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IBM and Hewlett-Packard are engaged in one of the fiercest benchmarking battles seen in some time.

As of Monday afternoon, IBM reclaimed the world record for transaction processing with one of its high-end pSeries Unix servers. The system edged out a larger Itanium 2-based server from HP that had held the top score since May 20.

The two server giants just cannot agree on who should be on top. They have been playing a lengthy game of leapfrog that must be putting incredible strain on their engineers.

Keep tweaking, boys and girls. A few more transactions can be pulled out of those servers.

IBM no longer has to rely on Oracle's database to set record scores. For the latest benchmark, it used a 32 processor p690 server equipped with Power4+ chips, DB2 and the IBM TotalStorage FastT900 storage system. IBM managed to crank out 763,898 transactions per minute. HP put up 707, 102 transactions per minute with a 64 processor Itanium 2 server running 64bit Microsoft Windows and SQL Server.

All of this begs the question, "Who cares?".

It's never a good idea to put too much stock in these benchmarks. The vendors spend millions to fine tune their systems and have all kinds of interesting tricks for generating a high mark. Both of these servers appear to perform just fine, so why all the fuss?

For once, a press release provides the answer.

"The notion that HP's Itanium 2 processor-based servers are less expensive than IBM's widely popular Unix eServer systems is a myth," said Adalio Sanchez, general manager of IBM's pSeries systems, in a statement.

This all comes down to a nasty squabble between IBM and HP over who is the biggest, baddest server vendor around. IBM wants to flex its Power4 muscles and make sure users don't question whether the chips can keep up with Itanic. HP wants to prove it has made the right decision by picking Intel's 64bit experiment instead of homegrown chips.

IBM is so desperate to keep Power4 mind share high that it undermined its own Itanium 2 system launch with the benchmark announcement. On the very same day the major vendors unveiled their Itanium 2 (Madison) systems, IBM published the Power4+ score.

IBM appears willing to let this Itanic thing hang around but won't go out of its away to plug the chip. A real respect for Itanic would require holding a Power press release for an entire week. ®

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