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I was doing research for a client that is trying to replace old Sun UltraSparc Solaris servers with new, cheaper (and hopefully better performing), Linux x86 machines. I want to see if I can find any benchmarks that will help me compare the performance of SPARC servers to x86 machines when running Oracle Database.
First I started by looking in TPC’s OLTP benchmark results, which are considered somewhat of an industry standard. I found several interesting things.
Let’s look at two low end HP machines, the ProLiant ML350G5 and the ML370G5. These are both low-end Dual-CPU socket x86 servers from HP starting at a price lower then $2,500 for both servers.
low-end HP ProLiant ML350G5 (1 X Intel X5355 Quad-Core) - 100,926 TPC-C/Sec
low-end ProLiant ML370 G5 (2 X Intel X5460 Quad-Core) - 273,666 TPC-C/Sec
While I was unable to fund recent benchmarks of Sparc machines in TPC, I was able to find benchmark that while conducted several years ago might still be useful.
OLDish (2003) Fujitsu PRIMEPOWER 2500 (64 X SPARC64 - 1.3 GHz ) - 595,702 TPC/Sec
This is a high-end server with 64 SPARC processors. In its time it was quite the beast and can still be found in many data centers worldwide crunching very important numbers.
As you can see it scored twice the number of points compared to the ProLiant ML370G5. Impressive. Sure. Just keep in mind that we are talking about a really expensive high-end 64CPU machine against a very low-end 2 X QuadCore (8 cores total) Intel-based commodity server. So eight times the CPUs for roughly twice the performance? 83.2 total SPARC Ghz vs. 25.28 total x86 Ghz ? Still confused? According to TPC the Fujitsu machine is almost X20 more expensive compared to the x86 HP server. Twice the performance for 20 times the price?
So yes, the Fujitsu PRIMEPOWER is an older server with older CPU models but it is also a much more expensive server and we can still use this data when considering replacing old SUN servers with newer X86 alternatives. These results can help us better understand what type of x86 hardware we need in order to replace our old SPARC servers. This isn’t %100 scientific comparison but it can still give us a ballpark estimate.
We’ll need to do some more digging to find more current results using newer SPARC processors (such as the Sun T1). What I was able to find were some MySQL benchmarks done by tweakers.net for their own web application. While these are very tailored benchmarks done for a specific web site application it does help contribute to the general picture here.
You can see that the Xeons fares much better compared to the UltraSparcs.
Another very interesting benchmark I found was a blog entry quoting official SAP benchmarks between x86 and SPARC hardware. The SAP benchmark shows the x86 servers to be faster compared to the Sun T2000 SPARC server with some limitations.
2 X Quad-Core Intel Xeon X5355 2.66 GHz - 9330 SAPS
2 X Dual-Core Intel Xeon 5160 3 GHz - 5120 SAPS
Sun Fire Model T2000 - 1 processor / 8 cores / 32 threads - 4780 SAPS
You should go ahead and read the reservations made by the author of the above post. They are all valid. Just keep in mind that the Sparc system is a $33,000 server compared to a much cheaper HP.
Of course I’m only talking about raw performance here. The x86/Linux hardware has several other advantages such as being more open, more future-proof and arguably easier and cheaper to service and maintain.
This is all very interesting stuff. I’ll continue to do more digging and update this post as necessary.