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Web Server Benchmark Heats Up

For about nine months, nothing happened on the Transaction Performance Processing Council's benchmark for transactional Web e-commerce, the TPC-W, in the 10,000-item category.

Then in December, within two days of each other IBM Corp. and Dell Computer Corp. both published Windows 2000-based results that greatly increased the raw performance and price-performance on the measure.

IBM pushed the envelope on raw performance by 23 percent over the previous best result -- a Unisys Corp. benchmark published in March 2001.

Dell slashed the price per unit of performance by 62 percent over the previous price/performance champion, another Dell system also submitted back in March.

IBM TPC-W Result
Performance: 7073.7 WIPS @10,000
Price Performance: $34.47 / WIPS @10,000
No. of Systems: 21
Total System Cost: $243,859
Date Submitted: Dec. 17
Source: TPC

When vendors release results that close to each other on the TPC-W's sister benchmark, the TPC-C for big OLTP databases, there has usually been a major technology advance. Likely candidates include a new Intel server processor, a new Microsoft operating system or a new version of database software.

Not so with this benchmark, both Dell and IBM say.

"It really doesn't showcase an individual box, it showcases a system solution," says Mike Molloy, senior manager of system performance labs for Dell's Enterprise Systems Group.

Dell TPC-W Result
Performance: 6622.4 WIPS @10,000
Price Performance: $25.70
No. of Systems: 18
Total System Cost: $170,039
Date Submitted: Dec. 19
Source: TPC

In fact, the benchmark can be useful to enterprise customers as generic guidance for optimizing Web server infrastructures, Molloy says.

Doug Oathout, director of high performance marketing for the IBM eServer xSeries, says the delay on the benchmark was really a result of tuning.

"What it's taken six to nine months to do is to really study the benchmark and figure out the right configuration of middleware, etc," Oathout says.

The IBM configuration consisted of 21 server systems, backed by a four-processor Windows 2000 Advanced Server/SQL Server 2000 system. Other Windows 2000 servers in the configuration included a dozen Web servers, four image servers and a combination image server/load balancer. IBM also used three Volera Excelerator Web cache servers.

Dell used 18 systems: a four-processor Windows 2000 Advanced Server/SQL Server 2000 database, 12 Windows Powered Web server appliances, four Windows Powered image server/DNS appliances and one Volera Excelerator as a Web cache.

The benchmark requirements drive the complex configurations. The systems must capture orders in the database, implement SSL for secure credit card orders and dynamically build current top 10 best seller lists for the simulated users, among other requirements.

The close dates between the two vendors may stem as much from shared information as technology advances. Both sit on various TPC working groups and were aware of each other's progress.

Both Dell and IBM plan to continue using the benchmark to show improvements in raw performance and cost effectiveness in their systems.

About the Author

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