AIX: The History

In today’s world of handheld devices such as smart phones and tablets, the operating system (OS) market is largely dominated on the end-user side by MacOS variants and the similarly popular Android OS, built on the Linux kernel.

Linux variants have been around and living on PC partitions since the OS emerged as an open source development project created by Linus Torvalds in 1991. Since then, Linux gradually became more and more of a secondary OS partition of choice—with Windows running as a primary partition—particularly amongst IT professionals and hobbyists.

Eventually, Linux starting gaining popularity as an x86 business server alternative to Windows, because it had the allure of being both open source and was regarded as more stable. This led to a series of competing claims between Linux and Windows proponents spanning from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s. Regardless, Linux variants by that time were enjoying increasing popularity in both the enterprise and PC markets, and it was well on its way to making further inroads up to the current day Android domination.

The Launch of UNIX

Linux’s success, however, was not born in a bubble. In 1970, the first UNIX operating system was released, and as it was further refined and portability was improved, its popularity started to climb. The original UNIX was a proprietary AT&T system, but ambitious developers eventually started experimenting with free OS offerings, with mixed results, as well as lawsuits brought by AT&T.

AT&T, operating under the umbrella known as Bell System—“Ma Bell”—churned out a few versions of UNIX, mostly for internal use. But, for legal reasons going back to the 1950s, UNIX wasn’t allowed to be marketed as a standalone product. Then, in 1983, the government finally succeeded in deconstructing the Bell System stranglehold on telecommunications, which in turn both helped and hindered UNIX development. On the one hand, AT&T was now free to commercialize its preferred version of UNIX. On the other hand, individual developers hated being constrained by a commercialized version of UNIX, so they just kept developing the OS as they wanted—which is where Sun Solaris has its roots.

What Linus Torvalds eventually brought forth in 1991 was a separate entity from UNIX, although it shared many of the same characteristics—including its suspiciously similar name—with the most notable difference being it was made truly open source. That, and Linux has the adorable penguin mascot, “Tux.”

The Launch of AIX

Which brings us to Advanced Interactive eXecutive (AIX), and it’s at this point when non-IBM customers can understandably become confused, because the evolution of AIX followed a slightly different path than both UNIX and Linux.

For its part, the creation of AIX straddled much of the UNIX development road, while simultaneously avoiding many of the roadblocks that stalled some earlier UNIX strides. IBM took a tentative step in 1976 by porting UNIX to one of its mainframe systems, mostly to showcase how IBM’s Virtual Machine Facility/360 OS could simultaneously run UNIX as a guest OS. IBM actually performed a similar port of a Bell System UNIX variant at one point.

IBM continued to run other UNIX porting projects, but it wasn’t until 1985, following the Ma Bell break-up, that the company came out with its first UNIX OS (IX/370). However, it quickly followed that up in 1986 with AIX Version 1, the first true AIX variant.

IBM then began developing a hardware server system to house its AIX creation, and in 1990, it rolled out its first lines of RISC System 6000 (RS/6000) servers dedicated to optimally running the AIX OS.

AIX Today

Today, AIX runs natively on the IBM Power Systems server suite (the current successor of the previous RS/6000 line). The combination of AIX and system hardware designed specifically to house the OS makes for a powerful computing system that’s easily capable of competing against virtually all other versions of UNIX or Linux.

Our Galileo Performance Explorer solution suite is capable of running a wide range of UNIX and Linux variants, including IBM AIX, Red Hat Linux, SUSE Linux, and Sun Solaris. We also provide server, storage and application monitoring for a range of other system solutions.

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