Solaris vs AIX: Price/performance

Solaris vs AIX: Price/performance

Summary: These are transitional products - what we really need to know is what comparable stuff will cost from both companies late next year, but we don't.

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TOPICS: IBM, Oracle
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IBM's newest AIX products feature the Power6, Sun's the UltraSPARC T2. It probably makes sense, therefore, to base a data center hardware cost comparison as much as possible on these two technologies.

Comparable scaling is a key issue, but there's enough consistency about the benchmark results both sides are putting up to let us use almost any one of them as a proxy for the real relative capabilities of the two current product lines. Look through, for example, the benchmark compilation provided by Sun's bmseer performance bloggers and you'll see that the T2 consistently beats the four core Power6 configurations by margins ranging from a few percent to over two thirds of IBM's scores..

We don't know exactly what IBM charges for its gear - but a recent TPC.org filing on a cluster of 32 p570 machines each with two dual core Power6 processors at 4.7Ghz and 32GB came in at $219,000 each - before $23,000 in support and AIX licensing.

In contrast, Sun freely publishes prices for its own products: the 64GB, 1.4Ghz, T5220 lists at $58,995, including Solaris and tools - giving Sun something better than a 4:1 cost advantage.

The T2 also gets a cost break from Oracle: a list price on the core database product of $80,000 for a dedicated T5220 machine versus a list price of $240,000 for the four processor IBM p570 - giving Sun a 3:1 pricing advantage to go with its performance edge.

If you're going to have enough units to care about power, Sun has a smaller advantage: 468 watts for the larger configuration during peak benchmark processing versus a claimed 1080 watts at 80% utilization for IBM -a ratio of only about 2.3 to 1.

The people who get to run this hypothetical data center will need workstations -and although most people use PCs I argue that it's important for a Unix sysadmin to use Unix: i.e. to test every step and every idea on a personal workstation before committing anything to production systems.

For IBM that means dual core and at least Power5+ - i.e. an "IBM IntelliStation POWER 275" workstation at $14,832 each - including a ThinkVision 19" LCD Monitor and the $498 IBM wants for the base AIX V5.3 license.

For Sun it means getting a stripped (4 core, 1.2Ghz, 4GB, 2 x 146GB) T5120 for $13,995 plus a 24" Sun Ray ($1,844) for a total cost of $15,839. That's a thousand bucks worse than IBM - unless you need four of them, then Solaris container technology makes it $37,955 better.

Notice that I haven't mentioned either storage or high end hardware here. Sun's CMT/SMP "Victoria Falls" and "Rock" lines are due next year - about the same time IBM ships high end power6 stuff. In the meantime both companies are shipping stand-ins, older or third party products like Sun's M-series or IBM's Power5+ based p595. In those Sun is consistently cheaper, but the real differences are, as discussed yesterday, in applicability: anything that can be done by partitioning a p595 can also be done by virtualizing a rack of smaller T2 servers - for perhaps five to seven cents on the dollar.

I haven't mentioned storage for a different reason: the ZFS/X4500 "thumper" combination is not just the precursor for a new generation of Sun storage, it's so far ahead of anything IBM has that a fully loaded 24TB thumper now costs about one third as much as the 7TB DS4800 array used with the Power6 p570 gear

What's going on in both cases is that these are transitional products - what we really need to know is what comparable stuff will cost from both companies late next year. We don't, but using present costs as a guide suggests that as long as Sun can get manufacturing geared up fast enough to meet demand, they'll continue to be hands down winners on price/performance across the data center.

See: Part 5

Topics: IBM, Oracle

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18 comments
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  • Sigh...

    I dont have the time or energy to go over all the misinformation in this artice becasue it would take all day. Lets point out 2 of the worst.

    "Comparable scaling is a key issue, but there?s enough consistency about the benchmark results both sides are putting up to let us use almost any one of them as a proxy for the real relative capabilities of the two current product lines. Look through, for example, the benchmark compilation provided by Sun?s bmseer performance bloggers and you?ll see that the T2 consistently beats the four core Power6 configurations by margins ranging from a few percent to over two thirds of IBM?s scores.. "

    First of all using a vendors own FUD site and calling it impartial research is quite suspect. Second, THEY ARE COMPARING THE T2 TO THE POWER5. Geez man can you at least read the artice first? Power6 only comes in 2 core configurations not 4 core. How do you explain this?

    "I haven?t mentioned storage for a different reason: the ZFS/X4500 ?thumper? combination is not just the precursor for a new generation of Sun storage, it?s so far ahead of anything IBM has that a fully loaded 24TB thumper now costs about one third as much as the 7TB DS4800 array used with the Power6 p570 gear "

    Murph, yes please lets talk about storage. The x4500 is a server first of all not a storage array. Second of all it uses SATA disks and not Fibre Channel. Third, you can get much cheaper SATA arrays than that. Nexsan will sell you 42TB for about 40 grand, and that can even be fabric attached increasing its usefulness tenfold. Fourth, the 'Thumper' is a gee whiz type of product with very limited practical use. What would you use that much DAS for? How would you even back up that much data when its not fabric attached?
    civikminded
    • Answers

      1 - Nope not a FUD site - all data is documented.

      2 - Nope not Power5, P6 unless otherwise marked

      3 - Nope - what makes the X4500 different is that it isn't an array - it's a 16GB, dual AMD (4 core) super disk pack running Solaris. You don't hook 4GB fC to it - you hook 10GB UDP direct to the HW packet mgr on the T2. Much faster.

      4 - Nope - that whole "fabric" thing is really just PC switching. Ugh - slow, cumbersome, and insecure. X45 trumps the lot. (And backup? know what replication means? know about ZFS RAID?)

      Your comment exemplifies one thing I rant about a lot: you're trying to shoehorn a new technogly into your old ideas. Not smart.
      murph_z
      • Misconceptions

        "1 - Nope not a FUD site - all data is documented."

        Thats your opinion then. Cherrypicking benchmarks is not documenting.

        "2 - Nope not Power5, P6 unless otherwise marked"

        If you look at their chart it says POWER5, but they 'mistakenly' say Power6 in the article. Since a 4 core Power6 doesnt exist. So that site isn't FUD eH?

        "3 - Nope - what makes the X4500 different is that it isn't an array - it's a 16GB, dual AMD (4 core) super disk pack running Solaris. You don't hook 4GB fC to it - you hook 10GB UDP direct to the HW packet mgr on the T2. Much faster."

        OK if you want to talk about the merits of it as a server thats one thing. You framed the conversation about how advanced the storage was. Now you are changing the subject. Im not sure how you could generate enough IO on this to saturate 4gb much less 10gb/ps. I somewhat agree with you about the merits of ISCSI, except its nothing groundbreaking or exclusive to the x45

        "4 - Nope - that whole "fabric" thing is really just PC switching. Ugh - slow, cumbersome, and insecure. X45 trumps the lot. (And backup? know what replication means? know about ZFS RAID?)"

        PC switching? SAN fabric is done on dedicated switching hardware. And FC drives are slow at 15k rotational speeds? I challenge you to find any benchmark where SATA DAS storage bests a Fibre Channel environment on similar spindle counts. I run some Oracle on SATA drives in a dev environent and it just wouldnt cut the mustard for a high-test production environment.

        Replication is fine, but at some point data will need to come off for archive. At this point it isn't about technology, its about policy. All the tech in the world wont get you around SOX or Corporate retention policies.

        "Your comment exemplifies one thing I rant about a lot: you're trying to shoehorn a new technogly into your old ideas. Not smart. "

        I dont think you full understand the 'new technology' you are writing about from a pragmatic, real-world perspective.
        civikminded
        • Welcome to Rudy's mind

          It really doesn't matter that Rudy's way out of his depth or that his statements are based on an assumption of Sun superiority. These arguments have very little to do with facts, so pointing out facts will only get Rudy to deny or ignore them.

          It's like watching a fight between a teradactyl and tyrannosaurus. In the end, they're still dinosaurs.
          tonymcs1
  • Workstation

    <i>The people who get to run this hypothetical data center will need workstations -and although most people use PCs I argue that it?s important for a Unix sysadmin to use Unix: i.e. to test every step and every idea on a personal workstation before committing anything to production systems. For Sun it means getting a stripped (4 core, 1.2Ghz, 4GB, 2 x 146GB) T5120 for $13,995 plus a 24&#8243; Sun Ray ($1,844) for a total cost of $15,839. </i>

    I could see buying a T5120 as a TEST server for the UNIX sysadmin's to login to but as a Workstation?! Buy a PC and throw Solaris x86 on it (or order one from Sun). Cheap and for interactive use it's faster. The T2 is not meant for desktop usage. I mean are you really going to run X windows on a T2? It's a chip made for server loads hence the 1.4Ghz clock.
    bryan10021
    • Sun Ultra 24 Workstation

      Sun's first Intel based workstation with QUAD core starting at $995.

      http://www.sun.com/desktop/workstation/ultra24/index.xml
      bryan10021
      • Dear Jonathon:

        I owned a Sun 386i - 25Mhz, 8MB, 170MB disk, 16" Sony - about $27K Canabucks when I bought it. Very high end at the time.

        I'm not buying this new Model 24 - Sorry - but you guys made the right decision when you abandoned x86 the first time.

        Now, if/when you announce a Model 54 - a T2 in a workstation - you can count on my order. Well, actually, I'm broke -that Sam guy isn't paying his bills (see below) So how about you can count on me to review the free machine you send me? hey, I might even like it... for you?...
        murph_z
    • better than a PC - but still wrong

      As a sysadmin I want my desktop to replicate the production system as closely as possible. i.e if I run on SPARC, I want a sparc desktop.

      That's why I used the dual core IBM workstation instead of the cheaper single core and also what I suggest the stripped T2 - Something that works on a single core PPC or Solaris on X86 may not work on the production system. Certainly dtrace returns different results and so do attempts to emulate attacks or trial run patchs.
      murph_z
  • If Sun stuff is so good?

    Paul - I?ve decided to reveal myself because here at company "I" we do actually try very hard to run things as well as possible (notwithstanding how it might appear to those who only listen to our negative critics).

    Of course just as Intel have AMD to show that they are not monopolists, and MS have Apple, we too need "competition". So as I do regarding several other firms, I have long thought of Sun as a nuisance but, overall, a benefit.

    But I have to admit that lately they?ve been bugging me more than usual, so perhaps we could get by with less competition.

    Would you care to do a consultancy job on what we might best do if we bought Sun?

    Never mind the political / regulatory stuff, I can get plans and prices on the cost of sorting that.

    Just develop your recent pieces re cost / performance, and thus consider, if we buy all of Sun, which bits:

    - Do we give some signals about, allow to wither, then kill? How many of their customers could we then grab?

    - Re-badge as ours? Then which of our lines if any should die?

    - Sell to others because they are not going far, or would be a liability to the purchasers?

    - May be good or bad but of most value to us for the staff we could switch to developing / supporting / selling our stuff?

    So would it really be worth it? Or should we let Sun carry on with what they are doing? Are they really a sufficint problem or opportunity?

    In any case do keep up the blogs, I enjoy them thanks. And don?t worry, I?m always interested in ideas, and constructive suggestions - and I?ve got a thick skin!

    Best regards,

    Sam P.
    Ross44
    • Dear Sam:

      1) dump AIX and zOS for Solaris,

      2) dump Power7, focus on Cell and CMT/SMP

      3) dump Sun's sales organization

      4) rebuild your PC business on Sun's base - using
      Linux as the default but supporting Solaris on larger units and Windows on smaller ones.

      5) Mail my check to:
      LOL
      XOCL 17
      Murphy 191
      NPOC = San Diego
      murph_z
      • I'm sorry?????

        Windows on smaller ones??

        I'm flabbergasted, you mean actual computers people can do things on - what will you think of next?
        tonymcs1
  • RE: AIX vs. Solaris (4)

    [i]
    IBM???s newest AIX products feature the Power6,
    Sun???s the UltraSPARC T2.
    It probably makes sense, therefore, to base
    a data center hardware cost comparison as much
    as possible on these two technologies.
    [i]

    Well both POWER6 and the Niagara T2 are IMHO
    great products. Don't get me wrong I can spot
    a great product when I see one.

    The problem is that the only servers available
    with Niagara and POWER6 are the p570 a highend
    server targeted at server consolidation,
    database server and fat application server
    workloads. And up until now we have only seen
    single socket lowend servers with the Niagara
    T1 and T2 processors.

    So already from your first statement we can see
    that this will be a many lowend boxes compared
    to a few highend server comparison.
    And that is a fair comparison to make, and not
    a trivial one. BUT do not make that comparison
    into a Niagara vs Power6 comparison.

    You can do a comparison when POWER6 blades start
    popping up, according to RWT in Q4 this year.
    A comparison between T2 based SUN blades and
    Power6 blades would be a good comparison.

    What I suspect you are about to compare would
    be like if we were to turn the table and compare
    the M8000 with 1/2 boards with p505Q's.

    But ok, I'll read on and give you the benefit
    of the doubt.


    [\i]
    Comparable scaling is a key issue, but there???s
    enough consistency about the benchmark results
    both sides are putting up to let us use almost
    any one of them as a proxy for the real relative
    abilities of the two current product lines. Look
    through, for example, the benchmark compilation
    provided by Sun???s bmseer performance bloggers
    and you???ll see that the T2 consistently beats the
    four core Power6 configurations by margins ranging
    from a few percent to over two thirds of IBM???s scores..
    [i]

    OK BMSeer makes HP's 'the real story' website look
    like an IBM and SUN marketing page with a few typos.
    It is very well constructed, and the only way you
    really can attack the specific comparisons they make
    is to get down in the dirt with them.
    They generally use the same tactic as you have
    started on here comparing lowend products with
    the competitions highend products.


    The problem is Murphy, that people that aren't
    'WE LOVE SUN AND HATE EVERYTHING ELSE' but perhaps
    just think that SUN makes great products, can see
    a blog for what it is. A FUD page.

    And that you get quoted on the page.. sorry doesn't
    do much for your credibility.


    [\i]
    We don???t know exactly what IBM charges for its gear
    - but a recent TPC.org filing on a cluster of 32 p570
    machines each with two dual core Power6 processors
    at 4.7Ghz and 32GB came in at $219,000 each - before
    $23,000 in support and AIX licensing.

    In contrast, Sun freely publishes prices for its own
    products: the 64GB, 1.4Ghz, T5220 lists at $58,995,
    including Solaris and tools - giving Sun something
    better than a 4:1 cost advantage.
    [i]

    Heh, comparing a lowend product to a highend product
    as I suspected.Try to compare the T5X20 to a p505Q
    or a p510Q or even a 550Q, which also are lowend servers.
    Or you could turn the tables and compare a p505Q to
    a E20K ? The truth is that if you compare the T5X20
    to other vendors lowend boxes it isn't cheap.

    For example

    a T5120 with 4@1.2GHz cores and 4 GB RAM is 13.995USD.
    a p505Q with 4@1.65GHz cores and 4 GB RAM is 6.551USD.
    now the T5120 has 2x146GB disks the p505 has 2x73GB
    that is an extra 608$to the p505
    the T5120 has 1 year next business day support the p570
    3 year next business day support. Upgrade to 3 years
    is an extra 4.392 USD. for the T5120.
    Now... for two low end systems, as you yourself defined
    them with same performance, and equal support, space
    and options.

    T5120 is 24387 USD.
    p505Q is 7159 USD.

    Now this isn't comparing highend to low end. It is
    low end vs low end.

    The T5X20 boxes are great products, they are just to
    expensive, thats why SUN is comparing them to slices
    of the other vendors highend products.

    [\i]
    The T2 also gets a cost break from Oracle: a list
    price on the core database product of $80,000 for a
    dedicated T5220 machine versus a list price of $240,000
    for the four processor IBM p570 - giving Sun a 3:1
    pricing advantage to go with its performance edge.
    [i]

    Well we don't really have any database benchmarks as
    eg. SAP 3 tier, TPM/C or Oracle APP benchmarks for the
    T2 do we ? Only RL example I've seen on someone running
    Oracle on a T2000, they actually ended up buying some
    V490's, and putting the T2000's in as app servers.
    They couldn't get it to perform. Single Threaded
    performance was very bad and they had to use so many
    threads to make it deliver some throughput that they
    ended up having serious locking problems.
    It did btw. perform very well as a light threaded
    app server.

    Besides read your Oracle Licensing document properly,
    just looking at BMSeer will get you in trouble.
    The 0.25 Licenses pr. Core _only_ applies to the T1,
    so if you take Oracles licensing document literary
    you'll end up paying 480K USD for your T5120 box.

    And if you've ever talked to a oracle licensing guy.
    You should know it's all about how he can bend their
    rules to make you pay as much as possible.

    [\i]
    If you???re going to have enough units to care about
    power, Sun has a smaller advantage: 468 watts for
    the larger configuration during peak benchmark processing
    versus a claimed 1080 watts at 80% utilization for IBM
    -a ratio of only about 2.3 to 1.
    [i]

    Again comparing a slice of a larger server compared
    to an entry level server...

    [\i]
    The people who get to run this hypothetical data
    center will need workstations -and although most
    people use PCs I argue that it???s important for a Unix
    sysadmin to use Unix: i.e. to test every step and
    every idea on a personal workstation before committing
    anything to production systems.

    For IBM that means dual core and at least Power5+ -
    i.e. an ???IBM IntelliStation POWER 275??? workstation
    at $14,832 each - including a ThinkVision 19??? LCD
    Monitor and the $498 IBM wants for the base AIX V5.3 license.

    For Sun it means getting a stripped
    (4 core, 1.2Ghz, 4GB, 2 x 146GB) T5120 for $13,995
    plus a 24??? Sun Ray ($1,844) for a total cost of
    $15,839. That???s a thousand bucks worse than IBM -
    unless you need four of them, then Solaris
    container technology makes it $37,955 better.
    [i]

    Heh, hope you don't have to run any single threaded
    apps. But hey single threaded throughput have never
    been a workstation selling argument now has it.
    Besides try to install AIX 6.1, then you can have
    all the containers you want.

    [\i]
    Notice that I haven???t mentioned either storage or
    high end hardware here. Sun???s CMT/SMP ???Victoria Falls???
    and ???Rock??? lines are due next year - about the same
    time IBM ships high end power6 stuff. In the meantime
    both companies are shipping stand-ins, older or third
    party products like Sun???s M-series or IBM???s Power5+
    based p595. In those Sun is consistently cheaper,
    but the real differences are, as discussed yesterday,
    in applicability: anything that can be done by
    partitioning a p595 can also be done by virtualizing
    a rack of smaller T2 servers - for perhaps five to
    seven cents on the dollar.
    [i]

    Not mention high end ? Oh so the p570 isn't a
    Enterprise/high end server ?
    This is getting tiring.

    [\i]
    I haven???t mentioned storage for a different reason:
    the ZFS/X4500 ???thumper??? combination is not just the
    precursor for a new generation of Sun storage,
    it???s so far ahead of anything IBM has that a fully
    loaded 24TB thumper now costs about one third as
    much as the 7TB DS4800 array used with the Power6 p570 gear
    [i]

    Again... take a x86 server that can hold a lot of
    disks and compare it to a SAN disk storage system.
    Ok how do I connect my p570 via my HBA to a Thumper
    then ? Oh I don't ? It's a NAS server.

    So shouldn't you compare a NAS server to a NAS server?

    Btw. it might get a fair bit more expensive if
    Netapp wins it's lawsuit against SUN for violating
    their patents in ZFS.


    [\i]
    What???s going on in both cases is that these are
    transitional products - what we really need to
    know is what comparable stuff will cost from both
    companies late next year. We don???t, but using present
    costs as a guide suggests that as long as Sun can
    get manufacturing geared up fast enough to meet demand,
    they???ll continue to be hands down winners
    on price/performance across the data center
    .
    [\i]
    Why don't you compare comparable stuff then ?
    And sure they are price/performance winners if you
    cherry pick what you compare.

    // Jesper
    JesperFrimann
    • Mostly agree...

      Murph, you can't compare the T2 to a POWER6. Or if you do it, then only for single socket systems.

      Because the T2 is not a general purpose machine this makes a comparison even more difficult.

      While I'm a Sun fanboy, I believe that the T5220 is a little bit too expensive (almost $60000). If you buy such a maschine you really have to run sofware that is heavily mulithreaded...

      Here at Company 'C', you are only allowed to buy T2000 boxes, otherwise you have to prove that your application does not run sufficiently fast (how do you do that if you haven't tested it?). There are several cases where projects are considering switching to V490 systems during user acceptance tests.

      As a remark, at Company 'C', there are a lot of happy T2000 users too...
      Burana
  • T2 is even worse with heavy threads than T1

    Quoted from Sun presentation:
    Not so Positive Characteristics
    ?? If one thread is thrashing the L1instruction cache, data cache, or TLB's on a core, it can adversely affect other threads on that core.
    ?? If all threads run on the same core they are only getting one-quarter of the CPU time.
    ?? So CMT is not ideal for real time applications.

    Scaling issues to be aware of
    ?? Hot locks are the most common reason applications fail to scale on CMT processors
    ?? Tuning Critical Sections
    ?? Apply more threads as CMT is a thread rich environment.
    Rao Shoaib, Sun Microsystems
    sunsrockchip
  • Dear Paul

    I???ve just finish reading you article and have to laugh. You???re completely missing the point; the question is not what operating system (AIX or Solaris) is better. The real question is which operating system will be around in 1, 3, 5, 10 years. The answer to that question is the most important. I???ve been in this business for a lot of years and heard a lot things like the ???mainframe is dead???, ???Microsoft is the wave of the future???, etc. You know bull-crap. Now I come across you. Paul, back in the late 80???s early 90???s I worked for a very prestigious investment bank in NYC. The CIO of that company was a really smart guy; two PhD???s, a resume a mile long, etc. He came up with this idea to get rid of all the companies??? mainframes and replace them with DEC boxes. He spent around a billon dollars and managed to replace a number of them (less than a third). Then the stuff hit the fan, DEC was bought out and that billion dollars went up in smoke! A few weeks after the announcement (DEC Sale) the CIO was replaced (who would of thought)! So you see Paul, DEC is dead, and so is SUN! You just don???t know it yet.
    johnlongo
  • RE: AIX vs. Solaris (4)

    I doesn't matter who is dead or not, it's a question of what is better and cheaper.

    How do you keep your service level agreements for a minimum amount of costs.


    So maybe IBM is bigger and lives longer this only means they will become the mickeysoft of UNIX.



    GJB11
  • RE: AIX vs. Solaris (4)

    this is a very long article, to make a long story short:
    I am working for the last few years with both AIX, SOLARIS and REDHAT

    AIX operating system is really poor and buggy. Administration is a nightmare.
    If i could i would have charge customers more for using it.
    using REDHAT on IBM hardware might be a good solution.

    Solaris offer a decent operating system and hardware.

    REDHAT - is the king!. administration is great. the only sad thing about it is that conservative organization don't tend to you use it.
    techsgin
  • this is a very long article, to make a long story short

    this is a very long article, to make a long story short:
    I am working for the last few years with both AIX, SOLARIS and REDHAT

    AIX operating system is really poor and buggy. Administration is a nightmare.
    If i could i would have charge customers more for using it.
    using REDHAT on IBM hardware might be a good solution.

    Solaris offer a decent operating system and hardware.

    REDHAT - is the king!. administration is great. the only sad thing about it is that conservative organization don't tend to you use it.
    techsgin