I can say I am impressed by both the upcoming POWER6 processor and the new AIX 6 release preview . They both are innovative, and come with a large set of new or updated features. For the purpose of this entry, I will concentrate on a little side-by-side comparison between the features announced for AIX, and those available in Solaris.

  1. The Workload Partitions (WPAR) on AIX seems to be very similar to the Containers, or Zones, which is an Virtualization feature found on Solaris.
  2. Live Application Mobility on AIX, which will make possible to move WPAR without end-user disruption, is not available as-is in Solaris. You currently can attach and detach a halted zone, not a running zone. This is due to the fact that Containers is primarily intended to be a Utilization feature, not a virtualization approach. It can be mentioned that an upcoming Solaris equivalent may be the hypervisor Xen support, although not an exact match to WPAR.
  3. Role Based Access Control, Trusted AIX, Security Expert LDAP integration, and Secure by Default on AIX are all already present via the Security features and Sun Java Enterprise System Components found on Solaris.
  4. The Encrypting file system on AIX (using JFS2) does not have an equivalent, yet. Watch carefully the work currently being done on the Cryptographic Framework from OpenSolaris, particularly the ZFS on disk encryption support project.
  5. The Graphical Installation on AIX already has a counterpart on Solaris. More, there exists an active OpenSolaris project code-name Caiman, Solaris Install Revisited which is a completely new installation infrastructure for Solaris with a simplified web graphical and text user interfaces, and Live CD/DVD integration.
  6. The general Continuous availability features on AIX are interesting, and based on IBM longstanding experience with mainframe technology. Solaris currently has a pretty great list of Availability features. Not to mention the impressive RAS features provided by the recently announced SPARC Enterprise Servers build on top of the SPARC64 VI processor. The Dynamic tracing capability advertised by IBM (probevue) seems very interesting. We will see how much this enhanced feature will differ from the Observability feature known as DTrace on Solaris. Please refer to the ongoing discussion about DTrace on AIX on the dtrace-discuss forum on opensolaris.org.
  7. POWER6 processor exploitation using AIX 6. It may be noted that processor specific features--or technology--exploitation are currently available using Solaris, with a wide range of SPARC-based and x64/x86-based systems, up to the upcoming Niagara 2 Processor, and the very awaited ROCK successor.
  8. Last, the Binary compatibility program for AIX. Solaris has a similar and rather complete compatibility program known as the Solaris Binary Application Guarantee Program, which covers both binary and source code compatibility.

Although this comparison is more an entry point for comparing the two biggest players in the UNIX world these days than a complete description of each side, don't forget to take into account the following remaining two points:

  • All the features are currently free of charge on Sun Solaris. Even the upcoming features which will be backported or incorporated in future Solaris Updates or new releases. This is the Support and Services which are charged, according to your needs. On AIX, nothing is freely available, and some advanced features will be available only through a separately offered licensed program product.
  • Although some specific features are not yet available in Solaris, most of the aforementioned ones are currently provided by Solaris 10 from the GA release, in January 2005. Please consult the What’s New page for detailed features availability on the Solaris OS. AIX 6, along with the POWER6 processor specific features, will be available in late 2007.

Last, all of these news from IBM are very interesting, and features such as WPAR, Live Application Mobility, and probevue are particularly exciting. So, wait and see!

Update #1 (2007-05-24): Please consult this interesting blog entry from Jim Laurent on the same subject.

Update #2 (2008-10-16): I encourage you to read Joerg Moellenkamp entries on UNIX virtualization technologies, and IBM´s Workload Partition.