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IBM touts Power Systems prowess on SAP tests

ITG does some TCO touting, too

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Long ahead of the March launch of the Intel Gainestown chips, back in December, IBM apparently ran the SD benchmark on its System x3650 two-socket box with two X5570 processors and using Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition (not Windows Server 2008), coupled with its DB2 V9.5 database and with 48 GB of memory, was able to support 5,100 SD users. However, driving up that user number could also push the average response time on the SD transaction up to 1.98 seconds. So this is not comparable to the other sub-second results.

A two-socket HP ProLiant BL465c blade server using six-core Opteron 2435 chips running at 2.6 GHz could support 2,355 SD users, and a rack-style ProLiant DL385 using the same chips came in at 2,350 users. I am not sure why these Opteron boxes did so much more poorly than the Xeon 5500 box. They should be in roughly the same performance class.

A four-socket Dunnington Xeon X7460 box from NEC is in roughly the same performance band as the Power 550 and the two-socket Xeon X5570 machines. And in fact, the two-socket Gainestown machines offer better performance than the quad-core X7400 series chips, which is why Intel really needed to get the future Nehalem family of "Beckton" eight-core Xeon 7500 chips to market soon, rather than late this year.

Anyway, the NEC Express5800 server tested back at the end of May using the six-core X7460 chips running at 2.66 GHz (for a total of 24 cores) and 64 GB of memory running the Windows stack was able to handle 970,000 dialog steps per hour with 0.97 second average response time at 98 per cent CPU utilization, supporting a total of 2,957 users on the SAP SD test. This NEC machine can scale as far as 96 cores, delivering 7,500 users, all in a single architecture. You have to jump to a Power 570 to scale higher than the Power 550, but if you do, a Power 570 using 16 4.2 GHz Power6 chips (that's 32 cores) can handle 14,432 SD users.

To help make a broader case for Power Systems for supporting SAP enterprise software, Big Blue commissioned long-time consulting partner International Technology Group (which doesn't seem to have an identifiable Website, but is located in Los Gatos, California) to do an analysis comparing the cost of supporting SAP workloads on Power Systems versus x64 platforms.

In that study, which is based on using Oracle 10g Real Application Clusters in various scenarios (and based on real-world configuration information gathered by ITG) on Windows x64 and AIX Power iron, the Power Systems showed a three-year cost of ownership that ranged from 25 per cent to 33 per cent lower than x64 gear. You can read the ITG report, which is called Value Proposition for IBM Power Systems - Platform Choices for the Enterprise SAP Infrastructure, at this link.

As you can see on page 27 of the ITG report, the IBM Power iron can be a lot more expensive than the x64 alternatives in the scenario, but systems software can be a bit more expensive, and personnel costs are a lot higher over three years - two or three times the cost of the iron, by ITG's math.

I have no idea how typical this spread in personnel costs is out there in the real world, especially considering that these estimates are based on data from a handful of customers. What I do know - and I say this with a peach-eating grin - is that the merger of the RS/6000 and AS/400 is truly complete. IBM may have given the RS/6000 all the glory and price cuts in the past several years to gain market share, but now, when the room to slash prices and compete head-to-head on hardware price with x64 iron is not really practical, it has to use the AS/400 playbook and its TCO arguments even to sell AIX boxes. ®

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