has done for Linux but I’ve always wondered why they never ported AIX to x86 as Sun did with Solaris.
Considering that IBM basically invented the PC platform, how could they let Sun’s attempt in the x86 space go unanswered for so long?
Of all the commercial Unixes, I think Solaris should have been the LAST I would have wanted on x86, although Solaris x86 has come a long way in the last few years.
I’ve been using Solaris x86 since 2.6 but only since version 8
could the experience be considered pleasant.
First of all, to those who may have missed it… AIX existed for x86 back in PS/2 times!
I too like AIX. It is not true that SMIT is ‘forced’ on you. On the contrary, smit invokes only commands with the correct command-line. You can script everything if you want and learn from teh smit output!
I use old AIX 4.2 on a 20MHz box and I am amazed at what it still can do. AIX has an edge on coherency and admistration even on other unices like HP-UX and solaris (of course, it has some inferior things too).
Mostly AIX is considered ‘bad’ for its bad support in the GNU projects. Things have gotten better lately, but still many opensource programs fail to compile correctly, mostly because their code is sloppy. But you can always help the developers to improve protability (not everyone is so open about it though).
But you can run Apache or Mysql just fine on AIX as well as many other tools. Gcc runs fine and this helps often in the code porting.
AIX has its weak points too, but I think it should be considered more often when choosing an unix-like OS and not only the ubiquitous Linux. But this concept should be applied to Solaris and BSD for example as well. It could be translated in ‘be more informed’ in general. Often it is forgotten that “opensource” means also… that you can make it run on your favourite unix, possibly not opensource itself. Get the best out of both worlds.