AIX Tip of the Week

Date: February 25, 2002

AIX Tip of the Week:  Distributing and Synchronizing Data Files

The following table lists several techniques to distribute and synchronize data files across multiple hosts.  I've ignored the many application and database specific techniques to keep this list manageable. 

In general, the choice of technique depends on

        Data type (text, binary, database)

        Network protocol (Netbios, TCP/IP, SNA, …)

        Server mix (PC, Unix, Mainframe)

        Propagation delay

Editorial:  Designing a data synchronization scheme is tougher than it looks.  It looks easy because the initial data transfer is trivial.  However, things get complicated when you consider problem recovery (failed transfers, data corruption, servers down, backout, etc).   I've seen many projects fail when attempting elaborate data replication schemes that almost invariably become complex, run over schedule, over budget, and are expensive to maintain.  Consequently, my "rule of thumb" is to centralize data whenever possible.  When I need to distribute data, I choose the simplest technique that meets the minimum business requirement, and no more.  KISS - Keep it Simple



Batch Copy

Realtime Copy


        Tape, CD, DVD, Portable Disk

        SAN  (Shark-Flash Copy, EMC SRDF)

        SAN (Shark PPRC)

        NAS - NFS file server in "hardware"

Base AIX Operating System

        uucp - copy over dial up connections

        ftp, rcp - network

        rdist - distributes files to multiple hosts

        NIM - network installation manager


        LVM - logical volume manager

        NFS - network file system

GNU (Shareware)

        Rsync - similar to rdist, no rhost, bi-directional transfer

        Samba - NT file/print server


        MQ Series - queues file transfers, guaranteed any to any delivery.


o       NDM - network distribution mgr

o       LU6.2 - SNA file transfer

o       IND$FILE - 3270 PC file transfer


        GeoRM - remote disk mirror

        AIX Connections - NT file/print server

AIX Connections - Optional LPP from IBM that provides NT file/print server functionality. 

Email - an often-overlooked option, email can be used to distribute uuencoded data files.  A client program on the remote server can unload the attached data in mail.

GeoRM - part of the AIX HACMP family of high availability software that provides a remote mirror of local disks.  Updates are dynamic and can be done synchronously (write to remote disk first) or asynchronously (write to remote disks last).

LVM - functionally similar to EMC's Timefinder, AIX's Logical Volume Manager can mirror data to separate disks, then split off the disks into a new volume group, when can then be imported on another server on the same SSA Loop or SAN.  The advantage is that this procedure can copy large data sets with minimal downtime and without congesting the network. 

MQ Series - An IBM middleware product that stores and forwards data between a heterogeneous mix of servers (NT, Unix, Mainframe, …).  Offers guaranteed delivery (if the remote server is down, the data is queued locally till it comes back up) and logging of all transfers.

NIM - Network Installation Manager.  AIX specific. Distributes software, fixes, and data files.

rdist - Distributes identical copies of files to multiple hosts.  The rdist command is one of the more popular ways of distributing files between Unix servers. Requires a ".rhost" file.  (Consider "rsync" as alternative if your security policy forbids the use of  ".rhost" files)

rsync - a GNU utility with functionality similar to rdist, except that it can run without ".rhost" file and that it can synchronize local and remote directories (bi-directional transfer).  The rsync utility can be found on the AIX -Linux Bonus Pack CD, or downloaded from

Split Mirror Copy - If you have multiple hosts on a SSA loop or SAN,  you can copy large data sets by

uucp - Unix to Unix CoPy.  Automates file transfer over simple dial-up connections.

Bruce Spencer