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Old 02-24-2015, 02:49 PM   #1
Primary Consult
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Cheapest way to learn AIX


A long time Linux admin, I've recently needed to take a major role in administering our AIX environment. While I have been getting on-the-job training, the way I am most comfortable learning is by messing around with it in a stress-free environment on the weekends, like I learned Linux. What would you say is the cheapest way to create a sandbox environment of an AIX LPAR or two with an HMC and VIO server? What hardware would I need to purchase? It looks like IBM P520s seem to a good balance of cheap and versatile, but is there anything else I would need?

Last edited by Primary Consult; 02-24-2015 at 03:08 PM.
 
Old 02-24-2015, 03:09 PM   #2
TB0ne
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Primary Consult View Post
A long time Linux admin, I've recently needed to take a major role in administering our AIX environment. While I have been getting on-the-job training, the way I am most comfortable learning is by messing around with it in a stress-free environment on the weekends, like I learned Linux. What would you say is the cheapest way to create a sandbox environment of an AIX LPAR or two with an HMC and VIO server? What hardware would I need to purchase?
As I'm sure you know by now...'cheapest' is a relative term with IBM equipment.

Honestly, if it was me, I'd continue to do the weekend/night thing for free. You can only run AIX on IBM hardware...and, thanks to their planned-obsolescence programs, you can't pick up old, cheap hardware and load the latest versions of things. The microcode (typically), won't let you, even if you have plenty of CPU/RAM/disk to play with. The old joke that's been around for years is that AIX stands for Ain't unIX. It's similar enough to let you get a feel for things quickly if you know Linux/Unix/Solaris, but has many differences. One of the nice shortcuts is when you run SMITTY, you can actually see the command line that the tool uses to perform whatever action you want. Make notes of those commands, and make friends with the man pages for them.

I'd also suggest opening a running tab at a local pub if you're learning AIX. You'll need it.
 
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Old 02-24-2015, 06:39 PM   #3
wingnut64
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The biggest problem with learning AIX is that a lot of the cool and unique features involve things like PowerVM and enterprise hardware, which you really can't have in a hobbyist setup without some legal grey area activities or spending truly ludicrous amounts of money. If it's at all possible I would try and see what you can wrangle at work. Maybe you have an older server going off lease that you could convince someone to buy out for cheap to use as your sandbox, and make a business case for using it for training, testing, etc.

I assume you've already considered the $$$ for power, the noise, wife/roommate/whatever acceptance factor..

This is a good writeup of someone building a home lab setup on Power. For what you want you'll need a Power server that can run multiple LPARs and an HMC. The 520 is probably a good bet, that supports (more or less) most of the common virtualization features you'd use on a more modern box. Check what version of Power VM it's licensed for and make sure it supports what you want to do! Also note how many disk controllers it has (split backplane=disks in the front bays are divided up among 2 SAS controllers). If there is only 1, you will have to boot everything off of vSCSI disks presented by your VIOS.

For the HMC, note that the HMC software is designed to only run on Official HMC hardware and the latest code versions don't support the older models. You don't really need a bleeding edge set of HMC code though, V6 is probably more then adequate. I'll have to check my documentation when I'm at work tomorrow but I think a 7042-CR5 can run even the latest HMC code. You can also theoretically install HMC software into VMware or another hypervisor but that requires a bit of hacking and is probably quite against the EULA.

I'll second TB0ne on SMIT as a valuable learning tool, you can very easily run some complex serials of commands and just hit F6 to see what each of them does, or check /smit.script at the end. A very surprising number of AIX system commands are actually Korn shell scripts so you can learn quite a bit about how things work.
 
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Old 02-25-2015, 04:55 PM   #4
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Thanks for the responses! It really is the enterprise level aspects that I will need to learn. With Linux on VMware I was able to do the entire VM creation / storage provisioning process rather easily, and am hoping to get to that level again here. I've been doing the actual OS-level "keep the lights running" administering for a few years now and SMITTY's command transparency really is a godsend. So far it's the closest thing I've found resembling a "killer app" on AIX.

Today I was able to successfully negotiate the retention of an already purchased EOL'd server for sandbox/training purposes. It could disappear "at any moment" in the next few months since the server room it is in is slated to become office space, so I may end up needing to purchase some hardware and follow that guide at home at some point, but hopefully not anytime soon.

Thanks again!
 
Old 03-05-2016, 11:10 PM   #5
acascianelli
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It is possible to get HMC running on VMWare. I've done it myself before, there are write ups on ways to do it. IBM has a Version of 8.8.4.0 running on VMWare natively.

A lot of companies have to basically donate older Power 5 and 6 hardware. You could try to find a company willing to part wit old hardware. Try Banks and Credit Unions. Don't suppose you're in Michigan, I might be able to help you out getting an old Power 6.
 
  


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