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Scale-Up: Wintel Loses a Price-Performance Battle

A Hewlett-Packard Co. benchmark published this week represents the first time in recent memory that any Unix system has outperformed a Windows system on price for comparable performance.

HP used the Transaction Processing Performance Council's raw OLTP scalability benchmark, the TPC-C, to show off its new HP Server rp8400 midrange Unix/RISC server.

HP's public statements about the new server make no mention of Windows 2000 Datacenter Server or Unisys Corp's 32-processor ES7000 server, an Intel processor-based server HP had planned to resell but later abandoned.

HP mentioned beating the performance and price of Unix/RISC systems from IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

The raw performance level invites comparisons to the 32-way Unisys system running Windows Datacenter Server and SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition. That benchmark, submitted last week, amounted to 141,000 transactions per minute on the TPC-C (tpmC), while the new 16-processor, 64-bit system from HP logged about 140,000 tpmC.

The HP system cost $16.31 per tpmC while the Unisys system cost $23.84.

Price/performance on the TPC-C benchmark has long been Microsoft's stronghold, with CEO Steve Ballmer publicly chafing last year at suggestions that SQL and Datacenter had to catch up to Sun, IBM and HP in all areas of the data center. Ballmer said all the other vendors had to catch up to Microsoft on price.

Jeff Ressler, lead product manager for Microsoft's SQL Server, pointed out that HP used Sybase Adaptive Server 12 in its benchmark and suggested they may have used the database to drive down the system cost.

"I think it's pretty telling that this benchmark was done with Sybase and not another product," Ressler said, naming IBM's DB2 and Oracle Corp. Several analysts have recently categorized the database market as a three-way horse race between IBM, Oracle and Microsoft.

Ressler also predicted that the prices of large Windows server systems will drop as competition in the area increases. Intel is working on an SMP chipset for its second-generation 64-bit processors, and IBM, HP and Compaq all have large systems in development to run Intel processors.

A Unisys spokesman said the incentive for users to move to Intel and Microsoft-based systems isn't just about cost but is also about the broad number of developers and vendors shipping and writing applications for the Windows platform.

While Microsoft and Unisys consistently identify Unix/RISC systems as their primary competition for Datacenter and the ES7000, Tom Manter, an analyst with Aberdeen Group, says the markets for RISC and Intel-based servers remain distinct.

"Certainly that sounds like a very impressive benchmark on the RISC side," Manter says. "You're looking at numbers we've typically seen which are above $30. I think that the folks that really should be concerned about this are IBM and Sun."

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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