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January 4, 2005

Oracle, Unisys optimize 10g for ES7000-Windows combo

In late 2001, server maker Unisys Corp started delivering high-end Wintel servers that gave Microsoft Corp's Windows operating system and SQL Server database its only credibility in the data center. Since then, IBM Corp, Hewlett-Packard Co, and and others have beefed up their enterprise Windows servers, but Unisys is still the market-share leader.

By CBR Staff Writer

But supporting SQL Server is not enough. In the data center, Oracle Corp’s databases, not Microsoft’s, are the ones that most companies use to deploy applications.

Unisys runs kosher Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003 on its ES7000 servers, which scale from four to 32 Xeon or Itanium processors, and that means the Oracle 8, Oracle 9i, and Oracle 10g databases will all, technically, run on an ES7000 server equipped with Windows 2000 Advanced Server or Datacenter Server or Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition or Datacenter Edition.

In fact, many of the customers who have been using ES7000s for years have been using Oracle databases on top of Windows. (Of course, IBM’s DB2 and Sybase Inc’s Adaptive Server also run on the ES7000-Windows combo, and some ES7000 customers have deployed these databases, too.)

That Oracle is popular on Wintel mainframes stands to reason, considering that Oracle is the preferred database management system on the Unix platform and Unisys and Microsoft have been aiming the ES7000 Wintel platform at Unix customers as a Unix alternative for the past three years.

Tom Manter, who is director of strategic programs at Unisys and is responsible for an expanded collaboration to make Oracle’s 10g database run better on ES7000s, says that about 30% of the installed base of ES7000s have Windows running an Oracle database, typically running a big ERP suite from SAP, the former PeopleSoft, or Oracle, or running a data warehouse that sits behind ERP applications that might still be residing on mainframes or Unix boxes.

From the launch of the ES7000s, in late 2001, to about the middle of last year, Unisys, with its strong support from Microsoft, has been focusing on the SQL Server 2000 database and the applications that support it.

All but one of its benchmark tests on the TPC suites of online transaction processing (OLTP) and data warehousing benchmarks were done on SQL Server, and the company only started public testing of Oracle’s performance on the ES7000s last summer. The reason is that the landscape in the high-end server market has changed a bit, with Linux clearly becoming a viable alternative to Unix with the Linux 2.6 kernel.

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Microsoft clearly has no interest in making Oracle 10g run better on Windows, so Unisys has to step into the breach and make it happen. With the expanded collaboration between Oracle and Unisys, which was announced at the OracleWorld user group meeting in December, Unisys is focusing on improving the integration of Oracle 10g with the ES70000 servers running Windows 2003, Manter says.

Unisys now supports Linux on the ES7000s, and that means Unisys needs a Linux-compatible database on which to sell solutions. SQL Server does not run on Linux, and it never will. This is another reason for the expanded relationship between Unisys and Oracle.

It’s clear to us that there is a growing trend to move off Unix and to Windows or Linux, says Manter. Many times, customers want to move off Unix, but they do not want to move their databases out of Oracle.

The reason is simple. These tend to be very large databases, typically terabytes in size, which are used to support upward of 5,000 seats (about 3,000 concurrent users) and to run as many as 70,000 batch processes a day. You can’t easily port such a complex piece of software from Oracle to SQL Server, and that’s why many companies simply refused to do it. By pushing SQL Server so hard, and not fully embracing Oracle, Unisys was limiting its appeal to Unix customers. The new partnership will help fix that.

Under the partnership, Unisys and Oracle engineers are collaborating to tweak and tune Oracle 10g to run on ES7000 servers with Xeon and Itanium processors. Unisys has also dropped an ES7000 with Itanium processors into Oracle’s software development lab in Redwood Shores, California, so Oracle can reconcile and tune the clustered database algorithms in the guts of Oracle 10g with the NUMA-like clustering in the ES7000 servers.

Manter says that the largest Oracle databases in the world that have been deployed on Windows platforms have been put atop the ES7000 server. While many people think big companies need machines with dozens and dozens of processors to support big databases, the 16-way and 32-way ES7000s are, says Manter, plenty big enough for most customers, and will remain so for the next three to five years. Certainly, performance is key, but price/performance is becoming more important right now, he says.

By Unisys’ own benchmark numbers, the company has to do a little work getting Oracle 10g to perform a better than it currently does. On the TPC-C OLTP benchmarks, a 16-way ES7000 Aries 420 using 1.5 GHz Itanium 2 processors and 128 GB of main memory was able to handle 309,037 transactions per minute (TPM), at a cost of $4.49 per TPM, running Windows 2003 Datacenter Edition and SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition.

An almost identically configured machine running Oracle 10g Enterprise Edition instead of SQL Server could only handle 291,413 TPM, and it cost $4.98 per TPM. That’s a 6% gap in performance and an 11% gap in bang for the buck. This is not a huge gap, but it is noticeable. If Unisys and Oracle can tune Oracle 10g better, they will be able to offer better value without having to cut their prices. You can see now why they are motivated to work together.

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