Informing the IBM Community

Opinion: An AIX guy finds his inner i



In my experience, most IBM Power shops are either AIX or IBM i, but rarely both. As a predominantly AIX type, I have admired the enthusiasm of the IBM i people I’ve run across, but I’ve really had very little crossover in terms of common projects.

Until pretty recently, that is. What brought this hardened AIX guy into the same room as the IBM i people has not been conferences or networking or turf wars over which environment is superior. The factor that has brought us together on the same projects has come from an unexpected quarter: the Virtual I/O Server.

Let’s face it, it took quite a long time for people of either AIX or IBM i persuasion to view the VIOS as anything beyond a necessary evil. For IBM i enthusiasts, the VIOS was just a bit too Unix-like. For AIX people, the commands with the same names but different syntax from AIX commands was frustrating.

I know many AIX people who log in as padmin into the VIOS restricted shell and then immediately switch to the full-blooded, no decaf root shell by typing in oem_setup_env. Incidently, I am told that users do a lot of damage to their VIOS by diving in as root and not using the padmin commands, so try to get the padmin syntax into your head.

Then a beautiful thing happened. The AIX people and the IBM i people suddenly found ourselves with the VIOS, not as a common enemy but as a friend, bringing us together.

So now I’m starting to get calls from IBM i people asking me to get their shiny new Power8 system from bare metal to the stage where they can load source or restore from an option 21 save. And that means working with the VIOS.

VIOS, the flavor of the month

I know that Glenn Robinson’s articles on the VIOS have been extremely popular on PowerWire. I expect they are reaching across the AIX/IBM i divide. It also helps that the articles take you through step by step and include lots of valuable screen shots.

In some ways, the VIOS is less daunting for AIX people because there are plenty of commands that have an AIX feel to them, such as lsdev to list devices and entstat to display the Ethernet adapter configuration.

Then again, the IBM i people have a foot in the door already when they hit the VIOS. I asked Glenn about the virtual media repository, which is a great way of sharing ISO images from a file rather than playing around with physical DVDs or working through the complexities of the AIX Network Installation Manager.

Glenn explained it like this: “Most people [familiar with IBM i] would know this as an image catalog. This is one or more ISO images stored in the file system. This is similar to the virtual media repository in VIOS but an image catalog can automatically load and unload the virtual media.”

Similarly, with the Shared Ethernet adapter of the VIOS, he said: “Commonly known as VIPA – Virtual IP Address. Each physical NIC has a unique IP address and then we create another address which sits over the physical NICs.”

So, after years of working in AIX and pretty much avoiding any work on the IBM i, I’m now finding myself working shoulder to shoulder with i people. We exchange terminology, realise we had more in common than we thought, and between us we get a shiny new Power8 out of its box and into production.

No, I’m not likely to carve out a new career getting up to speed with the many great IBM i techies that I know, but we’re working together now thanks to the common platform and the VIOS.

I think I’m finding my inner ‘i’.

Having worked on IBM systems since 1991, Anthony English has seen how AIX and virtualisation can manage all kinds of business environments. He is a well-recognised author in the IT field and he writes about business systems improvement through his blog at Anthony is based in Sydney, Australia, with his wife and his seven children.

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