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UNIX turns 40

Skill Level: Intermediate


Ken Milberg (kmilberg@gmail.com)
Writer/site expert

01 Dec 2009
The systems world will shortly be celebrating a major anniversary milestone. UNIX
is turning 40 years old! Most of us know the story of how UNIX was born, but what
about why? Was it born strictly because its founders wanted to play a computer
game on a different platform? And why does UNIX continue to thrive 15 years after
an (in)famous Byte Magazine article that asked, "Is UNIX dead?" How has AIX (the
only UNIX flavor that has increased its market share through the years) been a part
of the evolution of UNIX and what are the current trends today in the UNIX arena?
These are just some of the topics this article explores.

The history of UNIX


The roots of UNIX date back to the late 1960s. Ken Thompson joined Bell Labs in
1966 in the Computing Research Department, which is when he started working on
the Multics project, a very ambitious effort to create a next-generation portable
operating system that eventually failed. Dennis Ritchie joined Bell Labs in 1968,
where he also started work on Multics. This was a joint effort of Bell Labs, MIT, and
GE to develop a new computer operating system. Through the efforts of Dennis
Ritchie and Ken Thompson, UNIX would be developed in 1969. Ken Thompson
developed a game on the GE-645 mainframe called Space Travel. Unfortunately,
the game was just running too slow on the GE box, so Thompson rewrote (in
assembly) the game for DEC's PDP-7, with the help of Dennis Ritchie. The porting
experience led Ken to develop a new OS for the PDP-7. This included a file system
as well as the new multi-tasking operating system itself. They included a
command-line interpreter and some small utility programs.
The project was originally named Unics, and it could eventually support two
simultaneous users, which led to some financial support from Bell. In 1970, UNIX
became the official name for the operating system, which ran on the PDP-11/20. It
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also included roff (a text formatting program) and a text editor. Ultimately, it was
rewritten in C in 1973, which made it portable and changed the history of operating
systems.
Why was UNIX created? While the porting of the game may have been the impetus,
there were other factors at work. It was clear that programmers needed a way to
share resources on the same box and multitask. These innovators recognized the
need for an OS that addressed issues of portability, muli-tasking, and multi-user
capability.

How has UNIX evolved and thrived?


Through the 1970s, UNIX went through many iterations and steadily gained
popularity. In 1977, the first commercial version became available through
Interactive Systems. It was during this time that the University of California at
Berkeley was also working to improve UNIX. They released their distribution, the
BSD version, which included the C shell. The AT&T version evolved into release 7 in
1978, which included the Bourne shell. In 1983, AT&T System V came to be with an
installed base of 45,000 users. Around this time, the University of California at
Berkeley released 4.2BSD, which included TCP/IP. This is where the cold war
started -- System V versus BSD.
In 1986, NFS shipped. AIX was also first announced at around this time. UNIX
already had an installed base of about a 250,000 users. In 1989, in an attempt to
solidify its market leadership, AT&T announced a pact with Sun Microsystems, the
leading proponent of the Berkeley-derived strain of UNIX. This evolved into what
would become System V, release IV. This release actually unified System V, BSD,
and Xenix. At this time, the installed UNIX base was over one million users.
In early 1993, AT&T sold its rights to Novell, which was looking for an OS to
standardize around. Novell did not manage this correctly, which they learned a few
years later when they entered the Linux arena with SUSE. Eventually SCO bought
the UNIX Systems business from Novell, and UNIX system source code and
technology continues to be developed by SCO. As SCO did not make much money
from this acquisition, they actually tried to use litigation as a revenue stream years
later when they sued Linux distributors, claiming that Linux stole the source code
from UNIX. IBM was even part of that suit, as they supported Linux distributions.
Eventually, SCO lost their case.
Today, there are three manufacturers that really dominate UNIX: HP (HP-UX), Sun
(Solaris), and IBM (AIX). Most users of UNIX are not really concerned as much
about ancillary factors such as BSD or System V commands, but are more
concerned with RAS (Reliability, Availability, and Scalability) factors, performance,
virtualization, and hardware integration. More than any other factor, this has been
why IBM has been more successful in recent years.

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SunOS/Solaris
SunOS version 1.0 was first introduced in 1983, along with support for Sun-1 and
Sun-2 systems. SunOS Version 2.0, introduced in 1985, came out with the virtual file
system (VFS) and NFS. In 1987, AT&T and Sun first announced that they would
work together to help merge System V and BSD into one release, based on System
V, release 4. SunOS was originally developed from the BSD flavor of UNIX in 1983.
It was later rebranded as Solaris (starting with version 5), based on AT&T System V
release IV, in 1993. The first 64-bit version of Sparc Solaris 7 would add support for
file system metadata logging. Solaris 9, introduced in 2002, added support for
Solaris Volume Manager and Linux capabilities. Their most important release would
be Solaris 10, which was first introduced in 2005 and included many new features
such as support for its new ZFS file system, Solaris Containers, and Logical
Domains.
HP-UX
Version 1 of HP's UNIX (HP-UX) was first released in 1984. It was originally based
on System V, release 3, and it ran exclusively on their RISC - PA-RISC HP 9000
platform. Version 9 introduced its character-based graphical user interface (GUI),
SAM, which allowed you to administrator the system without using the command
line. Version 10 was introduced in 1995, which brought changes in the layout of the
system file and directory structure, making it strikingly similar in many ways to AT&T
SVR4. Version 11 was first introduced in 1997. This was HP's first release to support
64-bit addressing. In 2000, 11i came to be, which introduced operating
environments, defined as bundled groups of layered applications for specific IT
purposes. In 2001, Version 11.20 introduced support for Itanium systems.
Interestingly enough, HP-UX was the first UNIX that used Access Control Lists
(ACLs) for file permissions. It was also one of the first to introduce built-in support for
Logical Volume Manager.

Why has UNIX thrived?


Many of us still remember that Byte Magazine article in 1990 that wondered "Is UNIX
dead?" The timing was around the impending release of Windows NT. Twenty
years later, most IT directors would rather chew on glass than run their
mission-critical applications on Windows servers. What is it about UNIX that keeps it
going?
Hardware support and integration. Unlike other operating systems such
as Linux or Windows, UNIX is typically packaged with vendor hardware
and because the operating system has been optimized for a specific
hardware platform, it offers performance and reliability advantages.
OS support. With UNIX operating systems, patches and fixes are all
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handled by the manufacturer of the specific brand of UNIX. You need not
browse the Web to find the appropriate fix for your problem. On many
occasions, phone support will direct you to the fix and even walk you
through the installation. The operating system is supported by your
vendor 24x7. When your box crashes (and every box crashes), there is
always someone to call.
Comfort level. If you prefer working with a company that can hold your
hand through all types of problems, UNIX is the answer for you. All UNIX
vendors offer standard 24x7 contracts on both the hardware and the OS.
The benefit here is that there is no finger pointing if something breaks,
because the vendor supports both the hardware and the OS.
Security. UNIX is one of the most secure operating systems available.
Portability. UNIX runs on many different platforms. While it can be
cumbersome to move to different flavors of UNIX, it is more an effect of
how the hardware manufacturers have chosen to modify their UNIX
flavors, which is less of a reflection on UNIX itself.
Reliability. UNIX is an extremely mature system, which just does not
crash like other commercial operating systems such as Windows. While
Linux is getting more mature, UNIX has almost 20 years on its little sister
OS.
Hardware. UNIX systems run on very high-end powerful hardware, such
as IBM's Power platform. The performance is greater than on any other
platform.

Trends and market share


In a February 2009 report by International Data Corporation (IDC), the following was
noted:
The UNIX market exhibited strong growth quarter over quarter with a
revenue increase of 30.4% ($3,741M to $4,877M) and a unit increase of
8.3% (114,845 to 124,346).
UNIX was the largest OS segment by revenue last quarter, eclipsing
Windows, which slipped to #2. Also on the processor front RISC systems
themselves saw a 32.7% increase in revenue and a 15.3% increase in
units shipped.
An April study showed even more. This IDC study on the UNIX market had UNIX at
$69 billion in 2008, predicts UNIX $74 billion in 2013. The same IDC report shows
The forecast says Linux-related software revenue will grow from $12 billion to $35
billion between 2008 and 2013. Furthermore, according to IDC, UNIX accounted for

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36% of overall server market revenue in last year's fourth quarter.


Unquestionably, UNIX is very much alive. What about AIX?
Figure 1 shows the revenue growth of AIX over the past several years. At the close
of 2008, IDC studies showed that IBM sold $6.4 billion worth of UNIX servers last
year, for a 37.2% market share, while Sun's sales amounted to $4.8 billion, for a
28.1% share. Trailing behind in third place was Hewlett-Packard Co., with $4.6
billion in sales and a 26.5% market share. The trend itself has been consistent,
starting in 2005. Gartner and IDC both ranked IBM as the market leader in the UNIX
space.
Figure 1. AIX and Power System market position

The history of AIX


AIX (Advanced Interactive eXecutive) is IBM's homegrown UNIX operating system.
AIX was first introduced by IBM in 1986. IBM ported AIX to its RS/6000 platform in
1989. The release of AIX Version 3 coincided with the announcement of the first
RS/6000 models. The unique factor of these systems were that they outperformed
all other machines in integer-compute performance and also by a factor of 10 in
floating-point performance.
Version 4 was introduced in 1994 and added support for symmetric multiprocessing
(SMP) with the first RS/6000 SMP servers. The operating system continued to
evolve until 1999, when AIX 4.3.3 introduced workload management (WLM). In May
2001, IBM unveiled AIX 5L, the L standing for "Linux affinity", which coincided with
the release of its POWER4 servers, which provided for the logical partitioning of
servers. IBM created their first midrange hypervisor around this combination. More
than any other factor, this was the breakthrough that IBM needed to challenge HP
and SUN for UNIX supremacy. In just a few short years, IBM would dominate the
market. In October of 2002, IBM announced dynamic logical partitioning (DLPAR)
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with AIX 5.2. AIX 5.3, introduced in August 2004, provided many new features:
virtualization, security, reliability, systems management, and administration. Most
importantly , AIX 5.3 fully supported the Advanced Power Virtualization (APV)
capabilities of the POWER architecture; this included micropartioning, virtual I/O
servers, and symmetric multithreading (SMT).
IBM introduced AIX 6.1 in November 2007. Some of its major innovations include
workload partitions (WPARs), similar to Solaris containers, and Live Application
Mobility (not available with Solaris), which lets you move these partitions without
application down time. AIX was the first operating system to introduce the idea of a
journaling file system (JFS), an advance that enabled fast boot times by avoiding the
need to perform file system checking (fsck) for disks on reboot. AIX also has a
strong built-in Logical Volume Manager (LVM), introduced as early as 1990, which
helps to partition and administer groups of disks. Another important innovation was
the introduction of shared libraries, which avoided the need for an application to
statically link to the libraries it used. The resulting smaller binaries used less of the
hardware RAM to run and required less disk space for installation.
Demonstrating their commitment to standards, the AIX OS was the first 64-bit UNIX
OS to comply with the UNIX03 standard established by The Open Group and was
the first operating system to support the UNIX 1998 standard. AIX has also included
support for TCP/IP V6 since 1997, and was awarded the "Ready for IPv6"
certification in 2006.
Figure 2 shows the historical timeline for the evolution of AIX.
Figure 2. The evolution of AIX

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Power Systems and AIX -- The undisputed UNIX leader in


2010
AIX celebrated its own major anniversary, its 20th anniversary in January 2006, and
it appears to have an extremely bright future in the UNIX space. IBM's AIX has been
the only UNIX flavor that increased its market share through the years, and IBM
continues to own the market space for UNIX servers. Most of the UNIX growth at
this time stems from IBM. AIX has benefited from the many hardware innovations
that the POWER platform has introduced through the continues to do so. It has also
benefited from its virtualization engine - PowerVM.
Why AIX? Performance, innovation, virtualization, availability, and a
consistent roadmap
In a recent study on OS reliability, polling users from 27 countries, IBM's AIX led all
server operating systems for downtime - approximately 30 minutes per server of
downtime, per year. This has to do with AIX near Continuous Availability features.
During the early 1990's, there were five different RISC architectures that were
actively competing with one another. IBM partnered with Apple and Motorola to
come up with a common architecture, which would meet the standards of the
alliance (A High-Performance Architecture with a History, 2006). Its first design was
very simple and all instructions were completed in one clock cycle. It lacked floating

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point and parallel processing ability. The Power architecture was an attempt to
correct this flaw. It consisted of over 100 instructions and was known as a complex
RISC system. The Power1 chip consisted of 800,000 transistors per chip and was
functional partitioned. It had separate floating point registers and could scale from
the low- to the high-end workstations. The first chip actually had several chips on
one single motherboard, but was refined to one RISC chip with more than 1 million
transistors. It was used as the CPU for the Mars Pathfinder mission. While there
were many other designs through the 1990's, it is true that the 1990's had mixed
results for UNIX, as it lagged behind HP, Sun and other vendors.
IBM has made substantial improvements throughout the years on their IBM
proprietary RISC-based hardware, where additional mainframe-type components are
actually needed today to utilize the new architecture. Systems like the HMC
(hardware management console) and the Hypervisor (software which runs on
hardware machines and manages one or more operating systems) are important
elements of the Power architecture.
The POWER5 architecture, introduced in 2003, contained 276 million transistors
per processor. It was based on the 130 nanometer copper/SOI Process and featured
chip multiprocessing, a larger cache, a memory controller on the chip, simultaneous
multi-threading (SMT), advanced power management, and improved hypervisor
technology.
The POWER6, with approximately 790 million transistors, debuted in June 2007.
Its dual-core design enabled it to reach 4.7 GHz. Innovations in energy and cooling
let it retain the same power consumption as the POWER5, while almost doubling
performance. The POWER6 has hardware support for decimal arithmetic. It also has
the first decimal floating-point unit integrated in silicon. Several important PowerVM
Virtualization enhancements were also released with the POWER6, including Live
Partition Mobility, Decimal Floating Point, and Dynamic Energy Management. The
Power6 5.00 GHz processor, based on the Power 595 simply is the fastest system
UNIX server in existence. The 64-core server outperforms the 128-core HP Integrity
Superdome with more performance at one-half the amount of cores. The 595 also
has 90% of the performance of the 256-core Sun SPARC Enterprise M9000 and
90% of the performance with one-quarter of the cores.
Power systems are based on mainframe-inspired reliability, availability, and
serviceability (RAS) features such as First Failure Data Capture. This capability was
also extended with introduction of the POWER6 processor-based servers to include
Processor Instruction Retry, Alternate Processor Recovery, Partition Availability
priority, Live Application Mobility, and Live Partition Mobility. All these features are
designed to help enable you to eliminate systems-related planned and unplanned
outages. If you need to take a system down for reconfiguration, firmware updates, or
another reason, you will have the option of moving your applications to a different
server without any impact to production operation. No reboots, no restarts, no
service interruption, just continued outstanding service to your users.

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How does AIX itself work with hardware to prevent outages? One example is
storage keys. This new capability exploits the POWER6 hardware to provide
additional isolation of kernel and application data. It prevents invalid changes to
memory caused by programming errors. Application use of POWER6 storage keys
are enabled in AIX 5.3 and the AIX kernel. The AIX kernel exploitation of POWER6
keys is included in AIX 6.1.
IBM is widely recognized as having the best virtualization product on the midrange,
PowerVM. Some recent innovations include live application mobility (allowing one to
fail over working partitions without downtime), Active Memory Sharing, and multiple
shared processor pools. No other flavor of UNIX can boast these virtualization
characteristics, nor can they match IBM's 40-year history of virtualization (PowerVM
has evolved from mainframe/System z virtualization).
AIX runs only on IBM Power Systems, easily the most powerful of midrange UNIX
servers. IBM sells the fact that AIX runs exclusively on Power as a plus because it is
fully optimized on this architecture and it has a clear road map around which the
company adheres to religiously. AIX has always had an integrated logical volume
manager, unlike other flavors that require add-on products.

Summary
AIX is the only flavor of UNIX that has continued to grow market share in recent
years, partly because of the capabilities of its Power hardware that continues to lead
the field in reliability, availability, and scalability. It is clear that IBM is at the forefront
of UNIX innovation today and unquestionably the future of UNIX stands to stay
bright because of its flagship UNIX flavor, AIX.

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Resources
Learn
AIX and UNIX developerWorks zone: The AIX and UNIX zone provides a
wealth of information relating to all aspects of AIX systems administration and
expanding your UNIX skills.
New to AIX and UNIX? Visit the New to AIX and UNIX page to learn more.
Technology bookstore: Browse the technology bookstore for books on this and
other technical topics.
UNIX network performance analysis (Martin Brown, developerWorks,
September 2009) looks at some quick methods for finding and identifying
performance issues and the steps to start resolving them.
Get ready to take Test 234: AIX 5L Performance and Systems Tuning as part of
IBM's certification program.
Learn about Power Architecture: High-Performance Architecture with a History.
Read Power to the People: A history of chip making at IBM (developerWorks,
December 2005) for coverage of IBM's power architecture.
CPU Monitoring and Tuning (Wayne Huang et al. developerWorks, March,
2002): Read this article to learn how standard AIX tools can help you determine
CPU bottlenecks.
For a comprehensive guide about the performance monitoring and tuning tools
that are provided with AIX 5L Version 5.3. See the IBM Redbook AIX 5L
Practical Performance Tools and Tuning Guide.
Operating System and Device Management from IBM provides users and
system administrators with complete information that can affect your selection
of options when performing such tasks as backing up and restoring the system,
managing physical and logical storage, and sizing appropriate paging space..
The AIX 5L Differences Guide Version 5.3 Edition (developerWorks, December
2004) Redbook focuses on the differences introduced in AIX 5L Version 5.3
when compared to AIX 5L Version 5.2..
Making UNIX and Linux work together is a guide to getting traditional UNIX
distributions and Linux working together.
>AIX Wiki is a collaborative environment for technical information related to AIX.
Optimizing AIX 5L performance: Tuning network performance, Part 1 (Ken
Milberg, developerWorks, November 2007): Read Part 1 of a three-part series
on AIX networking, which focuses on the challenges of optimizing network
performance.
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Database Performance Tuning on AIX is a Redbook designed to help system


designers, system administrators, and database adminsitrators design, size,
implement, maintain, monitor, and tune a Relational Database Management
System (RDMBS) for optimal performance on AIX.
Discuss
developerWorks blogs: Check out our blogs and get involved in the
developerWorks community.
Follow developerWorks on Twitter.
Get involved in the My developerWorks community.
Participate in the AIX and UNIX forums:
AIX Forum
AIX Forum for developers
Cluster Systems Management
IBM Support Assistant Forum
Performance Tools Forum
Virtualization Forum
More AIX and UNIX Forums

About the author


Ken Milberg
Short bio

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