At the same time, rival Sun Microsystems introduced a new version of its Solaris operating system that features capabilities aimed at boosting system performance and network management.
IBM's AIX 5L Version 5.2 builds on the company's efforts to migrate its mainframe technologies into the Unix server space.
It comes with a mainframe-like dynamic logical partitioning capability that allows administrators to carve up a single large IBM Unix server into multiple virtual servers as small as a single processor and 250Mb of memory.
The technology allows system resources, including processors and memory, to be assigned dynamically to such partitions as needed without having to reboot the system or bring down the partition.
This ability, which IBM has borrowed from its mainframe operating environment, allows for better system utilisation and delivers better total cost of ownership. "Dynamic logical partitioning delivers an almost fivefold improvement in server utilisation," said Mike Harrell, an AIX program manager.
Complementing this ability is a capacity upgrade-on-demand feature that allows users to buy excess processor capacity up front and switch it on when it is time to upgrade.
The support for dynamic partitioning and capacity on demand closes a vital gap in IBM's Unix offering, said Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff, adding that both are areas where IBM has trailed Sun and Hewlett-Packard.
Sun, for instance, has been offering hardware-based dynamic partitioning for some time on its high-end Unix servers, while HP has been offering capacity on demand with its Superdome servers for more than a year.
Sun's Solaris 9 9/02, meanwhile, is the first enhancement to Solaris 9 since it was announced in May.
A key enhancement is a Memory Placement Optimisation function that boosts large system performance by placing memory closer to the executing processor, said Bill Moffit, a Solaris line manager. Moffit claimed this enhancement could speed up performance by up to 40%, especially for "large memory" applications.
Solaris 9 9/02 also features an integrated Solaris 9 IP Quality of Service capability - previously called bandwidth manager on Solaris 8 - that allows administrators to allocate network bandwidth to applications based on their importance.
"It allows administrators to partition off the bandwidth for applications that need constant access to the network," Moffit said.