IBM’s DB2 Tops TPC Benchmark List

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IBM’s DB2 Tops TPC Benchmark List
R. Krause - July 26, 2000

Event Summary

July 6, 2000 [Source: IBM Press Release]

IBM, Intel and Microsoft announced the world's fastest server cluster for commercial use, recording performance levels that triple the performance of Oracle running on a Sun Microsystems cluster, at one-third the cost per transaction.

Using the performance measurement technique agreed to by all computer makers (TPC-C), IBM Netfinity and DB2 Universal Database, Intel Pentium III Xeon™ Processors and Microsoft's Windows 2000 achieved 440,879 Transactions Per Minute - record-breaking results in server and price performance.

IBM, Intel and Microsoft joined forces on this groundbreaking effort to prove that a combination of Netfinity Servers with Pentium III Xeon (TM) processors running at 700 MHz (megahertz) with 2 MB (megabyte) L2 cache, IBM DB2 Universal Database and Microsoft Windows 2000 Advanced Server operating system provides a highly scalable environment. This technology combination is ideally suited for data-intensive applications like business-to-business (B2B), e-commerce, and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).

Market Impact

These results affect the server market in a few ways:

From a hardware standpoint, IBM's Netfinity can claim the TPC-C crown by a stunning margin. Comparing it to the best results from Sun Microsystems, the Netfinity handled 3.25 times the number of transactions per minute of Sun's cluster, for only slightly higher cost (if $14M vs. $13M can be considered slightly higher). This translates to the Netfinity having a $-per-transaction cost one-third that of Sun - another big win in that area. When comparing these results to the previous best - Compaq's recently-withdrawn ProLiant 8500 results for 64- and 96-CPU clusters - there's an apparent near-doubling of performance, but the price/performance appears worse ($32.28/tpmC for Netfinity vs. $19.12/tpmC). However, these results were withdrawn because Microsoft's SQL Server 2000, which Compaq used, violated some of the testing rules [1]. Thus, it is unclear whether a re-test of a Compaq cluster will provide equivalent results.

From a software standpoint, this is potentially a big win for IBM and DB2, and potentially a setback for Microsoft and Oracle. The positive for DB2 is obvious: bragging rights for the highest performance. In addition, these results push DB2 into the limelight, a new and welcome experience for IBM in this area. The potential downside for customers is that DB2 is not cheap, costing more than $20,000 per CPU, not per server. (Note: Oracle is also expensive, SQL Server's price is significantly lower than both Oracle and DB2.)

The negative for Oracle is that they no longer own the high-end database performance marks. They lost that distinction in February when Compaq used SQL Server 2000, but the recent withdrawal of those results put them back on top - for three days.

The negative for Microsoft is the embarrassment of Compaq's results getting pulled because of the SQL Server problem. Microsoft can reverse this embarrassment by posting similar results with the bug-fixed version. (Microsoft has reportedly fixed the bug/issue, but the fixed version has not yet been released.)

[1] Clause 1.6.3 of the TPC-C specification, which requires that "any set of rows or columns" in the TPC-C database be able to be manipulated using "general purpose mechanisms."

User Recommendations

IBM should now join Oracle on a customer's short list of large-transaction-volume database software. DB2 has always been a high-end, quality database (as is Oracle), but it has rarely received the publicity and mindshare that Oracle has commanded. (Perhaps if CEO Louis Gerstner flew his own Gulfstream into San Jose's airport after curfew?) Although one victory does not necessarily lead to major market share, this demonstrates that DB2 is moving beyond its traditional bases of IBM's S/390 and RS/6000, into the Windows-based world. Because DB2 is "seamless" across the enterprise, this means future expansion is not precluded. The relatively low per-transaction cost means that customers not committed to Sun/Solaris should seriously consider DB2.

The downside, as mentioned before, is DB2's relatively high price. The post-34%-IBM-discount pricing for the tested system still had the DB2 licenses running about $2 Million, versus less than $1 Million for SQL Server [Source: TEC estimate]. If IBM decides to drop the price even further, this product would give both Oracle and SQL Server 2000 a big challenge. Even without an additional price cut, the price/performance figure makes it a good competitor to an Oracle/Sun setup.

If customers have a large operation and the cash to support it, IBM's DB2 UDB is definitely a strong choice.

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