Windows Server 2003 Atop Scalability Heap

In advance of the formal launch of Windows Server 2003 on Thursday, Microsoft and NEC posted record-setting results on the most important independent scalability benchmark in the industry on Wednesday.

Together the companies, using a 32-processor NEC server running 64-bit Itanium processors with 64-bit versions of SQL Server 2000 and Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition, broke the record for raw performance in the Transaction Processing Performance Council's OLTP benchmark, the TPC-C.

The result was a 13 percent improvement over the previous best -- a combination of Fujitsu hardware and the Solaris operating system that had stood since August 2001. The NEC/Microsoft result came at about a third the cost of the Fujitsu/Solaris result.

The $5.9 million Microsoft/NEC configuration, which included 31 clients, achieved 514,034.72 tpmC (transactions per minute on the TPC-C) at a cost of $11.50 per transaction. The Fujitsu system put through 455,818 tpmC at a cost of $28.50 per tpmC.

Microsoft had promised that the Windows Server 2003 release would put to rest any questions about the scalability of Windows servers. While Microsoft unveiled record TPC-C results on the launch date for Windows 2000 three years ago, those results rested on a controversial approach to clustering back-end databases. The validity of the new non-clustered, scale-up result will be harder for competitors such as Oracle and Sun to challenge.

The new benchmark follows an earlier attempt posted by NEC and Microsoft in February that hit 433,107 tpmC at a cost of $12.98 per tpmC. The result represents a 19 percent performance improvement over that last run, which was second best on the non-clustered benchmark list when it was posted. The performance boost came in part from the use of pre-release, third-generation Itanium "Madison" processors, due out in the middle of this year.

The Fujitsu result is old, but the 128-processor, $12 million system was so far beyond the capabilities of its competitors at the time that the result has stood for two years -- a lifetime by TPC-C standards. Both the new NEC/Microsoft result and the February one also beat more recent Unix entries. An IBM pSeries 690 Unix server running Oracle 9i topped out at 427,760 tpmC in December and an HP 9000 Superdome Unix server running Oracle9i reached 423,414 tpmC in August.

While any benchmark is unlikely to mirror real-world results, the independent and audited TPC benchmarks do provide ballpark scalability figures. Tuning the platform to the benchmark can only go so far to mask the scalability limitations of that platform.

More detail about the benchmarks is available at


About the Author

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