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Books: A User's Report

Elizabeth Zinkann

AIX, based on AT&T's UNIX System V, is IBM's UNIX operating system. AIX (Advanced Interactive eXecutive) is most often associated with the RS/6000 computers, although it is capable of running on other architectures. Several books have been written for AIX administrators, and I have reviewed most of them as they appeared. The most recent publications have been written and published by IBM Redbooks, and I have included a review of the AIX Logical Volume Manager from A to Z: Troubleshooting and Commands by Laurent Vanel, Ronald van derKnaap, Dugald Foreman, Keigo Matsubara, and Anthony Steel (IBM International Technical Support Organization, IBM Redbooks). I also reviewed Accelerating AIX: Performance Tuning for Programmers and System Administrators by Rudy Chukran (Addison-Wesley), plus a couple of brief summaries of AIX books that I've reviewed in the past. The first, Æleen Frisch's Essential System Administration, Second Edition (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.) isn't really an AIX book, but it has enough AIX information to aid any AIX administrator. The second, AIX Performance Tuning by Frank Waters (Prentice Hall), should be a familiar reference for anyone running an AIX system.

A note about IBM Redbooks -- while researching and writing this column, I became aware of IBM Redbooks, Redpieces, Redpapers, and their related Residencies. There is a relatively new system of Redbook Portals, which provides information about Redbooks in each of the categories. Redbooks present the most recent books about topics, such as RS/6000 and UNIX, Netfinity, Networking, Storage and SAN, S/390, Tivoli, and the AS/400. Redpiece display the pre-publication books, which may not be completed or proofread; Redpapers contain shorter technical documents. The Residencies are proposed topics that are currently under development. IBM's International Technical Support Organization is responsible for the entire project. (Monterey is in the RS/6000 and UNIX category, as is AIX.)

Because the portals are a relatively new development, there are several different formats of the Web address. However, all of them are forwarded to the same URL, so that any variance in URLs will work and will be pointed to:
I tried that with several of the different addresses that I had, including:
I hope that this explains the different URLs that you may encounter for this site, and also that this provides some useful information about the ITSO Redbooks Portal.

Essential System Administration
Second Edition
Æleen Frisch
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
ISBN 1-56592-127-5
760 Pages

When AIX started to become popular, the only documentation for systems administrators was the IBM documentation. Anyone who wanted a more detailed explanation that the manuals offered or who didn't have access to the manuals couldn't do much about it. Æleen Frisch was one of the first authors to technically address the system in the original Essential System Administration (O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.) In both the original and the second editions, Frisch addresses AIX through numerous topics, such as printing, networking, TCP/IP, initialization scripts, SMIT, disks and filesystems, and special files. She explains the concept and implementations of logical volume managers (LVMs) with exceptional clarity and describes a superior approach to it, noting the advantages of the LVM, defining its unique vocabulary, and detailing its use among the different operating systems. Frisch presents the most direct and comprehensive explanation of LVMs that I've read. Essential System Administration is an extraordinary book that every systems administrator needs, for installation, configuring, troubleshooting, or just understanding the processes that are involved, whether for an AIX, HP-UX, Solaris, or other flavor of UNIX, including Linux.

Accelerating AIX: Performance Tuning for Programmers
and System Administrators

Rudy Chukran
ISBN 0-201-63382-5
217 Pages

The concept of performance tuning is easy to understand -- you want to make your system run better. Achieving optimum performance is slightly more complex. In Accelerating AIX, Chukran discusses four essential topics: tuning concepts, AIX system design and functions, tools and remedies for the systems administrator, and parallel tools and remedies for programmers. He approaches these varied aspects of tuning through the following chapters: Introduction to Tuning Concepts; AIX System Design; Tools for the System Administrator; Remedies; Local Area Network Tuning; Programming Tools; Remedies for Programmers; and Putting It All Together. The Appendix includes References; Sources for AIX Software; Sources for Free Software for AIX on the Net; Performance Toolbox Metrics; and Source Examples. (The references and Internet resources have expanded, and the IBM address has changed to

In the introductory chapter, the author poses questions about realistic performance tuning expectations versus idealistic hopes. (Computer hardware does have its limitations.) The following chapter examines the design of the AIX system and illustrates how the design of AIX fits into the classic operating system design framework and highlights some of its differences. Surveying some of the options for the systems administrator, Chukran reviews selected tools that analyze a system's current performance, including (but not limited to) vmstat, sar, and monitor. He also provides practical solutions to CPU and memory bottlenecks, emphasizing performance that can be improved through better procedures versus hardware upgrades. Chukran covers TCP/IP local area network (LAN) performance problems and their respective solutions in a separate chapter.

The final topic that the author explores is directed to programmers. Anyone who has written any programs beyond entry level knows that there are various possible implementations. The initial effort fulfills the program's specifications and hopefully works as expected. In many cases, added refinements can make the program run faster and more efficiently, utilizing fewer resources. Following Programming Tools and Remedies for Programmers, Chukran concludes with Putting It All Together, which summarizes the most important ideas and procedures discussed throughout the book, as well as some practical guidelines and considerations, including "When Do I Stop?"

Chukran's insight into AIX performance, tuning, and the accompanying considerations provides a well-written introduction to system optimization. The author's use of analogies and examples is particularly good; he not only states them, but also extends them through his examples. Accelerating AIX is an informative guide to AIX performance tuning, which outlines the concepts and guidelines of tuning procedures, describes the design of AIX, and demonstrates various practical implementations.

AIX Logical Volume Manager from A to Z: Troubleshooting and Commands
Laurent Vanel, Ronald van derKnaap, Dugald Foreman,
Keigo Matsubara, and Anthony Steel
IBM International Technical Support Organization
IBM Redbooks
ISBN 0738415944
414 Pages

The LVM (Logical Volume Manager) of AIX can be a challenge to learn or to explain. Even its terms overlap with existing administration vocabulary although their meanings are quite different. However, once understood, the features of the LVM offer several advantages, including dynamic extension.

The AIX Logical Volume Manager from A to Z is a two-book set, although they are sold separately. Troubleshooting and Commands is the second volume; the first volume covers its Introduction and Concepts (SG24-5432-00). The second volume is divided into two primary sections: the informative chapters and the appendices, which contain the LVM commands. The chapters address the LVM Commands, Problem Determination and Recovery, and Replacing a Drive in a Mirrored Configuration. The Appendices contain: A) High-level LVM commands, B) Intermediate-level commands, C) ODM commands, D) Other related commands, E) Scripts used during this residency, F) Special notices, and G) Related publications. The introductory chapter, LVM Commands, demonstrates how to utilize the LVM commands through four parts: Volume group related commands, Logical volume related commands, Physical volume related commands, and Journaled file system related commands. The format of this chapter demonstrates how to use the LVM through SMIT, with a reference to Appendix A for use through the command line.

The second chapter, Problem Determination and Recovery, features the troubleshooting techniques, presents a methodology for detecting a problem, searching output for diagnostic information, corruption examples, inspection commands, rebuilding and repair, and special considerations for rootvg. The contents of each section demonstrates, in step-by-step format, how to check logs for information, how to interpret the information found, and what steps are necessary to restore data and integrity to a damaged system. The third chapter, Replacing a Drive in a Mirrored Configuration, illustrates the nine steps required to replace a failed physical volume and the use of the replacepv command.

The appendices contain the LVM and other helpful commands, with each command's syntax, description, options, how and when to use the command, and notes that explain relevant information or procedures. Each appendix begins with a brief introduction describing the set of commands with that section. For example, Appendix A contains the high-level LVM commands designed for both administrators and users, whereas the LVM commands detailed in Appendix B (Intermediate-level commands) are primarily for knowledgeable administrators.

AIX Logical Volume Manager from A - Z: Troubleshooting and Commands provides AIX administrators with extensive information about LVM procedures and an excellent command reference. The authors describe the processes for both routine tasks and occasional troubleshooting through a step-by-step format. Their detailed approach and superb explanations create a valuable and effective resource. The team of authors discusses the design concepts of the LVM, their practical considerations, and utilizes numerous examples and illustrations throughout the book. They also include the commands required and tips for more effective and efficient use of LVM procedures. The result is an excellent Logical Volume Manager guidebook for every AIX administrator.

AIX Performance Tuning
Frank Waters
Prentice Hall
ISBN 0-13-386707-2
316 Pages

The practices and procedures related to maintaining an operating system and its respective user environment are essential skills for systems administrators. Regardless of the system, the administrator must know what concepts are involved and how to achieve maximum system performance. In AIX Performance Tuning, Waters explores the different tools available, the design issues that are concerned, and various ways to improve the system's production. Some of the particular topics he addresses include: an AIX Resource Management Overview, Performance Conscious Planning, Design and Implementation, System Monitoring and Initial Performance Diagnosis, Monitoring and Tuning CPU Use, Monitoring and Tuning Memory Use, Monitoring and Tuning Disk I/O, Monitoring and Tuning Communications I/O, and DFS Performance Tuning. He presents information about both Versions 3.2.5 and 4.1, detailing NFS, TCP, and UDP performance tuning, diagnosing performance analysis, and examining what parameters can be changed to attain better execution. This is an excellent guide to AIX performance tuning. Waters covers the essential resources and provides most of the references that you need. (However, some of the URLs may have changed in the interim.) AIX Performance Tuning examines the topics that comprise any attempt, simple or complex, to improve system throughput and general performance.

Elizabeth Zinkann has been involved in the UNIX and C environment for the past 15 years. She is currently a UNIX and C consultant, and one of her specialties is UNIX education. In addition to her computer science background, she also has a degree in English. Her writing has also appeared in Linux Magazine, Performance Computing, and Network Administrator. Elizabeth can be reached at: