Elisabeth Stahl on Benchmarking and IT Optimization

Born to Run Benchmarks

with 9 comments

With apologies to Bruce, you can’t start a fire with a SPARC. A fire of proof points, that is.

In two different instances Oracle’s recent announcements on SPARC benchmark data have been lacking — and certainly couldn’t start any flame of passion at OpenWorld.

The first involved the announcement of the SPARC M6-32 server and engineered system. The press release only had a footnote for “estimated” performance of some mysterious sort. Oracle’s benchmark website actually discussed some benchmarks for this new system — but 1) there was no competitive information and 2) they were on Oracle’s very own benchmarks.

In the second case, the SPARC T5-8 was highlighted on the Java end-to-end SPECjEnterprise2010 benchmark. A record was claimed — in actuality, the IBM Power 780 had 19% greater overall performance and 49% greater application server performance per core than the Oracle system.(1)

Additionally, keep in mind that whenever costs are presented in Oracle’s comparisons, they need to be scrutinized to the highest degree. What storage is included, what software is included, what support and maintenance is included? Is an apple being compared to a pineapple?

(P.S. After I wrote this I discovered that today is actually Bruce Springsteen’s birthday. How weird is that?)


(1)SPECjEnterprise2010 result of 36,571.36 on 1 x SPARC T5-8 (8 chips, 128 cores, 3.6 GHz SPARC T5);Oracle WebLogic 12c (12.1.2);Oracle Database 12c ( vs. IBM result of 10,902.30 on 1 x IBM Power 780(8 chips, 32 cores, 4.42 GHz POWER7+);WebSphere Application Server V8.5;IBM DB2 Universal Database 10.1; Source: Results as of 9/23/13.

Oracle and Java are registered trademarks of Oracle and/or its affiliates. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners.

SPEC, SPECint, SPECfp, SPECjbb, SPECweb, SPECjAppServer, SPECjEnterprise, SPECjvm, SPECvirt, SPECompM, SPECompL, SPECsfs, SPECpower, SPEC MPI and SPECpower_ssj are trademarks of the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC).

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Written by benchmarkingblog

September 23, 2013 at 9:22 pm

9 Responses

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  1. I am wondering when IBM will quit the “per core bandwagon” and design a comparable 3,072 thread system capable of a single AIX image.


    September 25, 2013 at 3:22 am

  2. You must work for Oracle. Only a software vendor or seller would want want IBM to stop developing the best processor core. Unlike what Oracle continues to demonstrate with their T5 and M6 servers they think they can just add threads and cores to solve the problems. That only creates more problems. Why in the world would you want a M6-32, for example, with 384 cores using 4 glued servers, over 1,000 sticks of memory that require 3-phase power in a refrigerator cabinet clearly meant to replace the M9000 class servers (actually a credible big iron server) when I could get 64 core Power7+ 770 or 780 in a 19″ wide 16U high footprint.

    I am confident a 64 core IBM Power7+ server will outperform a 384 core M6-32 server with 3072 threads. What you fail to realize is the 770/780 actually provides 5,120 threads and our 256 core 795 provides 10,240 threads so IBM remains well ahead of Oracle. The Power server can be configured to deliver a quality of service with all of those threads. Can the M6 or after how many threads does it start to degrade? Given it only supports 4 domains and up to 512 LDOMs which is less than the 1,000 VM’s available on the 770/780.

    When you license Oracle EE for example costing $47,500 per core on a 64 core 770 it cost $3,040,000. On a 384 core M6 server it would cost $9,120,000. Add in the Larry support tax for the first year of 22% and the gap widens.

    You can continue taking shots at Big Blue all you want but they continue to deliver quality products to customers that solve problems with the lowest TCA and TCO. Fast talking marketing has been the norm at Oracle. Create excitement, hypnotize the masses to buy into your mindshare so they buy more software licenses. Customers can buy Power servers at x86 prices with similar virtualization features to VMware running Oracle if they choose but also EnterpriseDB on RedHat if Desired or DB2 on AIX for 1/2 the price of Oracle. DB2 comes with BLU acceleration, partitioning, compression, clustering and more for the price of DB2 where Oracle charges more for each… the core…..oh, but that was your point wasn’t it?

    Brett Murphy

    September 25, 2013 at 9:49 am

  3. In your next post ‘Guns and Butter at OpenWorld’ you close your blog by saying ‘you don’t buy sockets, you buy performance’. In this post you can’t do anything but talk about performance per core (or socket since cores go into sockets). Isn’t the real metric the total cost to do a business function? Is your product cheaper to operate while delivering the needed business function for me? Oracle should also stop playing the socket game since they don’t sell most of their software on core basis (barring maybe their Linux/Solaris support for non-Oracle hardware)

    Are there workloads which require single threaded performance, in such a case you win. Most commercial workloads unfortunately lend themselves to parallelization. As a result, Oracle’s approach to have leaner cores and lots of them makes sense.


    September 28, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    • Your comment “Oracle’s approach to have leaner cores and lots of them” is an acknowledgement that SPARC processors are lower performing. The acknowledgement is important for customers to see it is okay to stick with Oracle, Solaris and SPARC if that is what they like. But, if they want the maximum performance, highest reliability, greatest virtualization and lowest overall TCO then IBM Power is the only option. What my competitive brethren do not seem to know is with IBM Power processors they can have the highest per core performance, the highest throughput and a combination of both – and it can do it discretely for each VM on the server. Additionally, if the workload changes the administrator can change the attributes on the fly – dynamically! So, Power can be muscle car and can be lean. Oracle touts 8 threads per core. I can show 80 threads per core with a Power7+ server. Oracles proud M6-32 with 384 cores only has 3,072 threads. (read period). A 64 core 770 can have 5,120 threads – and I could put that in a single OS image if I wanted to. I could take the 256 core 795 with 10,240 threads in a single OS image if desired. Other than to prove it I wouldn’t in about every case I could think of short of a Amazon cloud service type of model. That said though – the reason why per core performance is soooo important is that coupled with a robust hypervisor such as PowerVM to virtualize the Power servers allows that per core performance to deliver performance efficiency. It is really this Total Cost of Efficiency (TCE) that is key and what you mention. Pick the server that meets your needs just like a car – need a low cost 1 or 2 socket then buy it for $10k. Need a robust server with all the bells and whistles then buy a enterprise server. Same processors, same OS – OS is portable between them and from previous generations. Benchmarks are interesting but customers don’t run benchmarks they run workloads – usually a few of these and a few of those. Group those together on a Power server to consolidate licensing while sharing those higher performing cores and ta da – the best TCE.

      Brett Murphy

      September 28, 2013 at 3:25 pm

      • @Brett, except for the ‘a sparc core is less performant than power’, I disagree with just about everything else. You’re interpreting my position as ‘sparc servers are less powerful’, I don’t understand how you make that leap of faith.

        Regardless, you don’t have to refute my position or defend your position. You’re an IBM reseller and are proud of your offering, you should be. Marketplace will determine which offering brings more value to them. A monster 30+% YoY decline during 1Q13 and 20+% in 2Q13 in Power revenue foretells where we are headed. Let’s see what 3Q13 results tell us.

        Good luck.


        October 3, 2013 at 10:20 am

      • @Brett, IBM posted a 38% YoY decline for Power business for 3Q2013. The decline surprised even me.


        November 22, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      • Now the all important Q4 results are out, what say you to the 31% decline in Power sales? If this isn’t a slaughter then I don’t know what is?


        January 22, 2014 at 3:36 am

      • My first thought to your comment at O dark:thirty this morning Anantha was that you must have put a reminder in your calendar to remind you to rush out and comment immediately after the IBM earnings announcement. No doubt earnings details are important – However, since we are in what is essentially a global recession with the US gov’t doing everything possible to discourage growth, foreign markets under pressure, growth markets like China slowing down, etc, etc. it is clear that everybody is struggling. Your comment is cute but so what. What is relevant is that IBM technology provides customers with the depth and breadth of options to run their businesses. From the security, reliability and scalability of System z and Power to x86 servers using IBM’s new X6 technology delivering features that stand out from HP, Dell and Oracle. IBM’s PureSystems converged technology which has reached the $1B revenue target in less than $2 years much faster than Cisco did with UCS and VCE have. IBM’s FlashSystems with the 810, 820 and now the 840 are the beast to the beauty of storage virtualization available with SVC or V7000. Essentially eliminate I/O with latency as low as 25 microseconds and IOPS over 1 million in the 8×0 family. All of these technology mean you have the most reliable compute running the least amount of software at the lowest cost with all of the virtualization features desired connected to the fastest storage with all of the desirable storage copy services. Activate what is needed. License what is needed. Size for capacity with IBM Flash. Secure, Harden, Monitor, Alert and protect both your business and your customers so you do not become a “target” on compute and storage designed to be secure from the ground up. Power, PowerVM, AIX, PowerSC and the 840 are secure by design. You are right that I am proud of this technology because it does what it says and does it without surprises. if customers will set aside any biases and look at what the technology can do and the cost of the solution vs any of the mainstream alternatives they will see the TCA and TCO almost always favor IBM. Btw, Power8 is coming and IBM will show the world what it means to innovate as they take the bar of a very successful Power7 platform to new levels.

        Brett Murphy

        January 23, 2014 at 2:01 am

  4. […] Oracle posted this press-release claiming WebLogic performance superiority over WebSphere (you did not you expect otherwise, did you?). In this press-release Oracle claims to have the highest virtualized performance. In sessions during the OpenWorld conference Oracle claimed to have higher performance per socket compared to IBM Power7+ chips. Elisabeth Stahl described her point of view quite nicely in her blog posts “Guns and Butter at OpenWorld” and “Born to run benchmarks“. […]

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