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IBM boasts of Power-AIX win at E-Trade Korea

Ellison loses another Sparc/Solaris shop

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Big Blue is bragging once again about its ability to unseat its Unix-racket competitors from customer accounts after a big win at online stock trading company E-Trade Korea.

E-Trade Korea is a big Sparc/Solaris shop, and was established a dozen years ago as a joint venture between the US-based online brokerage of the same name; Japanese telco, finance, and media conglomerate SoftBank; and South Korean LG Investment & Securities. In 2008, the online brokerage was acquired by a private-equity group that includes LS Networks, another South Korean conglomerate.

The online brokerage, which is located in Seoul, has 200,000 customers, who use the Sparc/Solaris systems to look at account information, get stock quotes, access bulletin boards, and do other things that online traders like to do. Online trading is big in Korea, with about 40 per cent of the trades done on the Korea Stock Exchange (KSE, established in 1953) and the Korean Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (KOSDAQ, established in 1996) being done by shareholders online.

IBM was not at liberty to disclose how much and what kind of Sun iron was running at E-Trade Korea, but the platforms supporting its trading systems were last upgraded in 2005 and were based on Sun Enterprise machines of various makes and models running the Solaris Unix variant.

Whatever Sun iron was installed at E-Trade Korea, it must have been a lot of machinery, based on what IBM is replacing it with. Sources at IBM tell El Reg that the new E-Trade Korea trading system, which will be installed by July, is comprised of two Power 740s (two-socket machines) two Power 770s (eight-socket machines), and six Power 780s (which come with eight or sixteen sockets, depending on the model).

The new trading platform will run AIX and will be able to settle 970,000 financial transactions per hour – 16 per cent more than the current Sparc/Solaris cluster. Presumably, E-Trade Korea has plenty of unactivated cores in the various Power Systems iron and will be able to boost capacity and performance as need be and on the fly in future years.

E-Trade Korea also has plans to expand into private banking aimed at the middle class in South Korea, and will run applications for this business on the new systems.

IBM did not supply a value for the E-Trade Korea contract, but assuming heavy configurations of the servers outlined above and that the machines are lightly configured with disk and heavy on the memory and processor cores, you're talking about something on the order of $5m to $7m at list price just for the servers.

It is not clear if E-Trade Korea was an Oracle database customer – which seems likely – and it is similarly not known if there was a database switch. Considering the grief moving from Oracle to DB2 would entail, it would seem reasonable that moving hardware platforms and operating systems would be enough. For all we know, E-Trade Korea is already using DB2 or Sybase databases, both of which are available on the Sparc/Solaris platform.

The wonder, of course, is why E-Trade Korea did not jump to a Linux cluster as so many stock exchanges themselves have been doing for their trading systems. In fact, you would think that E-Trade Korea would be a poster child for Exadata database clusters and Exalogic application servers. Or one of those Sparc SuperClusters based on the Sparc T4 processor. Whatever the reason, IBM is surely grateful – several million dollars grateful.

IBM has been on a roll in the Unix server racket, even as that business itself is contracting under the pressure from Linux and Windows systems based on x86 iron. In going over Big Blue's fourth quarter results for 2011, CFO Mark Loughridge bragged that IBM did over 350 competitive replacements, generating about $350m in revenues, with its Power-based systems. For all of 2011, IBM did over 1,000 displacements of its Unix competitors – about 60 per cent from Hewlett-Packard, and most of the remainder from Oracle – and generated over $1bn in revenues from these takeouts.

Given those averages, the deal at E-Trade Korea is relatively large. ®

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