The i/OS Roadmap Revealed–Sort Of
February 8, 2010 Timothy Prickett Morgan
There is an understandable amount of cynicism among the AS/400 faithful that IBM has neglected the OS/400 operating system, stealing all the best goodies from OS/400 and weaving them into AIX and then not adding some nifty features, such as live partition mobility for PowerVM, to i/OS, the modern instantiation of OS/400. Moreover, i/OS releases are anything but regular and Big Blue doesn’t roll up dot releases like other operating system makers do.
On the former, I cannot report, I am sad to say, that much has changed. But I can tell you, based on internal IBM roadmaps that I have been able to get my hands on (thanks to the kindness of strangers, as always) that the latter is going to change. As best I can figure, IBM is going to put the i/OS operating system on a marched pace of innovation. Check out this roadmap, which I think dates from last November:
I think this roadmap was put together for key customers and business parts at about the same time that IBM tacked on an additional year of marketing and support to i5/OS V5R4. (See The i 7.1s Have It; i5/OS V5R4 Extended for more on that extension.) Basically, the move from i/OS V5RX to i 6.1 is too big of a jump for many shops, and IBM blinked. In doing so, support for all of IBM’s then-current and future operating systems was pushed out another dozen months, as you can see here:
As you can see from the roadmap above, the Power 6.1.1 interim release, which I told you all about in this story last October, was characterized in the roadmap as a “Power7 Enablement” platform. As usual, the interim release was designed to run on the then-future hardware platform, just like i5/OS V5R4M1 was designed to run on Power6-based machines before they launched. This is IBM Rochester’s way of doing a controlled beta test.
The i Next Release, as IBM has been calling it since last fall, is actually going to be called i 7.1, as I told you it would be last fall when Big Blue extended support for i5/OS V5R4 and i 6.1. And as you can see, this will be the operating system designed to fully exploit Power7 iron, just like i 6.1 fully exploited Power6 and Power6+ iron. The Power7-based machines announced today and shipping in February or March, depending on the model, will only support the interim i 6.1.1 release; however, the AIX 6.1 and the earlier AIX 5.3 release, which is roughly analogous with i5/OS V5R4 in terms of vintage, are both supported on the Power7 machinery. (Yes, IBM is trying to nudge i5/OS V5 shops forward, and yes, it has to be careful not to alienate AIX shops and hence the support for the older AIX 5.3. That’s the difference between proprietary systems with one vendor and open systems with many competitors, people.)
The interesting bit about the updated i/OS roadmap is that IBM has four dot releases in store for the i 7.1 operating system, and spaced at regular, predictable intervals. I have never seen that before, and quite frankly, it is about time. Presumably IBM will be aggregating PTF patches and other system program updates for the i/OS software stack twice a year for customers who don’t want to make a weekly habit out of applying PTFs, excepting security patches and bug fixes, of course. It would be good to have a dot release twice a year just to keep the word out there in the IT space that this operating system exists, that it is being updated, and that it runs on some of the best hardware ever designed.
While the roadmap may have lots of dots in it that connect into a pretty line, there was no information whatsoever about what features would be in those future dot releases. You can see the brief feature list for i 7.1 here.
The other key bit you can see from the i/OS roadmaps is that IBM has plans i 7.2 in early 2012, which I would guess is sometime around when the COMMON midrange trade show will be held. And I would guess that when Power8 processors come out sometime in 2013 or so, there will be an i 8.1 release then, too.
As far as I know, as I said two weeks ago, i 7.1 will be available in the third week of April, just ahead of this year’s COMMON event in Orlando. This being software, and i 7.1 not being required to use the new Power7-based systems, that date could slip around a bit. The people I have spoken to who are familiar with IBM’s plans did not know when IBM planned to announce i 7.1, only when it would be available.