Friday, May 29, 2009


IBM has posted yet another marketing article. I don't know if it is funny or irritating - perhaps both. It is the usual pseudo-technical article from IBM - International Bureau for Misinformation? :) Don't get me wrong - I like IBM and I often admire of what they are doing and not only in a server market-space but for science in general. It's just that their server division seems to be made of only a marketing people and nothing more. And not entirely honest ones...

So lets go thru some of the revelations in the article.

"HP-UX, HP's flavor of UNIX, is now up to release 11iV3. HP-UX is based on System V and runs on both HP9000 RISC servers and HP Integrity Itanium systems. In this respect, it is similar to Solaris, which can run on their SPARC RISC architecture, as well as x86 machines. AIX can only run on the POWER® architecture; however, given how UNIX is a high-end operating system, it is a positive thing that AIX and the POWER architecture are tightly integrated."

How ridiculous it is! Do they want to imply that HP-UX or Solaris are not tightly integrated with their respective RISC platforms? Of course they are. The fact is that AIX and HP-UX do not run on the most commonly used platform these days: x86/x64. And this is one of the reasons why they are dying platforms. Sure, they will stay in market for a long time mostly due to the fact that a lot of enterprise customers won't/can't migrate quickly off them. But if you are building a new environment in almost all cases there is no point in deploying AIX or HP-UX, no point for a customer it is.

Later in the document there is a section called "Solaris innovations" however they do not actually list Solaris innovation only a couple of selected feature updates to the 10/08 releases (there is already the 05/09 release for some time). From the marketing point of view it is very clever as if you are not reading carefully the article you would probably be under impression that there aren't many innovations in Solaris... What about DTrace? SMF? FMA? Branded Zones? Resource Management, Recent improvements for Intel platform (intelligent power management, MPO, etc.), etc.

Then they and the section with another astonishing claim:
"These recent improvements to ZFS are very important. When ZFS first came out, it looked incredible, but the root issue was a glaring omission in feature functionality. With this ability now added, Solaris compares favorably in many ways to JFS2 from AIX and VxFs from HP."
What do they smoke? There isn't even sense in trying to argue with it, IBM can only wish it was true. You won't even find most of the ZFS features everyone cares so much about in IBM's JFS2. ZFS is years more advanced than JFS2 - it's a completely different kind of technology and I doubt IBM will ever catch up with JFS2 - it would probably be easier to write an fs/lvm from scratch or port ZFS...

Later on they move to "AIX innovations" and they start with:
"AIX 6.1, first released about two years ago, is now available in two editions: standard, which includes only the base AIX, and the Enterprise edition, which includes workload partition manager and several Tivoli® products."
I hope it is not supposed to be an innovation... well I prefer Linux or Solaris model when you get ALL the features in standard OS and entirely for free. And it doesn't matter if it is a low-end x86 server or your laptop or if it is a large SPARC server with over 100+ cores and terabytes of memory... you still use the same Solaris with all the features and for free if you do not need a support.

One of the listed "innovations" in AIX are WPARs... well they provided that functionality many years after Solaris had Zones (which in turn were inspired by BSD's Jails). It will take at least couple of years for WPARs to mature... then they claim that "No other UNIX can boast the ability to move over running workloads on a workload partition from one system to another without shutting down the partition". Well, it is not true. You can live migrate LDOMs on Solaris, you can live migrate xVM guests on Solaris and you can live migrated XEN guests on Linux. Well, IBM is trying to catch up here again...

Then there is a lot of false (or incomplete) claims about virtualization technologies in other OS'es to AIX.

They claim AIX can do:
"Micro-partitioning: This feature allows you to slice up a POWER CPU on as many as 10 logical partitions, each with 1/10th of a CPU. It also allows for the capability of your system to exceed the amount of entitled capacity that the partition has been granted. It does this by allowing for uncapped partitions."
Well, it is all great but... I don't know about HP-UX but on Solaris you can slice you CPU (be it SPARC or x86 or IBM's mainframes soon...) as much as you want and of course is does support uncapped partitions (zones). You are not limited to just 10 of them - I know environments with many more than 10 and you can allocate 1/1000th of CPU or less if you want - basically you don't have any artificial or design limits as in AIX.

Then they move to networking and complain that in Solaris you have to edit text files... how funny is it? btw: if you really want you can use Webmin which is a GUI interface to manage an OS and it is delivered with Solaris - much easier than IBM's SMIT and it works on Linux and couple of other platforms too... or you can use Visual Panels in Open Solaris, still more powerful.

Later on they move to performance tuning and claim that using gazillions of different AIX commands is somehow easier than managing two txt files on Solaris... well... whatever. Of course performance tuning is all about observability because you need to first to understand what you want to tune, why and then measure the effect you changes will introduce. Solaris is currently the most observable production OS on the planet, mostly due to DTrace. AIX is far far behind in this respect.

Why is it so hard to find an article from IBM which at least tries to be objective? Why everything they do is an ultimate marketing machine? Maybe because it works in so many cases...

The plain truth is that AIX was one of the innovative UNIX flavours in a market but it stayed behind many years ago. And while they do try to catch up here and there they no longer lead the market and it is the dying platform. If it wasn't for a large legacy enterprise customer base it would have already share the fate of OS2. Sure there are some enthusiasts - they always are for any product but it doesn't change anything. The future seems to be with Linux, Open Solaris and Windows.


Zach said...

AIX is not going anywhere. The detractors of x86 may not want to admit it but the resurgence in Solaris use that I am witnessing is largely due to its being available for that platform. Since project Monterey's failure and also due to fact that the barrier to entry is high for even low end modern power systems, people aren't exactly scrabbling to try out AIX.

Anonymous said...

Yep, they certainly have the marketing alright - they are all over the UK Govt at the moment, pushing their "ultamate lockin" i.e. AIX and Power.

Anytime I hear someone mention "we are considering AIX" I look around the table... where is he? I know one of these guys is the IBM consultant....

Anonymous said...

It is funny how wrong that IBM guy writes about Solaris. My favourite part is where he talks about ZFS. :o)

He should read this article:


Anonymous said...

Kudo's to you Mike. IBM FUD Machine is truly laughable sometimes, but poor customers have a hard time distinguishing truth from IBM fiction. In the LDom section alone they say issues include "scalability". Amusing, you can run hundreds of LDoms on a single SPARC machine, and thanks to Solaris, each LDom can scale from 1 to 100's of cpus. They also say "limited micro partitioning", which is a give away the marketing folks at IBM don't understand that SPARC is massively multi-threaded, and that IBM's "micro-partitioning" approach is necessary to solve the POWER cpu's lack of hardware threads. You've already pointed out their claim of "no dynamic allocation between systems" is just a flat out lie, Ldoms migrates running partitions since last year.