Unix updates bolster workhorse operating system

If you haven't been paying attention to Unix lately, now is the time. Unix expert King Ables summarizes enhancements of the three main Unix flavors.

With all the press Linux gets these days, it's easy to forget that there are still many versions of Unix diligently doing their duty in data centers around the world. In an effort to give some equal time to Linus' inspiration, let's take a look at some of the latest innovations in recent releases of the industry-leading versions of Unix: AIX, HP-UX, and Solaris.

AIX

When IBM released its latest version of Unix in 2001, they named it AIX 5L, adding the "L" to indicate an affinity with Linux. AIX 5L runs on the IBM System p5, eServer p5 and pSeries, eServer iSeries, BladeCenter, IntelliStation and RS/6000 platforms.

The latest version of AIX 5L, 5.3, was released in 2004, and supports application binary compatibility with previous versions of AIX 5L running on the same architecture.

AIX 5L 5.3 includes a number of new or significantly improved management features.

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The Second Journaling File System (JFS2) now supports dynamically enlarging or shrinking a file system, the ability to make a snapshot of or restore a file system, and quota management capabilities.

Kernel and processor support for micro-partitioning allows the system administrator to fine-tune the use of system resources in fractions of virtual partitions and processor usage on POWER processor architectures.

Kernels running on POWER architectures now support simultaneous multithreading (SMT).

The new System Update Management Assistant (SUMA) provides an automated, policy-based mechanism to download AIX fixes directly from IBM support.

A new accounting subsystem provides more advanced data gathering and statistics than the traditional Unix accounting system.

NFS Version 4, developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), provides increased security and performance over previous versions provided by Sun Microsystems.

HP-UX

The current Unix release from Hewlett-Packard is known as HP-UX 11i Version 2. First released in 2003, 11i v2 has seen several updates, including the most recent in June of this year. HP-UX 11i v3 is due to be released at the end of this year.

HP-UX 11i v2 brings two separate releases of HP-UX back together. Following the release of HP-UX 11.11 for the HP 9000 (PA-RISC processor) in 2000, a new version of HP-UX, derived from 11.11 and labeled HP-UX 11i, was released to support the new Integrity server platform utilizing the 64-bit Itanium processor. Subsequent releases of 11i supported one platform or the other, but not both until Version 2.

HP-UX 11i v2 includes the following new hardware-related features:

  • Support for both PA-RISC and HP/Intel Itanium architectures
  • Support for 128 processors (increased from 64 in v1)
  • Binary compatibility for PA-RISC applications running on Itanium-based systems
  • Support for Cache Coherent Non-Uniform Memory Access (ccNUMA)

    HP-UX 11i v2 also provides several new systems management capabilities.

    Virtual partitions (running multiple instances of HP-UX on a single system) are now supported on both processor platforms and the operating system can support virtual partitions running other supported operating systems (i.e., Windows or Linux).

    The new HP-UX Security Attributes Configuration Tool allows the system administrator to configure system-wide and per-user security attributes via a Web interface.

    A new web-based kernel configuration tool, kcweb, provides a platform- independent, graphical interface that can be used to monitor and modify kernel parameters of a running system.

    Solaris

    The latest release of Unix from Sun Microsystems is Solaris 10, released in 2005. Being a major new release, it brought many new features, not the least of which is one not related to either hardware or software, but a financial feature: Solaris 10 is now (mostly) open source and can be downloaded free of charge. Of course, Sun hopes you'll still want to purchase add-on products and support services.

    Solaris 10 features some significant new hardware and performance-related changes:

  • Support for Sun SPARC and Intel x86 architectures (both 32-bit and 64-bit)
  • It will run Linux applications (on x86 platforms) via the Linux Application Environment
  • A new unified TCP/IP stack yields significant networking performance increases
  • Binary compatibility for Solaris applications back to Solaris 2.6

    Solaris 10 also boasts quite a number of new management and security-related features.

    A new file system, Zettabyte File System (ZFS), claims increased data integrity and consistency, superior manageability, vast scalability, and high performance. With built-in volume management functionality, ZFS eliminates the requirement of an additional volume manager.

    A new dynamic tracing tool, DTrace, provides an interface for developers and system administrators to safely probe a running application or a running kernel for debugging or performance tuning purposes.

    Solaris Containers (aka Zones) allow an administrator to set up multiple virtual systems running on a single system (comparable to logical partitions in other versions of Unix).

    The new Service Management Facility (SMF) is a replacement for System V-based startup scripts and provides an interface allowing simple configuration and monitoring of system services.

    Solaris Fault Manager and Predictive self-healing enable diagnosis and isolation of and, in some cases, recovery from specific hardware and software failures, initially CPU, memory, and I/O bus problems.

    Process Rights Management provides a finer-grain of control (than standard Unix) over resources that a process may access.

    NFS Version 4, developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), provides increased security and performance over previous versions.

    King Ables earned his bachelor's degree in computer science from the University of Texas at Austin in 1982. He has been involved with Unix as a user, developer, systems administrator, consultant and author since 1979.

  • This was first published in September 2006

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