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Battle of the bangs for the bucks

The Superdome 2-16s machine was able to crank through 140,181 queries per hour (QPH) on the 1TB version of the TPC-H benchmark suite, yield a bang for the buck of $12.15 per QPH after discounts.

Compared to the prior generation of Integrity Superdome servers using the Montvale Itanium machines, the new Tukwila box looks pretty good. But x64 machines from HP are smaller, less expensive, and offer better bang for the buck.

An Integrity Superdome with 32 sockets (that's 64 cores) was able to handle 123,323 QPH when it was tested last April running HP-UX 11i v3 and Oracle 11g (with 384GB of main memory and 110TB of disk), at a cost of $20.54 per QPH. That means the Tukwila box with the same number of cores had 13.7 per cent more oomph on the 1TB TPC-H test.

That Superdome machine was wickedly more expensive at $2.4m. Also, HP-UX cost twice as much, so HP had to slash the prices in half to get the price down to $20.54 per QPH. So the price delta at list price between last year's Superdome and this year's Superdome 2 is a lot wider than the 41 per cent improvement in cost per query per minute implies.

HP is talking up how the new Superdome 2-16s has 4 per cent better performance per core and 17 per cent better bang for the buck than an Oracle/Fujitsu Sparc Enterprise M9000 server with 64 cores. But that machine was tested back in May 2008 using dual-core Sparc64-VI processors running at 2.4GHz, and Oracle and Fujitsu have since started shipping quad-core Sparc64-VII processors running at 2.88GHz, and will soon push that up to 3GHz. (Well, "soon" in the Fujitsu sense of that word, meaning late 2010 or early 2011).

Core for core, the newer quad-core chip yielded about 25 per cent more oomph, according to Fujitsu, so if a current M9000 server were tested, it should be able to best the Superdome 2. And scale to twice as many cores.

The Superdome 2 had better scale to four of those blade chassis and deliver 256 cores of aggregate oomph or HP is going to have competitive issues on many big iron workloads.

But that's not the real threat to the new Tukwila-based Superdomes. Standalone x64 servers are packing serious punch, and clusters of them are doing a pretty good job, as well.

In February, ahead of the twelve-core Opteron launch, HP tested an eight-socket DL785 G6 server using Advanced Micro Devices' six-core Opteron 8439 processors (2.8GHz) with 384GB of main memory and 15TB of disk; this 7U machine was able to handle 102,375 QPH on the same 1TB TPC-H test, at a cost of $3.63 per QPH. This server was configured with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.3 and Sybase IQ Single Application Server Edition v15.1.

And in an even more stunning comparison, server virtualization juggernaut VMware partnered up with parallel database provider ParAccel to lash 40 virtualized HP DL380 G6 servers using quad-core Xeon 5560 processors (two per server running at 2.9GHz and with 72GB of memory in each node). This 320-core cluster had HyperThreading turned off and an aggregate of 2.8TB of main memory and 87TB of disk, and was able to crank through 1.32 million QPH at a cost of 70 cents per QPH.

Ouch.

IBM has not yet run the TPC-H test using the 1TB data-set size (or any other) on its new Power7-based machines. IBM and HP tend to stay away from each other in the TPC-H test, which has data warehouses that come in 100GB, 300GB, 1TB, 3TB, 10TB, and 30TB sizes. It seems likely that the two will avoid going head-to-head in future comparisons. ®

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