IBM has released the latest version of its AIX Unix operating system, with new functionality aimed at addressing some crucial gaps in the technology.
In a similar announcement, rival Sun Microsystems introduced a new version of its Solaris operating system that features capabilities aimed at boosting system performance and network management.
IBM's AIX 5L Version 5.2 builds on the company's efforts to migrate its mainframe technologies into the Unix server space. The new operating system comes with a mainframe-like dynamic logical partitioning capability that allows administrators to carve up a single large IBM Unix server into multiple virtual servers as small as a single processor and 250MB of memory.
The technology allows system resources, including processors and memory, to be dynamically assigned to such partitions as needed without having to reboot the system or bring down the partition.
This ability, which IBM has borrowed from its mainframe operating environment, allows for better system utilisation and delivers better total cost of ownership, said Mike Harrell, an AIX program manager. "Dynamic logical partitioning delivers an almost five-fold improvement in server utilisation," Harrell said.
Complementing this ability is a new capacity upgrade-on-demand feature that allows users to buy excess processor capacity upfront and switch it on when it's time to upgrade.
The new support for dynamic partitioning and capacity on demand fills a vital gap in IBM's Unix portfolio, said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata. Both are areas where IBM has trailed well behind rivals such as Sun and HP, Haff said.
Sun, for instance, has been offering hardware-based dynamic partitioning for some time on its high-end Unix servers, while HP has been offering capacity on demand with its Superdome servers for well over a year.
"IBM was clearly behind in these areas," Haff said. "With this announcement, it has largely caught up with its rivals."
Sun's new Solaris 9 9/02, meanwhile, is the first enhancement to Solaris 9 since it was announced in May. A key enhancement is a Memory Placement Optimisation function, which boosts large system performance by placing memory closer to the executing processor, said Bill Moffit, a Solaris line manager. This enhancement can speed up performance by up to 40 per cent, especially for "large memory" applications, Moffit said.
Solaris 9 9/02 also features an integrated Solaris 9 IP Quality of Service capability -- previously called bandwidth manager on Solaris 8 -- that allows administrators to allocate network bandwidth to applications based on their importance.
"It allows administrators to partition off the bandwidth for applications that need constant access to the network," Moffit said.
Both new operating system releases also come with other enhancements. For example, IBM's latest AIX version supports a new Cluster Systems Management technology that allows administrators to manage mixed clusters of Unix and Linux servers from a single console.
Meanwhile, with the latest version of Solaris, Sun is increasing the number of middleware components it is integrating into its operating system. Solaris 9 9/02 comes with middleware such as Sun ONE Portal Server, Sun ONE Web Server and Sun ONE Studio 4, and integrated development environments for Java technology developers.