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Windows 2000 Launch Filled with Scalability Surprises

SAN FRANCISCO -- With the capabilities of Windows 2000 well-documented after its long, public beta cycle, Microsoft Corp. used the Windows 2000 launch to demonstrate the enterprise scalability of products planned for release later this year.

The biggest scalability surprise was a pair of Transaction Performance Council (www.tpc.org) benchmark results that vaulted Windows 2000 Advanced Server and SQL Server 2000 past every single TPC-C result published by Unix/RISC vendors on raw performance.

The company also performed the first live demonstration of Windows 2000 Datacenter Server running across 16 processors on a Unisys e-@ction Enterprise Server ES7000 and showed management of highly scalable Web server farms through Application Center 2000, previously called AppCenter Server.

The launch event was for Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2000 Server, and Windows 2000 Advanced Server. It was the culmination of about $2 billion in investment by Microsoft alone, the work of more than 5,000 developers, and about 500 person-years of testing.

Windows 2000 Datacenter Server is expected to ship in 120 days, SQL Server 2000 is supposed to be released around the middle of the year, and a release date for Application Center 2000 hasn’t been set beyond statements that it would come this year.

Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates highlighted two brand new TPC-C benchmarks – one audited about five hours before the launch and the other audited the previous day – that put Microsoft atop the performance list for the TPC-C benchmark, which measures OLTP performance.

"A few months ago, Microsoft was not on this top 10 list whatsoever," Gates said. He emphasized that Windows NT 4.0/SQL Server results did hold the top 40 spots on the TPC price-performance list.

The new Microsoft-Compaq results were on partitioned systems. The first ganged together eight Compaq ProLiant 8-way servers and reached 152,207.95 tpmC, comfortably breaking the previous top result from IBM Corp. of 135,815.7 tpmC. The second result used 12 of the Compaq 8-ways to reach 227,079.15 tpmC and beat the IBM mark by nearly 70 percent. Each of the Microsoft test configurations cost less than half what the IBM system cost as a measure of price-performance.

The Compaq-Microsoft systems are listed as being available August 1.

"That’s enough to handle all the e-commerce done on the Web last year in two days.

It’s actually cheaper by far than all the other systems in the top 10," Gates said.

Microsoft achieved the multi-node performance clustering by using a previously undisclosed new feature to come in SQL Server 2000 called distributed partition views.

Analyst Dan Kusnetzky was guardedly impressed by Microsoft’s benchmarking results.

"They’ve shown a scalable benchmark that’s quite impressive both for the performance and the cost, but they don’t necessarily cover the fact that it’s a more complicated system to administer," Kustnetzky said.

The number of people needed to design and maintain such a complicated, distributed system could mean a narrower gap between the price-performance of the Microsoft configurations and the single 24-processor machine IBM used for its benchmark, Kusnetzky said.

Barry Goffe, Microsoft lead product manager for SQL Server 2000, put perspective on the result: "I wouldn’t claim that we’re beating the pants off anybody, and that they won’t catch up," he said. "We’re in the game. We’re able to scale up in a way that’s competitive with the RISC vendors." – Scott Bekker

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.