Unix migration to Xeon – Performance you need at a price you can’t ignore

first_imgRe-introducing myself, in case you didn’t feel like clicking on me to see what I look like, I am an ETS(Enterprise Technical Specialist) for Intel.  What the rest of the world would call a Sales Engineer.  I cover the fortune 2000, local and state education and government and healthcare in NW North America.  I have a pretty solid technical background but IT is a big place.  I manage to hold my own on topics Intel, but I also find that with every customer meeting I learn something, sometimes I learn a lot.Since I started posting articles, I have been positioning Xeon as the logicalsuccessor to Risc ( IBM Power/AIX & Oracle Sparc/Solaris) based systems.  This seems like a good thing for Intel, and it is, but it is also a good thing for the customer.  I have posted several entries on Risc Migration where I have tried to address challenges customers might consider.The human side of Unix/Mainframe migrationMission Critical Scalability: “But We Need a Bigger Server”Replacing big iron with small iron (cash for clunkers 2?)Recently I find my role has flipped.  I am no longer proselytizing to customers on the benefits of Unix migration, but instead I am being asked for any information on how to get there faster.  Blame it on the economy, the collective IT zeitgeist, or credit my persuasion – whatever the cause, my customers seem to have internalized the message.  I am working with one of my last Power/AIX purchasing holdouts to choreograph their journey to Xeon.I often get the question “what size server for my XYZ application”. This can be tough to answer for a couple of reasons, and I hate responding with “it depends”.  Benchmarks are ok, but at best they give you a rough relative comparison of a specific use of an application or code.  Virtually every published server benchmark has current Xeon results, but for many benchmarks the Risc vendors just don’t publish.  I guess if you can’t say anything nice…For SAP, a common app, there are generally benchmarks available. I usually recommend the SAP SD 2 tier scores for comparison.  As of this writing, the best published four socket Power 7 score is about 25% higher than the best published four socket Xeon E7 processor based system.  The big difference is in the system cost and support cost.  Intel based systems can cost as little as 1/5thof a comparable Power 7 platforms.  I think every company has developed expertise in operating Xeon environments and the operations, support, and licensing costs are well understood.Frequently the target “XYZ” applications are databases.  It would be great if everybody chose to publish TPC-C, TPC-E, TPC-H, but many times the benchmarks just are not available, or if they are they cover different database products.  Customers ask me to clarify how we stack up as a database platform, but without published results on Power 7 there is little I can say.  My strong preference and recommendation to any migration evaluation is to “Run your own benchmarks”.  I have built test harnesses and benchmark tests, and I know it is hard.  To really understand how your application will perform on yournetwork configuration, with your storage architecture, running yourdata – there is no substitute.  Remaining questions on performance, migration/porting, and architecture can be answered, or at least accurately projected.  I have yet to have a customer run their own benchmarks then choose a Risc/Unix platform.  The potential ROI makes Xeon the logical, and most defendable, choice.last_img

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