IBM, Microsoft and Intel Team on Super Cluster

IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp. this week jointly announced a server cluster software and hardware package touted as the world's fastest - and cheaper than the competition.

The server cluster performs 440,879 transactions per minute in a configuration that includes 32 IBM Netfinity 8500R machines and Intel Pentium III Xeon processors running IBM's DB2 Universal Database and Microsoft Windows 2000 Advanced Server operating system, the companies say.

The performance numbers were audited using the Transaction Processing Performance Council, type C benchmark (TPC-C). The audit showed the transactions cost nearly one-third less than transactions on a Sun 6500 cluster running Oracle's 8i Enterprise Edition database. The Sun/ Oracle configuration recorded a TPC-C benchmark of 135,461 transactions per minute.

IT executives swayed by the numbers should know, however, that the total five-year cost of ownership of the tested cluster, including server hardware, software, clients and routing hardware, is more than $14 million.

The cluster package is targeted at data-intensive applications, especially those in the business-to-business, e-commerce and enterprise resource planning areas, the companies said.

"It's extremely robust and will continue to scale," says William Hurley, a program manager at IT analysis firm The Yankee Group Inc. in Boston. "It will allow data mining to become more sophisticated."

In February, Microsoft announced its own world-record transaction performance using Win 2000 Advanced Server, SQL Server 7.0 and a cluster of 12 Compaq Computer Corp. ProLiant 8500 servers each with eight Intel Corp. Pentium III Xeon 550-MHz processors. Using the same TPC-C audit, Microsoft and Compaq recorded 227,079 order transactions per minute.

At the time, the pair said it was greater than any result achieved on any other database, hardware or operating system. Oddly enough, however, the results are not listed in the top 10 of the performance chart posted on the TPC's Web site.

But the IBM results are, and are listed at No. 1. IBM is competing closely with Oracle Corp. in the database arena. According to a study by Dataquest Inc. released in May, Oracle holds 31.1% of the database software market, compared with 29.9% for IBM.

"I think they're trying to differentiate themselves from Oracle. I know that Oracle does have the upper hand," Hurley says. "Only time will tell, over the next few quarters, if they can cut into their market share."

The server cluster software and hardware will be available from all three companies by Dec. 7. Pricing wasn't announced.

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