IBM Continues RS/6000 Performance Focus

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IBM Continues RS/6000 Performance Focus
R. Krause - June 21, 2000

Somers, NY, June 2, 2000 [Source: IBM]

Event Summary

IBM's new RS/6000 M80 server with copper microprocessors today set a new transaction processing record for midrange servers, outperforming bigger and more expensive systems from Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.

Following the lead of its computing cousin - the record-breaking RS/6000 S80 - the copper-infused M80 now holds the leadership position for midrange servers on four separate performance benchmarks crucial to e-business: Java performance, Web serving, file-serving and transaction processing.

"We set out to build a midrange UNIX server that would emulate the RS/6000 S80's success in the high-end and this new benchmark further confirms the M80's prowess," said Rod Adkins, general manager, IBM Web Servers. "Midrange customers can look forward to the M80 performing for them in the same dynamic, record-breaking manner that the S80 performs for high-end customers."

In the TPC-C benchmark, an 8-way RS/6000 M80 processed 66,750.27 transactions per minute (tpmC), 32 percent better than the 50,268.07 tpmC posted by a 14-way Sun E4500. The M80 is also more affordable than the Sun E4500, achieving a price/performance score of $45.46 per transaction ($/tpmC), compared with $49.88 $/tpmC for the Sun system. The M80 tested ran AIX, IBM's UNIX operating system and Oracle 8i Release 8.1.7.

The rack-mounted M80 also outperformed a midrange server from Hewlett-Packard containing double the number of processors. An 8-way M80 processed 66,750.27 transactions per minute (tpmC), 28 percent better than the 52,117.8 tpmC posted by a 16-way HP V2250. The M80 is 78 percent more affordable than the V2250, with a price/performance score of $45.46 per transaction ($/tpmC), compared with $81.17 $/tpmC for the HP system.1

Commercial customers have traditionally used the TPC-C test as a principle metric for comparing systems that run demanding single database enterprise-wide applications.

The server is powered by two to eight 500 MHz RS64 III copper-based microprocessors, and can accommodate up to 32GB ECC SDRAM memory and 56 hot-plug PCI slots. It offers mainframe-class reliability, availability and serviceability features implemented for the first time in a midrange UNIX machine. These features include:

  • Hot-plug PCI slots for uninterrupted growth

  • Redundant hot-plug fans and power to improve availability

  • Hot-swappable disk drives to help manage unexpected growth

  • Dynamic CPU Deallocation to isolate potential processor problems and keep applications running

  • Service processor to monitor vital signs and keep system running

Multiple Benchmark Champion

Since its introduction last month, the M80 has grabbed the number one spot on a number of crucial industry performance benchmarks. It scorched competitors in the SPECweb99 benchmark to become the world's fastest 8-way Web server and set new records for Java performance and scalability in the VolanoMark benchmark, achieving two-and-a-half times the capacity of the previous record holder, a 22-way Sun E6500 server. Demonstrating its power in a networked office environment, the M80 also outperformed Sun Microsystems offerings on the SPECsfs97 .v2 benchmark, becoming the world's most powerful 8-way general purpose system for file-serving.

Market Impact

IBM's 1999 strategy (primarily for the Netfinity line, but also for the RS/6000) was to turn out systems with high performance numbers, but not necessarily the best in price/performance. For 2000, however, the new mantra is price/performance. This is a good thing for both IBM and customers. Good for IBM, because it should help improve sales; good for customers for the obvious reason - saving money. One caveat regarding the performance numbers: some of IBM's comparisons are to numbers over a year old. Given how fast the computing world moves, we feel this comparison does not have the same weight as if HP's numbers were produced in the last two months (as an example). Since HP has stated they are putting more emphasis on improving their price performance, the actual advantage vs. HP may be less than claimed. [Note: although HP has stated their new focus on price/performance, publication of figures still lags, making it difficult to gauge their commitment accurately.]

Although IBM has a compelling hardware story, their Unix story (i.e., AIX) is not as compelling as Sun's Solaris. This is not an indicator of quality; the issue is the amount of applications available. Although there are a fair number of AIX apps, it's small compared to Solaris. A concerted effort here will help the Web Server group in their quest to overtake Sun.

User Recommendations

This announcement primarily affects mid-range Unix-system users - those who like the RS/6000 line, but don't want/need to get the "really big iron", the S80, just yet. An eight-CPU M80 will still deliver a performance boost of around 65% more transactions per unit time than an eight-CPU Windows NT system. Even when the price differential is factored in, this will provide a compelling "sell" for many customers.

As mentioned earlier, one of the key issues for users to consider is AIX applications: if you already have the AIX apps you need, no problem. However, buying a "hot box" which lacks the ability to run key software applications leads to classic cart-horse inversion. Potential customers should ensure that IBM (or an ISV "Independent Software Vendor") has the desired program(s) already available and running bug-free.

One last comment, we might have chosen a slightly different model designation than "M80".

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