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Microsoft challenges IBM to Websphere duel

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Curious position

IBM's position is curious, considering that Microsoft's comparisons were not exactly apples-to-apples and therefore subject to criticism. For the Web application portion of the test, Microsoft chose a Power 570 server with eight 4.2 GHz Power6 cores and put 32 GB of main memory on it. This machine was carved up into two WebSphere images, which hooked into two different Trade databases (which actually ran on four-socket BL680c Xeon blade servers from Hewlett-Packard), which it did through four Gigabit Ethernet links.

This IBM iron was compared to an HP BladeSystem equipped with four two-socket BL460c blades. But oddly enough, each blade only had one four-core, 3 GHz Xeon E5450 processor (instead of two) and had 32 GB of memory. With four blades, you have 16 cores and 128 GB of main memory, and with each blade having two Gigabit Ethernet NICs, for a total of eight NICs, it doesn't surprise me at all that four blades with a total of four times the memory did more work on the Trades test, as Microsoft's benchmarks show that it did.

To be fair, that IBM system did have 16 threads and so does the HP blade setup. But a virtual CPU is not the same thing as a real one when it comes to throughput, and Microsoft surely knows that. Also, the IBM machines were configured with AIX 5.3, not the more current AIX 6.1, which is tuned to take advantage of the Power6 generation of iron.

Moreover, IBM has Power6 blades, so a two-socket JS22 blade and a BladeCenter chassis would be a much more fair comparison to the HP blade setup. The Power 570 is an SMP server, and it is designed to scale up to 16 cores in the generation that Microsoft used in the test. And equally importantly, there were faster 4.7 GHz chips available than the 4.2 GHz ones Microsoft used in its test. Last October, IBM goosed the Power 570, doubling up its cores to a maximum of 32 using 4.2 GHz Power6+ chips.

The point is, the Power 570 is in a different weight class than the BL460c. Microsoft's comparison should have pitted the four-socket, 8-core, 16-thread Power 550 rack server, or better still, a Power 560 with twice as many cores (but running at only 3.6 GHz) against a four-socket ProLiant DL580 using Dunnington processors. And with an equivalent amount of memory per core or thread. Or, compare the HP blades against the IBM blades. The SMP boxes are far, far more expensive in an entry configuration than entry servers, which makes the comparison Microsoft did null and void as far as I am concerned.

Leake was not in much of a mood to hear that today in an interview, but that's the truth. But Microsoft is keen on trying to goad IBM into running tests or somehow reacting to Microsoft's benchmark results.

"We stand by our numbers," said Martin. "If IBM will participate and have a third party validate the results of tests, I'll pay."

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