IBM has started an open beta programme for AIX 7, its standards-based operating system.
The firm said that AIX 7 has many benefits compared to previous releases, and would let users "fully exploit" the performance and energy management tools included in its Power7 servers.
The AIX 7 Open Beta includes full binary compatibility for programs created on earlier versions, right down to 32-bit programs created on early releases. IBM said that this would let companies protect existing hardware investments, while still moving apps onto the new OS.
New features include increased support for workloads with up to 256 cores/1,024 threads in a single AIX logical partition. IBM said that this is four times greater than AIX 6. Other additions include built-in clustering and simplified configuration management.
"The planned release of AIX 7 underscores the IBM commitment to continued Unix innovation. IBM is designing AIX to be at the heart of systems that support Smarter Planet applications ranging from smart power grids to smarter traffic management," said Jeff Howard, director of marketing for IBM Power Systems.
"We expect that many of our clients and ISVs will participate in the AIX 7 open beta in order to be well positioned to exploit AIX 7 when it becomes generally available.
"Building on the success of AIX 6's open beta that helped hundreds of ISVs deliver certified applications at general availability, our AIX 7 open beta will help deliver smarter applications as well."
Clive Longbottom, service director for business process analysis at analyst Quocirca, said that developers may see the offer from IBM as tempting, but warned that their efforts may be better used elsewhere.
"AIX is a successful operating system, but IBM has fully embraced Linux and has also launched the 'i for Power' OS which is far more focused," he said.
"There are a lot of AIX users out there who have been worried about where AIX is going. News of a new version will be good for them. However, I'd just use AIX for dealing with immediate issues of the moment.
"A new version will give an additional two or three years where users can plan migration to another environment, whether this is Linux, i for Power, Windows or 'the cloud', that completely amorphous and hidden OS."
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