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Exploring the Possibilities

November 20, 2018

There's a lot you can do with AIX. But that doesn't mean we won't search for even more ways to play with it.

For instance, Chris Gibson recently got AIX running on a Macbook:

After reading this and this, I was inspired and very curious. Could I get AIX 7.2 running on QEMU on my MacBook Pro (running Mac OS X 10.13.6)?

Well, the answer my friends, is yes...sort of.

Many thanks to Rob McNelly who originally tweeted this link, If he had not, I would never have made the journey to QEMU land. So thanks Rob!

Also, thanks to Liang Guo for his assistance. Your guidance was greatly appreciated.

Note: What I describe here is NOT supported by IBM. It is purely a lab experiment to see what was possible with qemu-system-ppc64.

Then there's this example of AIX 7.2 running on x86 hardware.  

Although those configurations would run too slowly for my taste, I've always loved the idea of having lab hardware to test/learn with. Of course IBM Power Systems servers typically run mission critical applications, so playing with the hardware available at work generally isn't an option. (At the very least, you'd need test/disaster recovery/lab hardware; some workplaces have more options available than others.) Sure, some people buy old used servers and run them at home, but that's not practical for everyone.

Nonetheless, it's fun to follow what's going on out there. With OpenPOWER taking off, I've been tracking the new workstations that are available for running Linux on Power. One is from Raptor Computing Systems, the Talos II:

Talos II — the world's first computing system to support the new PCIe 4.0 standard — also boasts substantial DDR4 memory, dual POWER9 CPUs, next-generation security, and a price that won't break the bank. Let the power of Talos II accelerate your computing!

Offerings range from the secure workstation to the basic Talos II bundle.

The price point and specs caught my eye:

The Talos II mainboard is the first modern (post-2013), owner-controllable, workstation- and enterprise-class mainboard. Built around the brand-new IBM POWER9 processor, and leveraging Linux and OpenPOWER technology, Talos II allows you to secure your data without sacrificing performance. Designed with a fully owner-controlled CPU domain, you can audit and modify any portion of the open source firmware on the Talos II mainboard, all the way down to the CPU microcode. This is an unprecedented level of access for any modern workstation…

Getting AIX running in this type of modern environment would be amazing. Imagine being able to acquire some sort of student AIX license while having access to this kind of hardware in your home lab. You could run Linux on Power and AIX on POWER9 hardware that sits on your desktop. That sounds like... nirvana.

As these technologies evolve and the prices come down, my temptation level goes up. Do you know of other POWER9-based workstations or similar technology that's on the horizon?

Posted November 20, 2018| Permalink