IBM intends to follow in Hewlett-Packard?s footsteps and launch a 64-bit version of its Unix operating system, on 6 October.
Although Big Blue does not believe that 64-bit addressing will move into the mainstream for at least two years, because of a lack of applications, it does believe the extra memory capability currently has certain specialised uses.
Bill Sandve, IBM?s programme director of RS/6000 software, said: ?I don?t see demand for 64-bit Unix at the applications level, unless it?s for taking advantage of databases for decision support purposes. The more leading edge organisations will take advantage of it for things like multimedia, but we?re offering users a low cost, low risk transition, so they can migrate when they feel it?s necessary.?
He added that the move had not involved a major rewrite because the kernel of AIX had been designed with 64-bit addressing in mind.
With version 4.3, which is due to ship later this autumn, IBM had simply extended the buffers, the kernel facilities and utilities and added 64-bit libraries to the existing 32-bit ones already in the operating system.
This means that users can choose to run the OS in either 32 or 64-bit mode and all of the device drivers will work without modification.
Customers will also be able to run their 32-bit applications on the new release, but would need to rewrite them to take advantage of the enhanced memory capacity, which has quadrupled to 16Gbytes.
Tools and libraries will be made available to enable users to start migrating their applications immediately should they wish to upgrade their hardware at the end of the year.
This is when the first 64-bit RS/6000s are scheduled to appear, powered by the Apache chip that will also form the basis of the AS/400. The boxes will scale up to 12 processors rather than the existing eight-way limit.
Other features included in AIX release 4.3 are support for the LP64 standard, IP version 6, ONC+ and release 11.6 of X Windows. Visual Systems Manager has also been upgraded to enable users to manage their systems remotely via a Java-based Web browser.
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