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IBM benchmark leaves server rivals breathless

Power5 crushes Itanium for record score

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You knew it wouldn't take long for IBM to start rolling out the benchmarks once its new 64-processor Unix server hit the streets. Few, however, could have imagined that the company would so completely crush past marks.

IBM today announced that its p5 595 server running the DB2 database on the AIX operating system broke the 3m transaction per minute barrier. This shatters the previous record, also held by IBM, of just over 1m transactions per minute set with a system half the size of the new p5 595.

IBM has been winning the TPC-C benchmark war against HP for some time and has now really put some pressure on its rival to keep up. Not only did IBM obliterate HP's Itanium-based server record of 1m transactions per minute, but it also did so with a better price/performance system.

"Over the last year or so, IBM and HP have dueling it out with tit-for-tat, 'So take this!' - 'No! Back atcha!' releases," said Jonathan Eunice at Illuminata. "But these have been entirely incremental - 1 percent or 2 percent kind of things. I think IBM just decided to go nuclear. You can just see them thinking, 'Screw 3 percent! Let's do 200 percent!'"

You can compare and contrast the various benchmarks here.

The new result gives IBM an excuse to bash HP and Sun Microsystems. IBM's Power5 chip appears to be the most solid readily available high-end processor on the market, giving both Intel's Itanium and Sun's UltraSPARC IV fits.

As always, however, customers should remember that these benchmarks are performed at great cost and with great effort by the vendors. The systems used are specifically tuned to work well on the TPC-C transaction workload. This measure doesn't give the most accurate picture of how well a common workload will perform on the system.

"TPC-C is one of those benchmarks where 'how much are you willing to spend?' is a real factor," Eunice said. "It is so damn expensive. We are, after all, talking about a $17m system price tag, including more than 1,500 TB of spinning disk."

Still, IBM did make the biggest leap in TPC-C performance seen in many, many moons. The result cannot simply be attributed to loads of cash and talented performance tuners at IBM. ®

Related stories

IBM overtakes HP in top of the teraflops
IBM tidies up high-end Unix kit
IBM and HP take phony benchmark war up several notches

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