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Oracle and Sun taunt IBM with Sparcs

Throwing down another gauntlet

homeless man with sign

If Oracle keeps saying that it wants to be in the server and storage hardware business long enough, maybe some people will start believing it.

Ahead of its Oracle OpenWorld customer event, which is being held from October 11 through 15 in San Francisco, the company has been running advertisements that poke a stick at IBM, which is shaping up to be Oracle's biggest and most important IT rival if the $7.4bn (net about $5bn) acquisition of Sun Microsystems is approved by the antitrust authorities in Europe.

Two weeks ago, as El Reg already reported, Oracle said that it was determined to show that Sparc-based servers could best Power-based servers running Big Blue's own DB2 database on the TPC-C online transaction processing benchmark. A test, by the way, that Sun has shunned since 2001 since its iron did not scale as far as IBM Power boxes or Hewlett-Packard Itanium machines and, more importantly, since Sun had been charging way too much for its UltraSparc-III and UltraSparc-IV servers.

But Oracle threw down the right hand gauntlet at IBM's feet, suggesting that it would show on October 14 that Sun iron plus Oracle's databases would be able to deliver many millions of transactions per minute (TPM for short, and two digits of performance at that) compared to the 6 million TPM that IBM's top-end 64-core Power 595 (using 5 GHz Power6 chips) currently delivers.

It is a fair guess that Oracle and Sun will try to demonstrate that a cluster of quad-socket Sun Fire 5440 servers, using Sun's latest 1.6 GHz Sparc T2+ processors can deliver a lot more oomph.

By my back-of-the-envelope calculations, ten T5440s could deliver maybe 16 million TPM in a single rack without clustering overhead (that's ten separate images of the TPC-C test), and maybe 12 million or so once clustering for a single system image and other overhead is taken into account. It would also be very interesting to see Oracle and Sun to trot out the F5100 Flash Array, which El Reg has discovered is in the works. The F5100 is a 1U container that packs 80 flash modules and that sports four 3 Gbit/sec SAS channels to link it directly to servers, delivering 4 TB of capacity and over 1 million I/O operations per second. Such a machine would let a T5440 server just scream on the TPC-C test. Maybe enough to knock down the number of servers required, in fact. (My estimates above assume a fairly large number of 15K RPM disk drives per T5440.)

Today, Oracle and Sun are throwing down the left gauntlet at IBM's feet with yet another ad:

Oracle Sun IBM Second Gauntlet

This one even quotes Oracle chief executive officer, Larry Ellison, as you can see. And presumably - at least as far as Oracle is concerned - lays to rest any nagging issues Sun's customers might have about Oracle commitment to a hardware business that it has never really played in before. To be fair, Oracle has played hardware vendors against each other brilliantly, but that is not the same thing as bending metal and baking chips.

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