Recent Benchmarks Reinforce Scalability Of x86 Servers

Over the past months server vendors have been announcing benchmark results for systems incorporating Intel’s high-end x86 CPU, the E7, with HP trumping all existing benchmarks with their recently announced numbers (although, as noted in x86 Servers Hit The High Notes, the results are clustered within a few percent each other). HP recently announced new performance numbers for their ProLiant DL980, their high-end 8-socket x86 server using the newest Intel E7 processors. With up to 10 cores, these new processors can bring up to 80 cores to bear on large problems such as database, ERP and other enterprise applications.

The performance results on the SAP SD 2-Tier benchmark, for example, at 25160 SD users, show a performance improvement of 35% over the previous high-water mark of 18635. The results seem to scale almost exactly with the product of core count x clock speed, indicating that both the system hardware and the supporting OS, in this case Windows Server 2008, are not at their scalability limits. This gives us confidence that subsequent spins of the CPU will in turn yield further performance increases before hitting system of OS limitations. Results from other benchmarks show similar patterns as well.

Key takeaways for I&O professionals include:

  • Expect to see at least 25% to 35% throughput improvements in many workloads with systems based on the latest the high-performance PCUs from Intel. In situations where data center space and cooling resources are constrained this can be a significant boost for a same-footprint upgrade of a high-end system.
  • For Unix to Linux migrations, target platform scalability continues become less of an issue.

Cisco Tweaks UCS - New Interfaces, Management Software Expand Capabilities

Not to be left out of the announcement fever that has gripped vendors recently, Cisco today announced several updates to their UCS product line aimed at easing potential system bottlenecks by improving the whole I/O chain between the network and the servers, and improving management, including:

  • Improved Fabric Interconnect (FI) – The FI is the top of the UCS hardware hierarchy, a thinly disguised Nexus 5xxx series switch that connects the UCS hierarchy to the enterprise network and runs the UCS Manager (UCSM) software. Previously the highest end FI had 40 ports, each of which had to be specifically configured as Ethernet, FCoE, or FC. The new FI, the model 6248UP has 48 ports, each one of which can be flexibly assigned as up toa 10G port for any of the supported protocols. In addition to modestly raising the bandwidth, the 6248UP brings increased flexibility and a claimed 40% reduction in latency.
  • New Fabric Extender (FEX) – The FEXC connects the individual UCS chassis with the FI. With the new 2208 FEX, Cisco doubles the bandwidth between the chassis and the FI.
  • VIC1280 Virtual Interface Card (VIC) – At the bottom of the management hierarchy the new VIC1280 quadruples the bandwidth to each individual server to a total of 80 GB. The 80 GB can be presented as up to 8 10 GB physical NICs or teamed into a pair fo 40 Gb NICS, with up to 256 virtual devices (vNIC, vHBA, etc presented to the software running on the servers.
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HP TouchPad: A Necessary Risk, Uncertain Reward For HP's WebOS Strategy

Today HP launches the HP TouchPad, the first tablet based on HP's new operating system, webOS, which it acquired along with Palm exactly one year ago. HP's $1.2B initial investment in Palm, plus its additional investment over the past year to bring the TouchPad and its webOS smartphones to market, is a risky investment -- there's no guarantee that consumers will buy these products or that the consumer electronics market has room for another software platform. But the webOS investment is a risk HP had to take, in order to:

  • Compete with Apple. Apple owns its own hardware and its own operating system, which means it controls the experience to a greater degree than OEMs that make hardware for Apple or Google's software. With webOS, HP gets more control over the total product experience.
  • Differentiate itself from other OEMs making Android and Windows devices. HP wants to be more than a company that makes gray boxes running Windows. WebOS helps HP differentiate from the pack, but it's also an unknown to most consumers, and adoption is uncertain.
  • Hedge against PC cannibalization. In a recent Forrester report, we found that PC cannibalization from tablets has been modest so far but is likely to increase in the next six to 12 months. HP is the biggest PC manufacturer in the world, and it needs to adapt its product portfolio to avoid more disappointing quarters like this most recent one.
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