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IBM Wants Linux 464

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the stuff-to-read dept.
jsse writes "In a news conference IBM's senior vice president Steve Mills said 'the company will gladly drop its version of Unix from servers and replace it with Linux if the software matures so that it can handle the most demanding tasks.' Now the Giant, along with many other companies, jump to Linux bandwagon. The question is wether this bandwagon is capable of carrying a Giant that huge. Or the question is: can Linux beats AIX?"
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IBM Wants Linux

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  • by anon757 (265661) on Monday August 20, 2001 @08:17AM (#2196943)
    IBM has just jumped on the bandwagon?? They've been there for a while buddy. You can already buy most of IBM's software for Linux. They've been investing in Linux like crazy for the last 2 years
    • this is actually something I have been predicting for over a year, despite IBM's claims at the time to the contrary. There is a fundamental problem with the economics of the high-end server OS market and Linux or another open source OS could alleviate much of it.


      The problem is that the largest expense of software manufacturing is paying for development (R&D). This cost has to be passed on to customers and remains fixed regardless of how many units are sold. This means that there is cost associated with each unit sold which goes down as more units are sold and up as less (Embodied R and D = total R and D / total units sold). This is what has made Microsoft successful in many areas of the market, and it is a failing point for most versions of UNIX. This means that if you buy an NT server, it has less embodied R&D than if you buy an AIX machine.


      If Linux could be up to the challenge, it would diffuse the R&D costs by diffusing the R&D, thus making any company who adopted it more competitive. IBM is making the right choices here from a business perspective and (with the exception of CPRM development) becoming more of a present ally for open source.

  • and the answer is? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jaxon6 (104115)
    well, will those quite familiar with aix please enlighten us with what linux could be missing? it's got xfs, lvm, ppc support. and that's about the end of what i know aix and linux now share.
    • They tried to write the paper, but...Word crashed.

    • My $.02 (Score:5, Informative)

      by why-is-it (318134) on Monday August 20, 2001 @09:14AM (#2197171) Homepage Journal
      well, will those quite familiar with aix please enlighten us with what linux could be missing? it's got xfs, lvm, ppc support. and that's about the end of what i know aix and linux now share.

      Well, as a SysAdmin who manages 50 AIX servers and 20 Solaris servers I can try to offer some info.

      As has been written in a couple of posts already, AIX is designed to run on enterprise-level hardware. The bonus is that since the OS and hardware all come from IBM, there is a single point of contact for those problems. There are some really cool things that separate AIX from other UNIX's:
      * Most of the critical OS functions can be controlled via the SMIT interface.
      * Unlike other flavours of UNIX, AIX does not use flat files to define parameters for daemons. AIX has all the relevant information stored in an internal database (The ODM).
      * AIX ships with a journaled file system and file systems can be grown on the fly.
      * AIX gives way more control over disk management than other flavours of UNIX. It is easy to implement the various type sof RAID. AIX also lets you control where certain files can be physically located on your disk, and during off-peak hours the system can move files around to re-organize the disks.
      * It is trivial to create a complete image of the system on a bootable tape, so disaster recovery is a snap.


      There are some downsides to AIX:
      * AIX takes >5 minutes to boot.
      * If the ODM gets corrupted, your system can be toast.
      * Sometimes it is necessary to modify the ODM directly, and this can be a bit risky (see above)
      * Third-party support for AIX is sketchy. It is better to use IBM applications where possible.
      * IBM hardware is more expensive than the alternatives. You pay a premium for Big Blue.

      Of the downsides, the last is the most significant. Not many non-IBM vendors write applications for it, and even if they do, Solaris, and Linux get more attention.

      Sorry for sounding like a commercial for IBM, but I like AIX. It does some things very well, and is quite stable. My team manages a lot of mission-critical servers and AIX is nice to work with. We have talked briefly about Linux, the perception is that Linux is not yet ready for enterprise-class workload.
      • Re:My $.02 (Score:2, Informative)

        by halfgoat (464512)
        I just wanted to add one thing about the AIX lvm. When he says "on thr fly" he means tht a filesystem can be grown WHILE it is still mounted. You can also do a mirror WHILE it is still mounted and being used by users. I started out on linux, and like the lvm, but there is nothing worse than realizing you need more space in a filesystem, and users are still using it. Of course this problem could be helped by better planning, but if we were all perfect, then there wouldn't be a need for too many of us.
      • If you are doing custom device drivers then
        AIX is a very nice operating system to develop
        for. As a micro kernel your drivers are running
        in ring 1 so it is difficult to kill ring 0.
        Even with modules it is much easier for device drivers in Linux to panic the kernel, and in Linux you don't get a core dump of the panic'd kernel to debug.

        Also for those who aren't familiar with AIX, 'smit' is the system administration tool developed for AIX by IBM. There are about a thousand little commands to modify individual configuration files in AIX, that are nearly impossible to remember. Personally I prefer 'vi' and text based configuration. On the other hand AIX commands are scriptable (I suppose text files can be as well
        with a bit of Perl, but text is easier to get
        AFU'd), and smit provides a nice GUI interface for checking parameter completeness.

      • $0.01 more... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Sharkeys-Day (25335)
        I agree with most of your comments. SMIT is way cool. IBM should open source the SMIT framework, and let linux hackers fill in the proper commands for Linux.

        The ODM is real drag though. It make AIX administration so different from every other Unix, that only the extreme usefulness of SMIT makes administering the system tolerable.

        IBM's jfs/lvm are great too.

        But you forgot one really great thing about about AIX. You never need to rebuild the kernel! (well, hardly ever. The authors of the O'Reilly Unix admin book mention one case.) Kernel parameters are self-adjusting for the most part.

        Linux doesn't have the kernel parameter hell of System V (driver hell instead), but it does have kernel parameters, and if you are working at the high end, you _will_ need to tune them. And what's worst is that there is no one central place to find them all. Some are in /proc, some in one .h file, some in another .h file, and *NONE* in the normal kernel configuration method.
  • Literacy (Score:3, Funny)

    by G-funk (22712) <josh@gfunk007.com> on Monday August 20, 2001 @08:22AM (#2196956) Homepage Journal
    Now the Giant, along with many other companies, jump to Linux bandwagon. The question is wether this bandwagon is capable of carrying a Giant that huge. Or the question is: can Linux beats AIX?"

    Um... All your base?
  • Easy (Score:3, Informative)

    by blang (450736) on Monday August 20, 2001 @08:23AM (#2196962)
    Of all the unixen I have played with AIX is one of the worst. Only Conrol data's unix and NCR was worse. Their smit admin tool is pretty cool, but everything else looks like nothing else, and porting stuff to AIX is no fun.
    • Re:Easy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Garc (133564) <jcg5@nospaM.po.cwru.edu> on Monday August 20, 2001 @08:32AM (#2197004)

      I think when IBM says they'll use linux if it "matures so that it can handle the most demanding tasks," they don't mean "you guys need to build pretty little admin GUIs, and make sure linux is consistent looking." I'm thinking that they're more looking for the ability to scale to a large number of processors, and high amounts of RAM.

      On that subject, does anyone know if IBM's Big Iron patches ever made it on to the main kernel tree?

      Garc

      • what big iron ? (Score:3, Informative)

        by johnjones (14274)
        SGI + seimens did the over 4GB memory patch

        IBM did umm the patch to run on S390
        (evil clock ticks evil interupts muhhaha)

        so what do you mean ?

        regards

        john jones

        p.s. list of kernel work from SGI looks like big iron in many ways I cant find a IBM page anywhere or heard of any of their work beyond the NGPthreads and s390 patchs
        (oh yeah and the PowerPC port which IBM does a good job of helping out)

        Linux Scalability [slashdot.org]

        Kernprof [slashdot.org] (Kernel Profiling)

        SGI kGDB [slashdot.org] (Remote host Linux kernel debugger via GDB)

        NUMA [slashdot.org] (NUMA support in Linux)

        Bigmem [slashdot.org] (Big Memory support for Linux)

        Lockmeter [slashdot.org] (Linux kernel lock-metering)

        Post/Wait [slashdot.org] (Post/Wait Synchronization)

        SGI kdb [slashdot.org] (Linux kernel debugger)

        Raw I/O [slashdot.org] (Enhancements to Linux raw I/O capabilities)

        POSIX Asynchronous I/O [slashdot.org] (KAIO)

        LKCD [slashdot.org] (Linux Kernel Crash Dumps)

        STP [slashdot.org] (Scheduled Transfer Protocol)

    • Of all the unixen I have played with AIX is one of the worst. Only Conrol data's unix and NCR was worse.


      Clearly, you never used NeXTStep. Now there was a screwed-up *nix variant... (BTW, anyone wanna buy a color turbo nextstation?)

  • It's about time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by defile (1059) on Monday August 20, 2001 @08:24AM (#2196966) Homepage Journal

    Now if only all of the other vendors realized that they were selling hardware instead of UNIX, they'd be happy to switch to Linux.

    Actually, they probably all have some kind of "ditch-our-crappy-UNIX-for-Linux" roadmap. Some are much further away than others. But it'd be nice if it actually happened.

    • Re:It's about time (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Jon Peterson (1443)
      They are not selling hardware, or at least not processing power. Intel chips are way ahead of anything from SUN, IBM, whatever. Only Alpha CPUs are better.

      Sure, there are marginal improvements in total system performance from things like cache, bus speed and so on. They are marginal.

      For anything up to 8 CPU's, Intel hardware will be better most of the time. That covers all small servers, departmental servers, web servers, small/medium database servers and a stack of other stuff. Sure, 8 CPU intel machine's aren't great, but then 4 CPU ones go as fast as 8 CPU Suns.

      Look at distributed.net CPU speed tables. The fasted risc CPU of any kind (UltrasparcIII @ 800Mhz) is less than half the speed of a Pentium III doing 1.2Ghz (for RC5 cracking).

      And as for those 16, 32 CPU boxes? Some applications do indeed benefit from that, but increasingly few (latest MS SQL server runs distributed on separate machines very well - no need to SMP (MS flames to /dev/null pease)).

      No, what Sun et al. provide is not good hardware. They have operating systems marginally better than linux (better disk stuff (filesystems, software raid and volume management etc), better threading, and a few other things). But, what they do provide is support and service. Lots and lots and lots of it. And they provide guarantees.

      But, even that isn't what they really provide.

      What they _really_ provide, is the only alternative to Microsoft that your boss will consider.
      • Re:It's about time (Score:2, Informative)

        by at_18 (224304)
        Look at distributed.net CPU speed tables. The fasted risc CPU of any kind (UltrasparcIII @ 800Mhz) is less than half the speed of a Pentium III doing 1.2Ghz (for RC5 cracking).

        Hey, check your facts before making broad statements like "Sparcs are slow at RC5, so Intels are better". Somewhere in the distributed.net docs is stated that most RISC CPUs lacks an important assembly instruction (n-bit rotations, if I remember correctly), as opposed to x86 and PowerPC. Guess what, that instruction is essential for RC5 cracking, and Sparcs, Alpha and co. are slow. You might want to check DES cracking speeds, where RISC CPUs are flying at unbelievable speeds, leaving common x86s in the dust.
        It all depends on the particular application that you are testing.

        Sure, there are marginal improvements in total system performance from things like cache, bus speed and so on. They are marginal.

        Again, no. They are marginal when you write "Hello, world" programs. But for heavy computing/database and such memory bandwith/latency is crucial. Even in the PC world, just ONE cpu can be stalled by the lack of memory bandwith. Look at the Pentium 4 test at Anandtech [anandtech.com]: in particular applications (mp3 encoding, streaming in general) there's a 30% difference between different chipsets).
        Guess what happens when you have 4 CPUs on a single board, all begging memory access to random locations to complete their database lookups...
      • Re:It's about time (Score:2, Informative)

        by pdiaz (262591)
        Excuse me sir, but you don't know a shit of what you are talking

        Facts:

        • Clock frecuency is not an speed indicator. It is less an speed indicator between diferent architectures
        • I/O architecture is relevant. Most comercial programs like databases, web servers, etc.. will benefit from a fast and scalable I/O architecture
        • Scalability (multiprocesor) is relevant. Maybe MySQL does not run on multiprocessors (I really don't know) but chances are that when you buy that kind of iron you won't be running MySQL, but DB/2 or Oracle, which the are multiprocessor capable
        • Again: scalability matters. Sun boxes can handle up to 64 processors, each one with its own cache and channel for accessing the memory (no bottlenecks)
        • RC5 cracking is not relevant unless you will do ... RC5 cracking for yout bussiness

        Are you a NT admin or something?

      • For anything up to 8 CPU's, Intel hardware will be better most of the time. That covers all small servers, departmental servers, web servers, small/medium database servers and a stack of other stuff. Sure, 8 CPU intel machine's aren't great, but then 4 CPU ones go as fast as 8 CPU Suns.


        maannn, you don't have any clue what you are talking about, are you? At least don't classify by the number of cpus. This is absolute bull...
        IBM's S390 goes from 1 to 12 CPUs and that 41000+ linux instances they had running on one of that beasts was on a relativly small one - later david boyes had 97,943 instances of linux running on 12 CPUs (and 16 Gig). Show me any i386 based system capable of that.
        This is not about raw processing power, but even there you have to look at the problem size because memory bandwidth can be pretty relevant there.
        Oh, btw. you know who developed some innovative technologies for cpus like SOI and copper - where is intel in that game?

        Read for instance
        Microdesign Resources [mdronline.com], I cite:


        But POWER4 is not just about CMP. Both of POWER4's two cores are 64-bit, five-issue, superscalar processors that will operate at more than 1 GHz, making each one more powerful than any single CPU in existence today. And unlike most companies that just moan and complain about the problems of memory latency and bandwidth, IBM did something about them. POWER4's two cores share a large on-chip L2 cache with 100 GB/s of combined bandwidth. The chip also provides 45 GB/s of off-chip bandwidth to other POWER4 chips, memory, and I/O. These bandwidths are an order of magnitude higher than found on typical processors today. IBM used wave pipelining to allow POWER4's wide expansion bus to operate at 500 MHz over long distances with good signal integrity.


        And more about that here:
        http://mdronline.com/mpr/h/2000/1120/144703.html

        an indepth view about the new ibm puppies.
        Intel is as far away from that territory as mssql from oracle on an e10000.
    • Re:It's about time (Score:2, Interesting)

      by AlgUSF (238240)
      Non Linux Junkie Comment (mod down now)

      Solaris is much more stable than Linux is, and I have never had a Solaris box hang or crash on me. If Sun were to ditch Solaris for Linux, they wouldn't sell any boxes (Because without solaris their boxes are just run of the mill Multi-Processor RISC boxes). On the other hand some flavors of UNIX suck! Take SGI IRIX, they should kill it, and switch to Linux, because SGI has proven that they don't have the dedication it takes to keep up an operating system....

    • Re:It's about time (Score:5, Informative)

      by doctor_oktagon (157579) on Monday August 20, 2001 @09:16AM (#2197177)
      Now if only all of the other vendors realized that they were selling hardware instead of UNIX

      It's time to analyse the facts: IBM, Sun, HP, and Unisys who are the main players in the high-end market (if we forget NCR, Hitachi, and Compaq for the moment) do not make their money from selling hardware, though I'm sure someone must have made a few $$$s from the two Sun E10Ks my last client invested in *grin*

      They make their real revenue from the services which they provide to turn their hardware into fully-functioning enterprise-class systems which deliver real business benefit which affects the buyers bottom line.

      I've never saw a client sue a manufacturer when something goes wrong (like not being able to sync two E10Ks in a failover cluster), but struggle on and on until the problem is fixed, happy in the knowledge that it will get fixed.

      Remember this is Red Hats approach: the added value of their product is the service they provide. They don't earn large revenue's from selling boxed "7.2" distros on Amazon.

      Remember what happened to all those "Linux" hardware companies trying to make money shifting boxes ... they are in serious trouble because there is no money in hardware. If IBM thinks it can make money from Linux, then it will do so by putting the full weight of their name behind the product and selling professional services around its implementation.
  • All I know about Unix-flavored systems comes through Linux. Could someone post a short list of the areas where Linux is most deficient compared to Unices like AIX?

    I know that real-time applications are one issue, as well as multi-processor performance. But how much work has to be done, and what are the prospects?

    Thanks in advance for not flaming the newbie. :-)
    • Linux does not have:

      1. good scalability on large NUMA and SMP systems
      2. A proven, full-featured LVM that works

      Also, regarding the journaling file systems. How many vendors are selling Linux with them now? IBM, Sun, Veritas, had it for years. So, if you're looking for a proven, scalable, enterprise platform, with good vendor support, applications, etc consider IBM RS/6000 or Sun.

    • by sinator (7980) on Monday August 20, 2001 @10:16AM (#2197405)

      Linux doesn't have STREAMS or TLI support; this means that device drivers are significantly different from the rest of the (commercial) UNIX(TM) world. There are third party patches, but STREAMS will never make it into the source tree, because Linus has explicitly rejected it.

      Linux doesn't (AFAIK -- correct me if I am wrong!) have run-time tunable quanta (timeslices) for scheduling. The 'jiffy' (minimum unit of time measurement) is still tied to a 100 Hz clock (except on Alpha, where it is 1024Hz). Other run-time tunable parameters include features like page replacement algorithms (when to replace pages in memory). Solaris has a 'two-handed clock sweep' algorithm, and runtime tunable parameters include the 'spread' between the 'hands' and the speed of the 'clock rotation' (cf. Stallings, William. Operating Systems)

      This isn't a linux problem per se, but the gcc toolkit doesn't make the best object code on any target other than x86. That's why solaris distributes gcc with solaris8 but remains confident you're going to get /opt/SUNWpro compilers. Same goes with Tru64, etc. etc. Since most commercial Unices run on non-Intel platforms (Solaris, AIX, Tru64, Mac OS X, HP-UX, IRIX) it generally means that you're not going to get the best executables if you use gcc (exceptions include Mac OS X)

      As others have said, NUMA doesn't scale well. Linux proper doesn't have good 'processor affinity' (ie, tying a process to a specific processor).

      Linux doesn't have good capabilities support or support for ACLs. While some capabilities exist (eg, CAP_DAC_OVERRIDE for embedded systems without filesystems, or the capability to bind to ports < 1024 without being root), a lot of big-iron systems need capabilities more approaching that of VMS or Windows NT kernel (note I said kernel, not Win32). You can get some capabilities with LIDS, but that's generally related to the CAP_DAC and CAP_MAC set, without much more. As for ACLs, you *can* find some patches, but they're most certainly not standard. Moreover, VFS isn't quite set for things like LVM, much less filesystem plug-ins (witness the hullaballoo in putting ReiserFS in the system because it didn't conform to VFS conventions).

      Linux failover and high-availability generally applies to clustering solutions; I've yet to see things like hot-swappable CPUs or multiple backplane support in Linux.

      This isn't to say Linux isn't great. I use it along with OpenStep and FreeBSD as my main operating systems. Most people don't need the above, or the penalties for uniprocessor x86 hardware are high (who wants STREAMS on an IBM PC-compatible?). But for commercial UNIX (TM), the above is pretty relied upon.

    • A couple of areas come to mind (I'm sure there are more), but AIX in particular has:

      1) "smit", which is a great system management tool. All of the linux config tools (*cough*linuxconf*cough*) are complete garbage. The great thing about smit is that you can do very complex admin tasks, but you can display the command line it will use to do them at any time.

      2) Volume management. This rocks under AIX. You can create, destroy and extend filesystems on the fly. You can move them across physical devices -- on the fly. They can span physical devices. Mirroring. Journaling. This is the biggest thing I miss in Linux.

      3) sysback. This will automatically create a bootable tape under AIX. System crash? No problem -- just boot off the tape and it automatically restores the whole system, filesystems and all. Want to duplicate a system? Same deal. It has a few limitations (everything has to be under the same volume group), but it's awesome.

  • If... (Score:2, Informative)

    by svl (128425)
    'if the software matures so that it can handle the most demanding tasks'

    Sounds like a sarcasm.

  • by c.jaeger (30528) on Monday August 20, 2001 @08:27AM (#2196984) Homepage
    I'm reminded of the scene in "Pirates of Silicon Valley" where Gates and company were sitting down to negotiate with IBM and it was said, "Everybody knows that the real money is made in hardware, not software".

    Well IBM was wrong at the time in that statement but it might finally be the truth.

    It also makes sense for IBM from a financial perspective. Instead of having a building full of programmers/managers and other overhead that eats up corporate profits just to support AIX, why not outsource that dependency to the open-source users of the world. Big blue then reduces their expenses, increases their income and the open-source community gets a juggernaut pulling for their team. A win-win situation if I've ever heard one.

    p.s. - These are my opinions and not my employers who happens to be discussed in this thread.
    • It also makes sense for IBM from a financial perspective. Instead of having a building full of programmers/managers and other overhead that eats up corporate profits just to support AIX, why not outsource that dependency to the open-source users of the world. Big blue then reduces their expenses, increases their income and the open-source community gets a juggernaut pulling for their team. A win-win situation if I've ever heard one.

      Do you honestly think that if IBM were to ditch AIX for linux that this would happen? The value of running IBM hardware and software is that IBM is there to fix it right away. Find a bug in AIX? IBM gets on it in a timely fashion. If anything, I would wager that IBM will fork their own version of Linux if they decide to forgo AIX. Large corporations like the track history and reputation of IBM and are frightened by the lack of the same for Linux. IMHO that seems to be what stops large-scale deployment of Linux in the corporate world - who is going to take ownership of this problem and provide us with patches?

      BTW - from what I have seen, (as an IBM'er) the revenue and profits come from annual support and maintenance contracts, not from hardware and software sales per se.
      • BTW - from what I have seen, (as an IBM'er) the revenue and profits come from annual support and maintenance contracts, not from hardware and software sales per se.

        This is spot on. Every tech company I've worked for (typically very large ones, not small and idealistic ones) has made support and maintenance their primary source of income; Software or hardware sales are simply how they set up the need for support.

        • Pretty much the only exception to that rule is Microsoft, and even they are moving to make support/services a profit center, as part of an 'enterprise' push. In 5 years, I'd expect their business model to look far more similar to Oracle's than today.
      • Fork (Score:3, Interesting)

        by HiThere (15173)
        I imagine that IBM would attempt to avoid forking the kernel. OTOH, they would be quite likely to come out with their own distribution. Or to rebrand one of the extant ones. They might even buy the company, but probably not. But I suspect that an "IBM Linux" would be quite acceptable to many people. And if they had to edit the code the remove all the red hats, or top hats, that would be a minor expense. Don't think of a fork, think of the way Mandrake started.

        Now IBM would probably only sell their distribution to those who bought their hardware, but they might well be willing to sell maintenance contracts (which might [optionally?] include their distribution) to anyone. Just as Red Hat prefers to support customers who are running Red Hat Linux, because it cuts down on the variety of problems that they have to deal with, so it increases their profits without increasing their expenses.
    • It also makes sense for IBM from a financial perspective. Instead of having a building full of programmers/managers and other overhead that eats up corporate profits just to support AIX, why not outsource that dependency to the open-source users of the world.

      Because the devil you know is better than the devil you don't. IBM will almost certainly retain their AIX infrastructure, and instead of dropping it to use Linux they'll use it to maintain and tweak their own fork.

      IBM is a solid company, and it's unlikely that they're idealistic about switching everything over to a hippie OS like Linux. Quite the contrary, they'll take a hardcore cynical position about it, and they'll fork it and make it their own as necessary so that they can trust it.


    • I dunno how much money IBM makes or loses off this, but they've been pushing their various management and consulting services pretty hard. Or, least that's what I remember from a few years ago when I was directly exposed it. Going with Linux like this opens the markets they already have their foot into. AIX, I suspect, is a dead end, and IBM knows it. Not too many people use it these days, and everyone seems to be going into Linux on the server side at least.

    • >I'm reminded of the scene in "Pirates of Silicon
      >Valley" where Gates and company were sitting
      >down to negotiate with IBM and it was
      >said, "Everybody knows that the real money is
      >made in hardware, not software".
      >
      >Well IBM was wrong at the time in that statement
      >but it might finally be the truth.

      Actually, it was right at the time, but rapidly stopped being so. And now the pendulum's swinging back the other way.

      Everything is a service industry. Manufacturing is a service; "products" are an effect often confused with a cause.

      Hardware became commoditized. Interchangeable parts available from multiple vendors. Competing on price and functionality, but with transparency and compatability as the entry fee.

      One vendor's software beat the other vendor's software because the hardware fought all its battles for it. IBM's PC didn't hurt apple, the PC -CLONES- drove IBM itself from the field, along with apple. Microsoft beat apple because the hardware fought all its battles for it. All it had to do was maintain a monopoly lock on the PC hardware platform and hang on for the ride.

      Now commodity software is coming into fashion. It was called free software until it got marketing, and the marketers called it Open Source. Commoditization is the natural thing to happen to any mature market. A Linux system is made from interchangeable parts available from multiple sources, freely downloadable, transparent and compatable.

      Red Hat, SuSE and TurboLinux are just like Dell, Compaq, and Gateway. They assemble commodity parts into a finished product, stamp a brand name on it, and sell it with a warantee. But you can put your own box together (or go to linuxfromscratch.com and assemble your own linux distribution). Most people choose not to, they start with an assembled system and customize it from there.

      IBM lost its position in the PC market when it tried to close it up with the proprietary PS/2. It has had ten years to learn from its mistakes (and it has a new brain, Lou Gerstner's, to comprehend the blindlingly obvious with). It sees Linux, it comprehends "commodity software", and it's trying darn hard to play the game on the game's terms this time.

      And so far, I think it's doing a decent job of it.

      Rob
  • Good move for IBM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eric2hill (33085) <eric.ijack@net> on Monday August 20, 2001 @08:30AM (#2196993) Homepage
    I think IBM's doing this for one very good reason. The more linux hackers there are at home running linux on their personal boxes, the more workers there will be in the industry that say "IBM makes this big box that will do all we need for our web and/or accounting needs, and it runs an OS I already know."

    Managers like to hear that so they don't buy something their IT people don't know how to run.
  • by Gambit Thirty-Two (4665) on Monday August 20, 2001 @08:30AM (#2196994)
    The problem I see with this is that if a company as big as IBM wants to use something like Linux, they're going to want some kind of control of the direction it goes. Companies have been trying to get Linus to loosen his 'control' of the kernel for a while now. No company with smart leadership will drop support for a product that they have complete power over, in favor of an OS where they have little-to-no control over the direction that it takes.

    However, we've seen that IBM has put a fairly good amount of time, money, and effort into making Linux compatable with their products, and their products compatable with linux itself. But so far, I just don't seem them dropping AIX for Linux anytime soon. Not until the control over the linux kernel becomes more decentralized.
    • by tjwhaynes (114792) on Monday August 20, 2001 @09:07AM (#2197146)

      The problem I see with this is that if a company as big as IBM wants to use something like Linux, they're going to want some kind of control of the direction it goes. Companies have been trying to get Linus to loosen his 'control' of the kernel for a while now. No company with smart leadership will drop support for a product that they have complete power over, in favor of an OS where they have little-to-no control over the direction that it takes.

      First a caveat: These are my own views and not those of IBM Canada.

      Why do you think that IBM needs control of the Linux kernel? It's not necessary. Because the kernel is open source any features that IBM feels are necessary for running Linux on, for example, a 4-way H50 RS/6000 machine can be provided as a patch to the main kernel tree and pre-compiled binaries can be distributed by IBM from one of the web sites. Yes - someone has to keep the patches sane against the latest kernel but it is unlikely in the long run that useful and proven patches would remain out of the kernel tree forever unless they seriously clash with some design decision.

      Patch maintenance is a minor headache against a stable kernel series. It only becomes a major problem if you try and keep patches sync'd against a development kernel and IBM is very very unlikely to request customers use such a kernel in a production environment.

      And secondly, why do you think that IBM needs total control over everything they use? That's nonsense. Working in the RDMBS world, we all work to published standards. There is no 'total control' exercised by IBM when submitting proposals for new SQL functionality or DRDA protocols. Total control is not the only option for making money out there - being the best at something still makes better business sense. Making sure that the customer support services are actually helping customers makes good financial sense. We have all got really warped by MS's monopoly position and healthy financial situation that it is too easy to forget that it is possible to make a good income by being good in a competitive marketplace.

      Cheers,

      Toby Haynes

      • True but I think you are missing some of the point. Even in open standards there are dominant and weaker players. Consider the fight over the next-generation IP. In that case the standards are supposed to be open. However the dominant voices in the process are not developers, not sysadmins, not even universities they are people like Microsoft and Time-Warner. The largest companies that can shout the loudest to get what they want. IBM is the same. IBM is a corporation and to that end they will do what is best for themselves. This is not necessarily driven by malice it is just the state of affairs. If they find it better to move to Linux or at least publicly support it, both to piss off Bill and to make geeks worldwide love them, then they will.

        If they move to using and developing Linux they will then be the biggest gorilla at the table. Linus is one person, everyone else who submits patches is one person (for the most part). IBM is hundreds. By sheer force of size and voice they will be able to dominate the direction of Linux. This may be unintentional but their sheer size makes it likely. I doubt seriously whether the CEO of IBM is twisting his handlebar moustache and plotting to wrest control away. If IBM jumps in with both feet though and becomes dependent upon Linux they will need to. At that point it will be necessary for IBM to drive Linux or at least keep it on their desired path as their bottom line will depend upon it. When it comes to the bottom line for a publicly held corporation all else is secondary.

        Moreover, what about the public face of Linux? In the computing world among geeks we may know that Linus is the cheiftan. Geeks also know who Ulrich Drepper is. But the rest of the world, the people who just buy machines and use them the end-users, the university purchasers who cut deals for servers and the corporate managers do not. They know brand names and if IBM manages to identify itself with linux they may become "Linux" (or at least it's guardian) in the eyes of the majority of the world. Then this name which is the real public force and property of the Linux movement will become theirs. At that point what Linus wants, or what the early developers want, IBM will be running the show. IBM will be the company rubber stamping distros and by sheer force of weight blocking competition from people such as RedHat and co.

        This is a doomesday scenario I know. But keep in mind that the computing world was once known as "IBM and the Seven Little Dwarves." Keep in mind that they also attempted to paint their ads for peace-love-linux all over san-francisco in an effort to ID themselves with the 60's. I don't think Linus and the rest of us should turn our backs on IBM (allthough I'm sure RMS does). But I do we should see them for what they are, a company, and not rush to them like the Manhattan Indians bearing gifts.

    • by Sloppy (14984) on Monday August 20, 2001 @10:27AM (#2197444) Homepage Journal

      No company with smart leadership will drop support for a product that they have complete power over, in favor of an OS where they have little-to-no control over the direction that it takes.

      Which is why IBM's PCs all still come preloaded with OS/2 instead of Wi-- oh, wait.

  • Something tells me that Linux can be customized in such a way as to handle whatever AIX handles and possible more. But the question I have to ask in this is: Why? Is IBM really looking to cut ties with AIX? How could this be an advantage to IBM? Or their customers who have depended on AIX for a long, long time?

    I suppose IBM may make some money upfront convincing their AIX clients to pay for a Linux conversion by convincing said clients that Linux has better support, the client won't be locked in to depending on IBM, stable, fast, blah blah blah. And I suppose IBM might save money in the long-term by having a larger talent pool from which to hire Linux gurus. But, unless someone else can give shed some light on something I just don't understand, this initiative to move AIX customers to Linux, while sounding like a great technical manuever, doesn't sound like a great business manuever.

    • Remember OS/2? OS/2 is currently making the most money it ever has for IBM, simply because it's in maintenance cycle now... IBM simply does no new development, and continues to make money on support, while encouraging folks to consider other OS options.

      IBM never completely drops support, and would never leave profitable AIX shops out in the cold.
  • by redelm (54142) on Monday August 20, 2001 @08:32AM (#2197005) Homepage
    IBM is prepared to drop AIX iff Linux can handle the job. Great. My question is: How will they know?

    I'm sure IBM does a great deal of validation testing. Why not tell the kernel developers where things come up short? One of the most valuable development prerequisites are good bug reports. IBM could unleash their testing team. Or does politics get in the way -- the testing team manager doesn't approve of the Linux takeover?

    • Well, I don't have the time to do a search, but I have some "unvalidated thoughts and memories" on the subject.

      I think a while back IBM wanted to submitt some patches to the linux kernel that would allow it to play better with the big boys. The patches would enable scaling up to a large number of processors, and efficiently using large amounts of memory. IIRC (doubtful, someone else wanna help me out here), linus didn't want the patches b/c he cared more about linux running on a normal machine well. I hope that they'd just do something like #ifdef _BIG_IRON_. Instead, IBM just kinda backed off, they didn't want to create any sort of resentment from the community, nor did they want to fork the kernel so they could have a version with their patches. I think the willingness of the company to give, and not get upset if its gifts aren't accepted well is a great testiment to its devotion to linux.

      I think insertion of those patches, even if on a #ifdef type basis would be a leap in the right direction for IBM to replace AIX with linux.

      I'm not 100% sure of the facts, if someone would like to correct me, please do. Of course if someone wants to back me up with links, that'd be ok too :)

      Garc

      • I seem to recall that there were a couple of issues here (based on vague recollections of a discussion on slashdot).

        The first was that this was near the end of to 2.2 series, so Linus didn't want to accept any major changes, and the decision was to wait for the 2.4 kernel.

        And the second was that there would have been a tremendous number of #ifdef patches. So the decision was to slightly modify the design of the 2.4 kernel so that there would be fewer required. And to wait for the 2.4 kernel.
        But it was reported that there were some vigourous discussions before that decision was made.
    • You have some very valid points indeed.

      My concern is that are the current programmers who are cooperating on writing the Linux kernel know how to write kernel code that will take advantage of IBM mainframe hardware? Programming for multiprocessor x86 server boxes is one thing, but programming for IBM mainframes with their POWER CPU design, massively parallel CPU architecture and high bandwidth I/O everywhere is quite something else, especially if you want it to run with the type of extreme reliability mainframe users demand.
  • Good Business (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nevis (124302) on Monday August 20, 2001 @08:32AM (#2197008)
    Now the Giant, along with many other companies, jump to Linux bandwagon.

    1. As has already been stated IBM has been on the Linux bandwagon for several years now.

    2. This makes perfect sense for IBM. They are mainly a service company and secondly a hardware company. Anyone who has done business with IBM knows that they, like most other large computer companies, make their money on installation and support. If they can cut the expense of developing their own OS they can focus on their core business.

    • Good point. And then there's this comment:

      "The question is wether this bandwagon is capable of carrying a Giant that huge."

      Actually, the Giant will be helping to carry Linux, so it's not a case of the bandwagon carrying the Giant -- because, once they adopt Linux, they also become contributors.

      The bandwagon grows because of people adopting it, not in spite of it. :)
  • This is dumb (Score:3, Insightful)

    by teknopurge (199509) on Monday August 20, 2001 @08:33AM (#2197011) Homepage
    Sorry to all the Linux kids out there, but real Unix Operating Systems, such as Solaris and BSD-based systems, are stronger, more stable, and faster, when set up correctly, then linux will ever be. Why? simple: SLC's are there for a reason. The linux kernel may be controlled and coordinated by one person, but imagine a person with the supposed talent of Linus, times 50, working on making the Solaris Kernel better.

    Note: I am not a Solaris advocate.

    teknopurge
    • Re:Catch up? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by jetski666 (119633)
      How is the kernel supposed to catch up to an OS like Solaris? IBM has 3 OS's to work on, i.e. AIX etc. On the other hand, Sun has 1 OS to support all their machines from back in the SPARCstation 1 days. It's completely specialized to run on ultrasparcs (albeit, intel is supported, SLOWLY). For Linux to support everything that Solaris does, it would take forever. Sun has the money to throw into the development because it relies on Solaris and nothing else. Linux runs really well on Intel hardware, and I think with the coming of 64bit processors, dirt cheap prices, and new motherboards, that it will become much more efficient to run intel/amd hardware. Plus once more cache is placed on these processors they will be more suitable for servers.

      I don't think it's a matter of when Linux catches up, I think it's a matter of when I can put in 64 intel/amd processors in a system of 8 system boards and do it while the system is on. Right now, AMD & intel are having a big enough problem finding decent chipsets to work on 1 damn processor. I think it's a matter of hardware for intel (just because they have the most marketshare). We know they make huge mistakes (RDRAM? Were they drunk when they thought that disaster up?) and companies like AMD are much better. I want IBM to step in this realm and throw some punches.
  • Irving Wladawsky-Berger, vice president of technology strategy, IBM Server Group, addressed the IBM Technical Developer Conference in San Francisco on Linux and open standards.
    Link. [ibm.com]
  • Duh... (Score:2, Informative)

    by cornice (9801)
    IBM wants to spend one tenth as much for development of an OS that isn't tied to Microsoft that it can give away (which got them in trouble before) with its hardware (which is its real business). Why would this surprise anyone?

    Two more points.

    1 - Linux isn't AIX and has a ways to go. Same with OS/400, etc.

    2 - IBM doesn't want to control Linux as long as it can do what they need. They got in trouble for giving their OS away before. Giving away somebody else's OS I assume is OK though.
    • The problem wasn't IBM giving away their OS. The problem was adding useless instructions to the OS and the hardware so the operating system or applications (from IBM) couldn't run on other hardware.


      They were able to do this since they released micro-code patches which included additional low-level instructions. Which is some cases were nothing but NOP (equivilent) instructions.


      By dividing the OS group from the Hardware group it becomes difficult to tie two products together to that degree.

  • its a nice thing to say shows IBM is serious and means that they can claim to M$ that they are not trying to market Linux to anyone except people who used unix

    (which is a good thing the less the big ape hears about linux the better)

    BUT in reality as a solution it wont fit everyone AIX gets most of its power through its custom hardware

    and template binarys are something real cool that linux wont get anytime soon the thing that IBM love about linux is that the researchers in the LABs love it and since alot of IBM blue sky stuff turns over their proffits then its a good bet considering hardware is where IBM really shine (buy a harddrive today and you pay IBM one way or another)

    the point is horses for courses

    the nice thing is that their is a winer overall in a multi disapline event and its nice to that IBM thinks the winner will be linux

    regards

    joh jones

  • That is the real question.

    I am sure IBM is not sitting there idling. I would hope they are not leaving it to us(the open source community) to build them the os they want. I assume they are hard at work on this project at hand.

    That is nothing but good news. Not only could we benefit from the things they build but more importantly, maybe they could be the leaders of direction. "Where do you want to go today?"

    Some people may worry about a big corporation being too heavily involved in their "free os". I personally look forward to the days to come if IBM get truly involved. I first tried linux a few years ago and loved it, and continue to use it today. However, I thought at this point it would be farther ahead in some areas. If it takes a company like IBM to come in and challenge, lead and contribute then fine by me.

    Even if it doesn't work for IBM, the advances will benefit all of us who use it now and this is a Good Thing.
  • The future... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The_Messenger (110966) on Monday August 20, 2001 @08:51AM (#2197072) Homepage Journal
    This is very simple... while GNU/Linux may someday reach the level of stability and scalabilty that is AIX's claim to fame, it isn't there yet. AIX was developed from the group up, by IBM, to kick ass on IBM hardware. GNU/Linux was developed by a diverse group of developers -- each with different goals; some wanted a server OS, some wanted a desktop OS -- for cheapo x86 hardware. GNU/Linux's appearance in enterprise IT and scientific computing was a fluke... but a particularly lucky one.

    But assuming that GNU/Linux can evolve to an acceptable level (the level of UNIX, in other words), and assuming that the support from IBM, HP, Sun, and Compaq continues, we'll be in a great position. One of the promises of UNIX was portability; if five commercial UNIXs have a common interface, they should be easy to port between, right?

    Wrong... years of corporate specialization and AT&T's rightful protection of the system have created a computing culture which is almost as closed as Microsoft's. Now, porting an application from Solaris to HP-UX can potentially take as long as porting from Solaris to NT.

    Enter GNU/Linux. Stallman, Torvalds, and the rest of the usual suspects essentially ripped off AT&T. (It's crucial that you understand this. While those developers can be thanked for the GNU/Linux implementation, the design and archiecture is stolen-- albeit modifed -- IP.) GNU/Linux is UNIX-like, but is also completely open. Thus, if Linux can meet these corporate giants' needs, they should adopt it.

    IBM's adoption of Linux for the enterprise will mean many things. It will mean that RS/6000 customers like myself will get new software faster, because Linux is always ahead of AIX on software developers' port lists. And if Linux can also run reasonably on Sun and HP hardware, then we could be talking about UNIX's dream of portability, embodied in GNU/Linux: an open, common interface for hardcore RISC systems. This would be a good thing for everybody expect supporters of inferior x86 servers: x86 hardware vendors and Microsoft.

    But while GNU/Linux has brought this uptopia one step closer, it isn't here yet. Talk to any knowledgable, experienced developer or sysadmin, and he will tell you that GNU/Linux simply can't touch UNIX for the majority of serious computing tasks. Linux is cheaper, and in some instances is faster, but just can't deliver the same kind of scalable performance and rock-solid availabilty that are the reasons I'm running AIX right now.

    • Wrong... years of corporate specialization and AT&T's rightful protection of the system have created a computing culture which is almost as closed as Microsoft's. Now, porting an application from Solaris to HP-UX can potentially take as long as porting from Solaris to NT.

      This is an interesting point that hasn't been brought up much in this discussion. Linux is much closer to being a lingua franca in the software world than is AIX, so switching to Linux would be like saying, "Okay, we'll speak English now." It may not be the best, but it certainly helps business.

      • so switching to Linux would be like saying, "Okay, we'll speak English now."

        But which kind of English?

        Red hat English, SuSE English, Mandrake English? Or perhaps Slackware English, Corel English or Stampede English? Debian English? Ultra English, Yellow Dog English? Caldera OpenEnglish, Storm English, Bastille English, Castle English, LinuxOne English, Mastodon English, OpenShare English or Ocularis English? Phat English, SlackNet English? WinEnglish, Think Blue English, Yggdrasil English?

        Or one of the 10s or 100s more dialects available?

        Just curious...

    • GNU/Linux's appearance in enterprise IT and scientific computing was a fluke...

      I would argue that its appearance in the scientific-computing community wasn't a fluke; in fact, I'll assert that scientific computing was one of Linux's earliest natural "markets."

      Scientific organizations typically have

      - lots of raw intellectual and technical talent,
      - meager funding and tight budgets,
      - a "doing it right often means doing it yourself" mind-set, and
      - lots of in-house curiosity.

      Can you think of a more natural environment for a home-brew OS's ferment?

      (I started using and supporting Linux for serious scientific computing in 1993.)

    • by FreeUser (11483) on Monday August 20, 2001 @10:36AM (#2197484)
      (It's crucial that you understand this. While those developers can be thanked for the GNU/Linux implementation, the design and archiecture is stolen-- albeit modifed -- IP.)

      While you make some good points, I take exception to this characterization of GNU/Linux's similarity to UNIX and its POSIX compliance as "stolen IP." Numerous court decisions, including Apple v. Microsoft, have consistently ruled that compatiblity, compliance to standards, and even the wholesale mimicking of a competitor's look and feel do not constitute a violation of intellectual property in any manner. The design and architecture were copied legally (actually, to be historically accurate, they were copied from a copy ... namely from MINIX, which was a minimal, educational recreation of UNIX 7), not stolen in any sense of the word, not even in the "newspeak" sense that the Copyright Cartels and DMCA Apologists have redefined the word to mean.
      • It should also be noted that POSIX and the Single UNIX Specification (etc) are published standards specifically so that independant parties can re-implement them without having to pay licence fees. That's the original meaning of the term "Open System".

        The money is on the certification side (the "UNIX" brandname). The fact that Linux hasn't been certified hasn't seemed to hurt it a bit.
    • Everyone in this discussion is talking about how Linux is not quite/ not yet up to the mark of a commercial unix variant. I have occasionally used Unixes ( AIX/Solaris/Linux) mostly as a programmer using POSIX/Unix APIs and haven't found much difference(other than the fact that the documents for linux are much better and charming).I don't really know much about "enterprise quality , mission critical" operating system features. So assuming these people are right, where do you get such comparisions / technical information /feature lists ? Any links , mailing list etc will be greatly appreciated. And while we are at it , can anyone please explain why the hell I can't print a < sign in my subject header ?
    • Re:The future... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nathanm (12287) <nathanmNO@SPAMengineer.com> on Monday August 20, 2001 @11:17AM (#2197643)
      AIX was developed from the group up, by IBM, to kick ass on IBM hardware. GNU/Linux was developed by a diverse group of developers -- each with different goals; some wanted a server OS, some wanted a desktop OS -- for cheapo x86 hardware.
      I'm assuming you meant from the ground up, right? If so, then that's not true. AIX is a real, licensed Unix, which means it shares source code with all other SVR4 Unices. In the interview [zdnet.co.uk] with Ransom Love in this /. article [slashdot.org], he claims SCO UnixWare has 70% common code with AIX5L. That's hardly from the ground up. Besides, Unix has been developed to run on a variety of platforms, from the ancient PDP-11 to desktop workstations to big iron servers.
  • Desktop Machines (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Torulf (214883) on Monday August 20, 2001 @08:52AM (#2197075)
    It would really be nice to see someone (IBM) try to build a Linux desktop system. With high quality hardware and Linux with GNOME or KDE we would end up with a machine resembling an Apple G4 + OS X.
    Could there be any money in such a move?
  • by Otis_INF (130595) on Monday August 20, 2001 @08:54AM (#2197094) Homepage
    These machines have the same hardware, but different OS-es. The RS/6000 group ships their systems with AIX, while the AS/400 group ships their systems with OS/400 and if the customer wants a Unix, with Linux, not with AIX.

    Rumour has it that the groups don't like eachother that much. What I wonder now is: is IBM axing the complete RS/6000 group in favor of the AS/400 group?
    • the RS/6000 software cannot run on the AS/400 hardware and vica-versa. The As/400 PowerPc chips are unique from what I have seen in the IBM server offerings.

      Now there is competition between all groups in IBM, which is probably one reason IBM sells lots of servers (when you can call a /390, a As/400, and an RS/6000 all servers - and they all appeal to different corporate cultures you can make some impressive sales)

      Now, the As/400 runs Linux virtualized... with no real perfomance penalty, and this is how they run Apache, which btw is mostly threaded because of Rochester As/400 programmers...

      The key to the whole article is that Linux receives a lot of press, but its not a powerful operating system. Its an average operating system that is open to peer review, and average and open can mean many times more value than excellent and closed.
  • by Lxy (80823)
    Linux beats AIX?

    I think it'd be childish to throw beets at AIX. AIX had its day in the sun (and probably on one at some point) and it was a great OS. If linux is truly better it should humble itself and send AIX off with a retirement party, not just throw things at at. Especially beets, they stain clothing.


  • Having worked in both places, and ridden both beasts, I can give people a qualified yes when it comes to wether or not IBM wants to very deeply embrace Linux. Why a "qualified yes"? I'll try to explain:

    IMHO, for the year or so I worked at IBM as a contractor, Linux sort of went from a curious oddity the engineers tossed around on the floor to something that upper management decided would be good for the company to look into. Although I obviously cant speak for IBM as a whole, or even the division I worked in, it seemed pretty clear to me that IBM was trying to move as fast as possible in Linux' direction...As fast as any company of IBM's size can manage, as it were. My job there was to run-test (heh, or crash-test, depending on your POV) RAID subsystems, writing code basically meant to abuse the array to the point where it failed, and coughed up errors we felt might arise in the feild. We were doing alot of parallel testing on a variety of platforms, Linux included.

    Unfortunately, I can tell you from my own personal observations that Linux as of 2.2 wasn't quite ready to handle the sort of stresses that are normally endured successfully by other platforms. Without getting into details (Ay, the spectre of my 6-month NDA looms above) management spent some time trying to determine if Linux was "ready for prime-time", and wasn't finding what it needed..In my little niche, at least. This was a while ago, and I hope that the situation has improved somewhat...but I cant help but get the feeling the same sort of thing was happening elsewhere within the company. It seemed everyone there wants to make inroads towards Linux, to sort of adopt it in a parent-child sort of way, but the Linux picture really hasnt fully gelled yet to where companies like IBM can bet their money on it with total confidence. Nonetheless, the demand is there folks..Customers are asking the company for solutions involving Linux, even on the big iron. IBM wants to embrace Linux, but Linux isn't maturing fast enough in the right areas. It would be wise for us to get hammering on the things that need to be addressed...By the time we actually get around to solidifying whats important (ie. a standardized GUI we can all use instead of two sibling projects who don't want to play in the same sandbox) and hammering out the better known weaknesses in Linux (The handling of SCSI devices, in particular) it may already be too late, unfortunately.

    Cheers,
    • By the time we actually get around to solidifying whats important (ie. a standardized GUI we can all use instead of two sibling projects who don't want to play in the same sandbox) and hammering out the better known weaknesses in Linux (The handling of SCSI devices, in particular) it may already be too late, unfortunately.

      As someone who uses Linux with SCSI every day,
      I can confirm that Linux is much less stable with
      SCSI devices. Typically an error on the SCSI bus will start an unending sequence of bus resets. Buffer allocation leaks in the st driver error out after a couple of opens (if you are using st, you
      basically have to allocate buffers at boot or mod load time; otherwise the buffer issue will kill the device quickly); also the st performance is
      awful when configured for reliable writing (unbuffered, synchronous) and the st devices defaults to a useless configuration with a bizarre
      mechanism for getting a useful device that means you will never know from one machine to the next if your code will work. SCSI DVD-RAM is recognized but completely unsupported and the sr
      maintainer appears to think that DVD-RAM is
      similar to CD-RW (not true; CD-RW only does packet
      writes, while DVD-RAM can be treated like a hard-drive. It should just be added to the sd
      driver.) The sd driver has its own problems,
      basically ignoring the drive 10byte command request and using 6byte commands anyway unless
      the sector being written is out of the 6-byte command range (6-byte commands don't work at all
      with some of the newer SCSI devices). Device ordering is messed up, the OS doesn't correctly
      recognize the BIOS settings for SCSI before IDE
      so booting such a system adds the chore of manually maintaining BIOS drive numbers. SCSI busses are recognized in a predetermined order defined by their scan names instead of their order
      on the PCI bus. As a result Linux often gets the
      order incorrect half of the time if two different SCSI controllers are installed (patch the scan order and rebuild the kernel to get past this
      problem.) And there are some filesystem partition size limits around 32G and 8G that require patches to get around.

      And those are just the problems that I've personally encountered in the last two years
      off the top of my head.

  • The idea of IBM dropping AIX 100% in favor of Linux is a pretty long shot. As long as they have paying customers for AIX support, AIX will continue to live. Now where Linux comes in as a big play for IBM may have something to do with upgrade paths. Say for instance company X developes an application but they can't afford to ramp to big iron hardware to run it. IBM sells them some netfinities running Linux to get them jumpstarted. Then if their business starts to expand they would have the ability to migrate them up to a RS/6000 or AS/400 based system. The big kicker is that they can maintain 100% portability across the hardware platforms. Migration is a simple compile away :) This is a pretty powerful proposition, especially with the market in its current state. VC is dry, revenues are down, the idea of starting cheap and ramping up when needed may be Linux's biggest strength.
    ~
  • It was only 2 years ago when IBM dropped a huge majority of custome solutions for Windows NT platforms.


    It was 3 years ago when the ball dropped on the infamouse (and powerfull) OS/2 solution. (well, someoen over at http://www.ecomstation.com is picking up now).


    IBM Changes software and solutions like there is no tommorow. If it isn't Calle E-Gizmo then IBM will change it to that.


    IBM Supporting linux is great, hooray! woopie. But don't expect much. It was the users who supported IBM and it was IBM who told the users to shove off. Hopefully that won't happen again.


    AIX just sucks so i don't know why they're saying anything about linux competing with AIX. AIX has more patches then you can shake a stick at, java is flaky at best and supported libraries are rare at most.


    Oh well.

  • If IBM axes AIX for Linux, then it would just repeat the very same mistake it did with the PC. Unitarism may be bad for business in terms of short-term expenses. But in long term it is rewardable to have a few R&D teams instead of one big huge team. Let us note that Linux benefitted a lot from AIX on the part of jfs and lvm. Weird to know if these things would evolve so well in a monolithic environment.

    AIX may be hard to understand. Much harder then Linux. But this system works much better than Linux or even Solaris in cases when one needs higher security, good file management and automatised work round the clock. Here we have two AIX systems serving as Web servers. For the three years they worked we never had serious problems with them. Practically they only suffer minor upgrades and are practically carrying the same system they came with. No matter the time, these machines keep performing high in this OS. And we keep sticking on it no matter that there is a more modern variant of Linux for these machines.

    There are only a few but significant minus with AIX. One is the terrible lack of support and documentation. Well, IBM may not feel this critical but when one compares the situation with Linux, BSD or even Solaris, then AIX is seriously loosing. The second problem is the way the system costs. It's a Hell of money if one considers that even version upgrades cost good money. And finally is the fact that AIX is not so well integrated on the community as its brothers. The system may be excelent but it is hard to use popular open source tools on it.
  • AIX and Linux are already merging: many of the GNU and open-source software packages are available for AIX. Redhat Package Manager and RPM packaged software is available for AIX 4.3.3 and the new 5.1L (no indication yet if they are going to move away from the installp format to rpm only). New filesystems have been added to 5.1L (/opt, /proc) to be more compatible with Linux oriented software packages. Gnome and KDE are even included with 5.1L and can be installed as your default desktop when you load a new system.

    Many other people have pointed our the areas where Linux needs growth and AIX is strong. AIX is weak in areas where Linux provides strength:
    Multimedia - Linux has better sound support
    User Business Software - Love to see Star/OpenOffice or Applixware for AIX
    Desktop Interface - Until AIX 5.1L, only desktops available were X11/Motif and CDE.

    As someone who works with AIX, I'm very excited about the improvements Linux will bring to AIX.

  • If IBM writes industrial-strength, expensive, supportable applications for Linux (like Domino, for example) then they can sell those apps to people that don't have the bucks to buy their specialized hardware.

    For the past several years, IBM has been moving into the support and services areas with less of an emphasis on selling hardware. Selling complex software that requires specialized implementation services fits perfectly into that model. Porting those Apps to a less expensive platform makes the apps (and the implementation services) appeal to a much broader range of small- and medium-sized businesses. They can sell to companies that can't currently afford the big iron to run those apps.

    Opening up new markets for tried-and-true applications is probably a very good business decision. I've never been a big IBM fan at all, but personally, I think it's a shrewd and calculated move. I applaud them for making it.

    - Freed

  • IBM will ditch AIX in favor of Linux if they think Linux is better. Well, I should hope so. Since they aren't trying to fund their company with the OS, but just want it to take advatage of their expensive hardware, it makes sense that they'd want to provide their customers with the best OS for the hardware. If that means they don't have to work on AIX any more, so much the better.

    They'd probably say the same about BSD if they thought it might get that good on IBM hardware.
  • AIX is what introduced me to *nix all those years ago in the school computer lab. The IBM PPC boxen running it beat the snot out of the Sun Sparc stations in the next room.


    However, I've seen AIX, and I know that IBM obviously has some pretty decent *nix coders in their stable. You'd think they could take what they have and coble together "AIX/Linux" instead of throwing away a perfectly good OS.

  • I think what companies with such strong trademarks and consumerbase as IBM sees in Linux is free labour.

    AIX costs huge amount of $$$ to develop, with Linux all they have to do is to put a few engineers on adopting it. Instead of spending money on developing a whole OS, just write some drivers and adopt it to your hardware.

    Ofcause, initially there will be some high costs moving towards Linux but in the end I think free labour is a all win situation for IBM.
  • by jd (1658) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {kapimi}> on Monday August 20, 2001 @10:32AM (#2197460) Homepage Journal
    But it is neither obvious, nor trivial.


    My work on the FOLK project (IMHO) demonstrates that all the technology needed to support highly-scalable Linux systems, with all the capabilities any corporation would expect from a top-of-the-line OS.


    HOWEVER, the patches necessary to get Linux to that point are NOT yet part of the mainstream kernel, and in some cases, maintenance is... ...sporadic. Worse, the patches frequently conflict, making it difficult to produce anything workable from them.


    This leads to the "not obvious" answer -- IBM has to do it's OWN "FOLK-style" project, to include the necessary capabilities, essentially forking the patches to keep them in line with the kernel.


    IBM would ALSO have to do a thorough kernel audit. For for the FOLK project, we're looking at reverse-engineering the specification, fixing that, and then fixing the code to match. (The reason for using that approach is that specs are generally easier to debug, and are generally a LOT shorter, making it practical for one or two people to do.)


    The argument about Linux "not scaling" is true -and- false. SGI showed that part of the problem was in the scheduling. HP has an excellent scheduler plug-in system, so you can have schedulers that are optimal for any given configuration, if you really want.


    There's also a problem of latency, but the low-latency patches deal with many of those issues.


    Of course, not all clusters are going to be simple arrays of processors. You might have nodes on a VME bus. No problem - the VME patch takes care of that.


    Then, you have local-area and wide-area clusters. MOSIX and bproc deal with those issues, too.


    For those still using transputers, there is an excellent b.004/b.008 link driver, out there.


    Software base too limited? There's an ABI patch, which gives you support for a wide range of UNIX OS' binaries. The WINE patch is pretty decent, too.


    All in all, if IBM play their cards right, and pull Linux out of the quagmire its been in, this could benefit both IBM and Linux enormously.


    (Quagmire? What quagmire? The Linux kernel's rate of development has not been impressive, in the 2.[34] arena, even though development of Linux kernel code is as fast as it has ever been. Linus has wanted to slow down, but I worry that it has become -too- slow, and risks getting stuck in pure-and-simple human inertia. The IPv6 stack, for example, is now WAAAY behind the USAGI version, despite the fact that the Linux IPv6 has had many more years in which to develop and grow.)


    I really and truly hope that this is the Miracle Grow for Linux, and not the Strimmer. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

  • by bee (15753) on Monday August 20, 2001 @11:30AM (#2197696) Homepage Journal
    A few years ago (1995-1997) I actively maintained several AIX boxes as part of my job as a Unix sysadmin, and thus got to know the nasty beast first-hand. Granted, AIX is twisted and mutant, but there are a couple of areas where it does rock.

    First let me pass along an analogy told to me (alas I don't know its origin). There were these two intelligent alien races. They didn't know each other's language, but they did have a universal translator that could translate between them; however it was somewhat buggy and didn't always do a terribly good job, but it was good enough most of the time. The first alien race had BSD Unix, and knowledge of System V Unix, and told it to the second alien race through the broken universal translator. The second race, thus enlightened, went off and wrote: AIX.

    Humor aside, my AIX experience was something like "SUCKS" "SUCKS" "SUCKS" "oh wait, this is cool" "SUCKS", heh. What the open source community needs to do is identify the cool parts and add them to our own OSen. An example of what NOT to add would be the way AIX plays fast and loose with /etc/inittab -- it will happily let you edit /etc/inittab and do whatever you want with it, but it will quietly go behind your back and undo all the changes you made. To change /etc/inittab, you have to go through certain AIX commands that I have forgotten. There actually was a reason for this, but the details have slipped away.

    Ok, on to the actual cool things about AIX. For those of you that have used Solaris + Veritas, you already know how useful it can be, and what a pain in the ass it can be as well. AIX has had a volume manager for longer than any other Unix, and does it quite a bit better. In 1995, it was no problem at all to take all the data/filesystems on one disk and migrate them all to another disk transparently without taking the OS down or even degrading performance very much. Well, except if you were moving /, because then you had to make sure to make the new disk bootable (and generally every AIX sysadmin would screw this up the first time and destroy the system as a result, but see the second point below). The volume manager lets you create and delete and resize filesystems on the fly; it wasn't so good at shrinking filesystems back in 1995 but I'm sure it's gotten better since then. My sysadmin style between Solaris and AIX was totally different: on AIX I'd create filesystems exactly as large as I needed them at the time, and would only grow them when they got to 99% full or so, whereas on Solaris w/o Veritas I'd simply slice up the disk into as few filesystems as possible and allocate all the disks at system install. The AIX way was lots more flexible, though it did involve the loss of the traditional BSD-style disk slice partitioning.

    The other thing that AIX totally rocked on was its backup command, mksysb. This created a bootable tape with the entirety of the root volume on it (generally you'd have a root volume with all the system filesystems, and a data volume for your big-ass database etc.) Literally all you had to do to restore your system was change the keyswitch into 'Service' mode, pop the tape into the tape drive, and power the system on. It would boot off the bootable tape, find all the backup info, and restore the entire system to what it was at the time of the backup. No muss, no fuss, it just worked. It saved my bacon a couple of times, and it certainly made for less frazzled sysadmin nerves, knowing that no matter how badly you hosed the system, you could go to the last backup and you wouldn't have to even think to restore the thing, just pop in the tape, boot it up, let it do its thing, and go have a beer.

    Anyways, these were the two brightest shining points of sysadminning AIX when I was doing it. I'd love to have either/both of these features on any OS I'm responsible for, and I'm sure that these are the kinds of things that IBM wants from Linux.
  • AIX is designed with a completely different mindset and for a completely different user population that Linux. I doubt AIX customers would be happy with Linux in anything like its current form, and I doubt Linux users would be happy if all the stuff added to AIX to make IBM's mainframe customers happy were added to Linux.

    I was using AIX workstations until a couple of years ago. Here are some of the things that drove me up the wall about them:

    • Lousy file system performance. IBM's JFS is a dog when it comes to file operations. In side-by-side comparisons at the time, a low-end IDE PC running Linux 1.* would be 3-4 times faster than an PowerPC IBM workstation with high performance SCSI disks on file system structure operations (creating lots of small files, removing lots of small files, etc.).
    • Very slow booting. This is actually not an AIX problem, but a problem with the way IBM's workstations handle the SCSI bus. No matter what, workstations and servers would take from minutes to hours (!) to get through the boot process (I hope this has gotten fixed over the last couple of years). I mainly mention it because journalling is often advocated in order to make servers boot faster; well, on AIX systems, it didn't make much of a difference because booting was so slow anyway.
    • Logical volume management. LVM potentially degrades system performance because linear block addresses do not correspond to physical block location anymore. It also complicates system management, introducing another layer of indirection. And it potentially reduces system reliability when it is used to spread file systems across multiple disks.
    • System management objects and SMIT. System configuration information is stored in binary databases. That makes it inaccessible to scripting languages. Furthermore, if the file system runs out of space during a management operation, the database gets corrupted.
    • Non-standard linker semantics. The AIX linker does not behave at all like a regular UNIX linker. Among other things, it loads all symbols into memory at once and then does garbage collection. The end result is a linker that fails to give meaningful diagnostics about multiply defined symbols, fails in subtle ways on standard UNIX software, and consumes a lot of time and memory doing so.
    • Many of the system-level commands you may be used to from other versions of UNIX just don't exist at all or behave completely differently.

    AIX is so un-UNIXy that the Unix System Administrator Handbook [amazon.com] kept making fun of it throughout its pages as the odd-man-out (it also deals with Solaris, Irix, HP/UX, and others), comments they removed in later editions presumably not to upset AIX users too much.

    In defense of AIX workstations and servers, they are very reliable machines, and people who work only in the AIX world and don't deal with other UNIX systems probably never notice and don't care about the idiosyncracies.

    Altogether, I see a big culture clash if IBM tries to move AIX users to Linux. And I think that clash may well end up harming Linux if it causes stuff like JFS and LVM to be adopted more widely in Linux. Let's not fall into the Microsoft mindset where everybody must run the same software; there is nothing wrong with having Linux, AIX, Windows, Solaris, and other systems co-exist. We don't need an OS monoculture.

God may be subtle, but he isn't plain mean. -- Albert Einstein

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