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Microsoft challenges IBM to Websphere duel

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Microsoft is trying to get under IBM's skin with some benchmarks run in its Redmond labs using Big Blue's own Java-based test, Trade, and a variant of it ported to C#, which Microsoft calls .NET StockTrader. But as Microsoft throws down the benchmarking gauntlet, IBM is ignoring the calls for a WebSphere duel at the Middleware Corral.

The gauntlet was thrown down by Steven Martin, senior director of developer platform marketing at Microsoft, who launched a site called WebSphereLovesWindows to show off the results from some intricate benchmark tests that the nerds at Microsoft's labs have done to show how WebSphere on AIX iron stacks up to WebSphere running on Windows or the same application ported to C# and not using WebSphere at all, but the Windows stack.

(This site requires you to install the Microsoft equivalent to Flash, Silverlight, and I have managed thus far to avoid installing it. Because I'll give you a direct link to the PDF, which is here. Now you don't have to install Silverlight, either).

Martin is also blogging about the benchmark tests, which have been a pet project of Greg Leake, a techie in Microsoft's Connected Systems Division lab.

Let's back up a bit and start from the beginning before getting into Microsoft's claims about WebSphere performance. IBM created the Trade benchmark to do some internal testing on its servers, and as the name suggests, the Trade test simulates the data processing operations of a stock brokerage (just like the TPC-E test does, but they are not the same code). Trade was formerly known as the WebSphere Performance Benchmark, and the code behind it is implemented in Java and runs on Java-based application servers in a two-tier or three-tier environment.

For the past several years, IBM has been using Trade6 implementation of the test internally to benchmark the performance of its i5/OS, AIX, and Linux systems. A number of other vendors have taken the code (which IBM opened up) and used it to run tests, including Java appliance maker Azul Systems and Microsoft, which ported the code to C# and called it .NET StockTrader. This WebSphere-versus-Windows battle is not new. It has been going on for years, and Microsoft has compared WebSphere on Linux to the Windows stack using Trade on one side and StockTrader on the other.

What is new is that Microsoft is creating a variant of the Trade benchmark to support WebSphere 7, IBM's latest iteration of its Web application server, something that Big Blue has not, as far as anyone knows, done itself. (Leake says that as far as he knows, Big Blue has no intention of do so). The other trick this time around is that Microsoft is running its WebSphere 7-compatible version of Trade on IBM's own AIX operating system and Power Systems iron. It's not only comparing that against the C# StockTrader app running on Windows Server 2008, but also Trade running atop WebSphere 7 on Windows.

And to make its case a little stronger, Microsoft is also releasing the Trade and StockTrader application set (you can get the code here), which allows end users to run their own tests not only against WebSphere and Windows middleware, but also on any Java-compatible Web application server. (Leake says that Microsoft has tested its implementation of the Trade benchmark on systems running Oracle's WebLogic and Application Server middleware, but Oracle's license agreements prevent him from discussing this). The download also includes capacity planning tools to help system admins make use of the Trade and StockTrader results to compare and contrast with their own applications and other systems.

So far, IBM's manhood has not been insulted enough by the publication of WebSphere benchmarks by Microsoft to allow itself to be called out.

"We were amused when we read the Microsoft disclaimer that clearly stated 'Microsoft cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information presented' in the report that forms the basis of these claims," explained Ron Favali, an IBM spokesperson, in an email exchange. IBM's WebSphere executives were not interested in talking about this, and when asked to present some Trade benchmark tests that might refute what Microsoft's claims, I got the brush off.

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